Ok, here goes… I have opinions. This is probably no shocker to you if you know me and/or read my writing. One of my favorite pastimes is to learn about new things and form opinions on them. I’m not saying my opinion is always best or right, it’s just mine and I like it. I love hearing your opinion too. I’m open to changing my mind, or tweaking my opinion in light of new information. At the very least I like learning a different point of view. I feel most opinions are valid based on the aggregate knowledge and experiences of the person who formed them. As your experiences and knowledge changes, your opinions may change. You grow.
I think my love of opinions is why I love the entertainment industry; I find it a fascinating fertilizer for opinion creation (the same goes for food). On one hand, I feel a bit sheepish to watch others boldly create something, anything, and put it on public display, when all we do, as the collective, is create opinions about it. It’s brave and admirable regardless of the quality (just like any endeavors in the kitchen that require heating elements and more than 20 minutes).
So I understand my opinion only counts for so much… it’s a lot easier to critique someone else than it is to do something unique for yourself. And it takes a lot of knowledge and experience on the subject to give truly valuable criticism. If I was ever gifted or determined enough to enter my creativity into the public forum, I would hope, above all else, to make others think. And I pray I would possess the wisdom to ignore thoughtless comments and the spine to stand up to the opinions of others when they valid, thoughtful, yet differ from my own. The experience they lend would help me grow, I hope.
I realize not every artistic creator’s end goal is to inspire deeper thought. Some artists bow to their art form and are more of a conduit for pure genius: things happen inside their brains – colors, sounds, words – and they simply pass the insight on to everyone else because they can’t not. It takes dogged determination and a lot of hard work to make this happen. We either love or hate an artist like this because, as someone once said, “He articulated through the piece what I always thought but could never put into words.” Their work stirs up strong responses, accolades and criticism alike, because it is substantial. True art changes people, artist and audience. To those who execute this process, I have immeasurable respect.
Other performers are crap. Let’s call it like it is everyone. They know the right people and happened to be at the right place at the right time. They don’t try that hard – we can tell, because their product is terrible. Might I also offer this: there is a difference between mindless and downright bad. We’ve all halfheartedly completed an assignment at some point in our lives. These performers just made a public career out of it. Not everyone can be good at what they do. Yet somehow, we all eat what they slap together. There is something to be said about their mass popularity. Either we are brainwashed to think this is “good,” like McDonald’s, or we just don’t care whether it’s good or not. We are, collectively, as thoughtless and lazy as they are. Maybe they’ve hit on something that we don’t realize: most critics out there will accept anything, maybe complain a little, but then scarf it down. And for the performer, they get to rake in the rewards of an audience who doesn’t demand more.
Still other creatives may have had a glimmer of talent, and then became so greedy or starstruck they lose their aim and instead became obsessed with money or lifestyle.
With that introduction, I’d like to say that I read fortydaysofdating.com. My friend recommended it, saying, “It’s soooo good.” A friend I respect. Now, interestingly, this project went viral and has drummed up quite a bit of feedback. I proceeded to read the feedback, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I have decided to dignify “FortyDays” with a response of my own.
Pros: The creatives are already designers, so the project was visually appealing. I liked that. Some people didn’t. They said it made the project feel contrived, which is valid. However, I’m not too concerned with whether or not the project was contrived. I don’t believe the content was the shining feature. There were three things that I highly appreciated.
1) The daily updates. It reminded me how Charles Dickens was a serial novelist at the start. Many now-famous authors had their beginnings in this style of writing. It’s engaging and exciting. Why do you think television became popular? I appreciated this installment style.
2) The medium. The authors used a blog, which is a sort of cheap publishing. Their story cumulatively became a short novel. One of the feedbacks I read said FortyDays has “redefined the modern, digital novel.” I agree wholeheartedly. I applaud the creators for their creative genius in essentially inventing a new style of art. I do not call this genius lightly. I am eager to see how it shapes future novels. Remember when the novel was invented? People criticized that too.
3) The side-by-side dialogue. This approach, particularly since the main topic was their relationship, was beautiful. It was delightful to have each of their voices parallel (literally) yet together, telling the same story from different perspectives. Faulkner was adept at using these parallel narratives, and I love him too. I believe character insight is the strongest motivator for plot. As experiences change the character, and the character changes, they have new experiences. To hear from multiple perspectives only adds depth and intrigue. It acts as a powerful force on the reader. Applause.
Cons: now for criticism. Something about the project just doesn’t sit right. I knew from the start I would be reading something shallow about love and dating, so that didn’t concern me. Unfortunately, the content of the story suffered from the sickness of many other mediocre stories: stagnant characters. The characters begin as utterly neurotic and narcissistic. As much as they talk about change, they don’t, in any direction, except for maybe their neurosis balloon into an all-encompassing view of themselves.
Woody Allen hit upon neurotic narcissistic change, and successfully executed this plotline on various occasions. However, in FortyDays, the authors wrote about themselves, completely and loquaciously, only to become tedious. How are people meant to move when they are belly-button gazers, with their eyes forever turned inward? I suppose I can’t fault them for not moving; they weren’t looking for anywhere to go. By the end, I was not wondering, “Do they stay together?” I was bored with them both and didn’t care what happened. I felt completely removed from the cyclical drama, because it lacked a driving force that would cause it to enfold. Who doesn’t love “love” or find the search for romance fascinating? Who wouldn’t want to connect to this story? But when it becomes neurotic, needy, and unmoving, there is no longer a character to cheer for and I feel an urgent desire to finish up and walk away.
As I said, character development is the keystone for plot development and engaging an audience. Even with a pleasing premise, without change, there’s nothing to keep an audience coming back for more. Yet I am disappointed to say I understand the popularity of the story. Many people can relate. They do not change, and they are not seeking an impetus for change. They live an uninspired life, and do not take the time to notice the similarities between the media they take in and their own existence.
I’m not claiming to be inspired. I’m saying that I seek change. In all this opinion-forming, rethinking, implementing, I hope that I do not stay stagnant. I wish to be the river, at the very least a stream that trickles forward. Sometimes swirling, sometimes lingering, but always moving. Not sure how that would happen if I was always focused on myself. Time to turn our eyes outward. Observe more. Seek more. Demand more. Enjoy more. Live more.