This probably isn’t the kind of thing most of you care about, but it’s super important for me, so I’d ask you bear with me for a moment as I discuss my reasons for why I no longer write reviews.
Reviews on MythBank
I do have a few reviews posted on MythBank (formally All Timelines) that I’ve written over the years. They’re attached to the media items found within certain timelines, and if you poke around you’ll find some of them. But honestly I’ve always struggled with even the idea of writing a review. When I would write them, I never really liked the experience, and I never really knew why.
Well I do now.
Now that I know myself a lot better, and I’ve had time to think it over, I finally realized why writing reviews always rubbed me the wrong way, and why even reading reviews does the same thing. It all comes down to two major issues:
I’m a positive person by nature, it’s in my Strength’s Finder report, it’s a part of my core being. And as a result, I find I’m drawn to positive people/situations, and I’m prone to sometimes crippling anxiety among negative people. It has been bad enough at times that I’ve gone into mini depressions just from seeing negativity on the Internet. It has such a profound effect on me that I’ve distanced myself completely from some platforms.
That doesn’t mean that I’m unable to cope with all non-positive situations. In fact, I’m usually able to face hard times quite well because of my glass-half-full attitude. But when I see others being negative, it really gets me, especially when I know how much they are making their situation worse by continuing with such attitudes.
But enough about that, what does this have to do with reviews? After all, reviews aren’t all negative, and one might argue that even the negative ones are “constructive.”
I’m a big fan of constructive criticism, I rely on it a lot for the betterment of this site, my writing, and my personal life. But most critical reviews, particularly those written by amateur critics like myself, tend to lean on the straight-up negative side. It’s “I hate this” instead of “this could have been done better in such and such a way.”
I find this uncomfortable.
Many of my reviews of the past have leaned on the positive side for just that reason. I never liked the negativity associated with it, even if it was only minor. And I found myself only reviewing stories that I thought were really good, naturally avoiding writing about the things I didn’t like.
This is one reason why I’m choosing not to write more reviews, because I just don’t like dealing with the negativity. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that all of us would be better off to choose to like more things, because that is a choice we can make.
We Are Better Off Liking More Things
One of my favorite quotes is from a man named Bertrand Russell. Here’s the bulk of it:
Suppose one man likes strawberries and another does not; in what respect is the latter superior? There is no abstract and impersonal proof either that strawberries are good or that they are not good. To the man who likes them they are good; to the man who dislikes them they are not. But the man who likes them has a pleasure which the other does not have; to that extent his life is more enjoyable and he is better adapted to the world in which both must live. What is true in this trivial instance is equally true in more important matters….The more things a man is interested in, the more opportunities of happiness he has, and the less he is at the mercy of fate, since if he loses one thing he can fall back upon another. Life is too short to be interested in everything, but it is good to be interested in as many things as are necessary to fill our days.
In other words, the more things you like, the more happiness you’ll have in general. By contrast, if you don’t like something, that is actively stealing your happiness.
I look at things like Star Wars, for example, my personal favorite franchise. A lot of people only love the original films, and actively hate the prequel trilogy, the sequel trilogy, or something in-between. It’s fine if you don’t care for one film or another, no one is forcing you to like all of them (though as stated above, you would get more enjoyment out of life if you did), but actively hating that many films, I think, creates a net-negative experience. Even if you like the original trilogy, can you really say that the Star Wars franchise is something that brings you joy if you actively hate the other films?
Obviously we can’t like everything in the world. There just isn’t enough time for that. But if that’s true, it’s even more important not to spend time on things that don’t bring us joy. Like Marie Kondo’s method of decluttering, except with the mind and what we choose to spend our time on, we should only focus on that which gives us joy. If you don’t like a Star Wars film, that’s fine, don’t watch it again and focus on those that you do love.
If we fill our days with that which makes us happy, we will be happy. Simple as that.
That’s just one long-winded way of saying I won’t be writing reviews because I don’t have the time to spend writing about something that doesn’t bring me happiness. And even if I’m writing about something that does bring me happiness, I don’t need to prove myself to people, especially if others didn’t like it.
Here’s the thing about writing reviews: it’s not that productive, at least for me. It adds little to society.
Reviews generally have two purposes: to analyze a work of art using objective frameworks to judge it based on established criteria, and (more commonly among amateur critics) to inform like-minded people whether or not they will like that thing. I’m not saying these aren’t worthwhile pursuits, as professional critics can make a whole career out of what they do, and many can have their time saved or discover new things they like by listening to a like-minded reviewer.
However, as a whole, I believe the business is so oversaturated that trying to add my voice into the mix is not worth my time. Add to that the fact that most of my web business is set up to attract people from search engines, and reviews just don’t do that. I get far more hits writing helpful guides about a story than I do from reviewing it.
I try to spend most of my time being intentional, or proactive. Writing reviews is an inherently reaction endeavor, and I’d rather put my effort towards something that will actively further my goals and those of this site.
What Will I Write?
All of what I’ve just said doesn’t necessarily mean I won’t be writing about specific stories. In fact, I’m going to be writing a lot more about stories over the next few years. But rather than writing reviews, I’m choosing to write from different angles, ones that I feel are more production. These will include:
- Writing deep analyses about bestselling stories. I want to understand popular storytelling better, partially because it’s just interesting to me, but also because I’m an author and want to learn more about how to make my stories resonate with more people.
- Writing critical pieces that explain how a particular story could have been improved. Note: this is VERY DIFFERENT from a negative review. This is the act of taking sound principles of storytelling and applying them to existing stories that may or may not have used them well. These will not be rants about how the Star Wars movies messed up everything, but rather would focus on how someone could potentially make them better.
Mostly, I just want to study the art of storytelling, and so I will be focusing my writing on studying the history of story, the art of story, and bestsellers. Expect to see much more of that in the future.