This is kind of ironic, given that I posted a few months ago about Candace Sams and the nature of criticism, but I’m starting to feel pangs of guilt for writing about books.
For my day job, I get paid to offer my thoughts on daytime television, and there’s a certain amount of distance in doing so. Sure, I interact with many of the people whose work I’m critical of, but it’s not personal. It’s not like I socialize with General Hospital head writer Robert Guza, Jr. or Trevor St. John, who plays Todd Manning, a One Life to Live character I’m never shy about lambasting. But nowadays, I am getting drawn into a circle of romance writers. And anyone who’s hung out with a group of creative people, either on the Web or in real-life, can probably empathize with me on this: Tact becomes a key issue. There’s very much a Cult of Nice, where honesty is not the best policy.
And the more involved I get in the writing community, the more I’m going to have to bite my tongue, smile and nod…and fight off the guilt of “trashing” someone’s books. Of course, rationally I know that writing reviews isn’t really “trashing” anyone. It’s just an interpretation of a text, and not a moral judgment on that text’s creator. Hating The Notebook doesn’t mean I think Nicholas Sparks (or Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams) is a terrible person who should die in a fire. Loathing OLTL‘s Todd doesn’t mean I think his portrayer should be shoved off a cliff. It’s just an opinion about fiction, and, at its worst, an opinion about someone’s writing style.
However, the fact remains that what I do for WEEKLY is my job; this blog is my choice. So should I make another choice to sit on harsher thoughts in the hopes that I don’t make waves? Should I muzzle myself or be myself? Personally, I think that I have a responsibility to be as honest as I would be if I were writing for the magazine. If I’m a fair-weather critic, who’s going to be nice just because I made friends with the author or may meet them in the future, then I can’t really stand behind anything I write, can I? Everything I say becomes suspect, because I might be operating under a sort of emotional payola situation.
So what do you do in a situation like this? Has anyone faced a similar internal debate?