When I first started writing there was no such thing as the internet. It was difficult to get feedback on my writing through snailmail, and it was tough (and expensive) having to send off a physical manuscript to the other side of the world (I was in Asia at the time), and exasperating to wait for comment.
Even at the time I was first published, the internet was still in its infancy, and a fan writing a letter or email to a writer, or putting up an internet review, was relatively rare.
So nowadays, I just love what I get — GoodReads, Amazon reviews, emails, discussion boards — bring ’em all on! And yep, I read them. Sure, I’d block someone who’s abusive at the drop of a hat, but I’ve been lucky. I’ve blocked a mountain of spammers, but only one single person who was (rather mildly) abusive. (I don’t think harsh criticism or one star reviews of my work are abusive, even if the issues raised are factually incorrect).
Why do I love the feedback enough to read both the good and the bad?
Because it makes me a better writer. I learn from it.
Because I know that there is no way a creator will ever please everyone.
Because I’m old enough to take the bad without it leaving me in a heap of crying insecurity with the blankets pulled over my head. (One of the few advantages of ageing — you learn to distinguish what really matters from other stuff, especially nasty stuff, that doesn’t*).
Anyway, let’s consider the idea that fans can be too entitled. Or not. There’s a blog post here at Huffington Post that has a good coverage of pros and cons.
I tend agree with this:
Not having dialogue, ignoring fan response, and stubbornly sticking to
“a vision” isn’t necessarily the only true way to create great and pure
art, though. Art doesn’t have to be conceived of as such an asymmetrical
concept, a gift passed from all-knowing creators to receptive and
docile audiences. It can be the product of collaboration, symbiosis
between different parts of a community, and a healthy dialogue.
However, I also think that fans “demanding” creators write something the way they want it is a little naive and a bit rude.
A book, a film, a TV show, an art work — it’s the creators’ baby, and how they dress their child is ultimately their decision. Fans are welcome to say what they’d like in the future, they’re welcome to criticise what they’ve already been given, and ultimately they can vote with their wallets.
I will listen, and I hope I’m always open to learning, but in the end — and this is all important! — I can’t make a good job of creating my work if I’m not following my own vision.
*Of course, I do live in a country where screwballs sending death threats tend not to wander around with guns looking for ways to go out in a blaze of glory.