“Don’t read reviews.”
If you are a writer, actor, or most any other creative type, you hear this early and often in the course of your career. Don’t read reviews. They can only cause you to second-guess yourself. The need for their approval only nurtures narcissism and vanity. They represent a distraction from the purity of your art. Whether you hear it as a dictum from a stern drama teacher, or as advice from a cherished idol, it’s one of basic tenets of the creative life. Reviews aren’t good for you; don’t read them.
As you’ll notice from the quotes scattered throughout this website, I have not heeded this advice.
As this site is largely intended for professional promotion, it contains as many sentences as I could find, from as many sources as possible, stating that employing me as a professional artist is a good idea. And since I am an honest man, I combed through as many reviews as I could find, reading each and every one of them, in order to find these testimonials. (We call them “pull quotes” in “the biz.”)
It isn’t enjoyable, of course. For the problem with a review isn’t that it might be bad – it’s that it’s invariably and ineffably wrong. Questions of merit aside, you know the details of your performance, story, or what have you better than anyone (or so you think), and so the outside perspective is almost always disorienting. It’s as if you were preparing a gourmet meal for an important person and worrying over the details of its preparation – whether you cooked it thoroughly, seasoned it properly, served it with the appropriate wine – only to have them taste it and exclaim, “This tastes like purple!” Regardless of whether this is said with delight or disgust, your response upon hearing is most likely a simple “Huh? What the heck does that mean?”
And yet we force ourselves to read them. Because what those stern drama teachers and cherished idols and other authoritative voices need to understand is that ignoring reviews is not a choice, it is a luxury. It is what one is able to do when one’s next project is already assured, when one is a prize pupil or a leading player of an established company or a star of the highest magnitude. The rest of us can only dream of living in such a rarified state, while we go through the daily drudgery of finding our next gig, our next paycheck, our next meal. And so we comb through these strange funhouse mirror reflections of our efforts, extracting whatever we can find for marketing purposes, and hoping against hope for some flash of insight along the way.
Like what exactly purple tastes like, anyway.
Posted on February 22, 2016
by Michael C. O'Day