On Being Critical Without Being a Douche

Every couple of weeks, I see authors I love remind other authors to just be nice already. Today, I came across a writer (no I will not link there) who has an entire website devoted to how much the genre they love has begun to suck and thus this person has decided to do the world the immense favor of writing non-sucking books for all of the languishing fans of that genre. I am not even going to touch the fact that this writer bashed women authors of the genre for being too touchy-feely, but stick with the main task at hand.

I understand that the range of tastes are immense and we all have our preferences, but there is a difference between bringing up critical issues with something and being a douche.

Be constructive in your criticism. If you have a complaint, explain why you believe the issue to be an issue. Painting everything or everyone else as crap because you do not like it, is not constructive. For example, in romance the rape scene as titillation, which was popular in the 80’s and 90’s, is problematic because it normalizes the belief that “she really wanted it so it’s not rape.”

I can have this opinion and not think that all authors who participated in this trope are terrible. Some of the authors I like have written books with this trope. I just choose not to like those books. If you have a problem with a trend within a genre, then talk about the trend with other adjectives that do not involve excrement or expletives.

Offer a solution to the issue at hand. If you see something wrong, offer ways that issue can be fixed or another way to handle the challenge. If there is a problem in your organization, brainstorm some ideas on how YOU can make it better. If we are talking about writing, write something different and then let your writing stand on its own merits. There is no need to bash other writers of your genre as you seek to instigate change. That brings me to my last point.

If you can not be constructive or offer a solution, be nice. If you feel you can not have a civilized discussion, do not have the discussion at all. Instead, find an author, company, or person who is doing something right and applaud them. Point out all the ways they are doing the opposite of the thing you dislike. Cheer on the people you think are doing a good job.

In the words of Wil Wheaton, “Don’t be a dick.”

Jacob, the BeerBrarian, has an excellent post on why men should just be nice to women already which goes along nicely with my directive to be nice. Jacob’s post is a good example of pointing out issues without being a douche. That and the gif on his post is fabulous.

Perhaps, if we all spent more time applauding the good, the bad would get less airtime and thus seek our attention less.

I do not want to be perceived as a Pollyanna. Readers who have been around for a long time know that is not me, at all.

However, when we have conversations about how we dislike this thing about a genre or that thing about a company, can we please be constructive and seek to solve the problem? If you can do neither of those things, can you choose to be nice instead? Because if you are just mean and complain about everything and everybody, you are being a douche.

–Jane, don’t be a douche

Updated to add the Wheaton quote because I did not want my nerd cred to be revoked.