I used to think I was my own worst critic, then I went online. It turns out I am merely the most methodical.
(below is an exercise in showing the mental processes of someone who doesn’t take criticism well. I just thought it may be of limited interest to show the absurd things that go through someone’s mind when they are at the sharpest point of a negative sentence. Please be aware that I am aware of my own ridiculousness.)
22nd October, 2016
I do not take criticism well, it is a trait I share with Stephen Fry. Sadly, those other more useful artistic traits have eluded me.
I have not fled from a production as yet, but I can understand how Stephen Fry’s urge for flight overtook his urge to fight.
In 1995, Stephen Fry was starring in Simon Gray’s Cell Mates with Rik Mayall. Having had some successful warm up dates out of London, Fry received a poor review from the Financial Times and fled the production. For a few days, there were fears he may have killed himself.
At the time, as a young not very successful comedian who was of no interest to critics, I wondered how on earth this could get to the incredibly successful and talented Fry.
Twenty one years on, still far from fame, but comfortable in my niche, my empathy with Fry is greatly increased. It is preposterous, maybe even pathetic, but the typed words of one person, whether professional or amateur can cut you down, even if the scathing criticism is surrounded by positive reviews and kind comments. The one star shines far brighter than the five star.
Sometimes, I want to take a chainsaw to that person, at other times I imagine a sledgehammer would be more effective. My stomach knots and I want to stop everything. Give me a melon to punch to pulp, it may make things better.
The good criticisms become the warm voice of your deluded mind, the bad criticisms are the veritable voices of your self-doubt. Once seen and heard, you must stop everything at once.
It has all been a waste of time.
Everyone hates you.
You are authentically loathsome.
Make no more things.
Buy a sledgehammer.
It is these moments where the flesh is ripped off and you see beneath you that everything you do creatively is a bid to prove yourself and it only takes the most minor of doubts for your spleen, guts and other bloodied offal to splash onto the hard ground beneath you.
You, charlatan, are exposed.
Silly, isn’t it. But if you weren’t so damn preposterous, then you would feel secure enough to shut up and live a quiet life.
It was at 1am last night that it happened.
A comment on the internet.
There are a lot of them.
Robin Williams was amongst the comedians who said, “opinions are like arseholes, everyone has them”. The internet has revealed that most of us are mainly made of arsehole. We are more puckered sphincter tissue than eyes, ears and brain.
It is 1am, I check on the Book Shambles podcast and see some new ratings on the iTunes page.
Oh, the review is angry.
It celebrates Josie but has furious disdain for me.
I am a misogynist ogre crushing Josie with my mansplaining.
I am some ancient patriarchal human on the cusp of being an arsehole in a fucking David Mamet play.
I am some prick who has read books and mentions the reading of books on this book podcast.
Ah fuck it, it will take longer to go to sleep now.
My stomach tightens into a ball of frustration.
I am offended and offensive.
My fear is that this is true.
As much as I hope this is not how our recorded relationship seems, in the ears of this person, I am this grisly horror of a ghastly being.
Fuck it. I’ve had enough. let someone else make the fucking thing that I have tried to pour so much into since it began under another guise ten years ago.
What is the point of putting all this effort into something just to find out you are a worse sort of prick than the prick you thought you were.
I type a tweet of upset and grizzliness.
I lie awake and verge on sleep thinking it is probably best to let the series run its course and never record any new ones. By 2am, I am about to email my conspirators and cancel our final recording session.
I wake up, which is good, as I wasn’t expecting to go to sleep.
I have now moved into a state of soft, grey fuggishness.
The family don’t fancy a trip into London, so there’s no Transport Museum for me after some numbing dental work.
My thoughts are muggy.
Fortunately, next to my dentist is a regular bookshop haunt. Hopefully I can browse myself out of discontentment.
I lie in the chair having my teeth tightened. A little dental acid has fallen on my upper lip and the corner coarsens.
I pop into the comic shop and see Luke. We talk of films.
The moment has past. I have not fled yet.
I am aware that there is another person in the world that holds me in contempt.
I write this.
I carry on.
You can find the contemptuous me at this Book Shambles podcast here