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For Every Action: Shonda Rhimes and Veena Sud Demonstrate How Not To React

By Steven Lloyd Wilson | Industry | June 5, 2012 |

By Steven Lloyd Wilson | Industry | June 5, 2012 |

When you create art for public consumption, you open yourself up to the whimsy of a mob. It’s a glorious thing when the consensus is in your favor, but dashing when the rough music begins to rumble through the crowd. Now, you can avoid this by just burying anything you create in a desk drawer, but that quite defeats the purpose of creation in the first place, not to mention means you have exactly zero chance of ever quitting that soul sucking day job. But once it’s out there, once the sniping and griping start to take shots at your head, well, you can just bury your head in the sand in one way or another, or you can take the best shots they’ve got so that next time you do better.

Guess which route Shonda Rhimes of “Grey’s Anatomy” and other lesser viewed offenses, and Veena Sud of “The Killing” decided to take?

Says Rhimes of Twitter: “It’s sort of an exercise in torture. I sort of don’t know why I get on there. It’s a little like inviting people who hate you into your house to say mean things to you.” (source: THR)

No, it’s like inviting everyone who took the time to partake of your creation to whisper back to you. It’s not just the people who hate you, it’s also the people who love you. If all you’re hearing is the hate, then either you have masochistically selective hearing, or what you’ve created isn’t liked.

Says Sud of the tidal wave of criticism of “The Killing” at the end of its first season: “I was surprised initially and sad because we had planned from the very beginning to make this a two-season murder mystery. But, I mean, in a way it was a blessing not to be tweeting and e-mailing and all of that because I didn’t actually have to read and hear the negativity in my face.” (source: THR)

Oh, so the criticism that the show was dragging on with nothing being resolved wasn’t justified because you planned on not resolving anything for two seasons? You’d think a show runner of a series about solving a murder would understand that intending to commit the crime is not a defense, it’s a lack of one. You don’t defend yourself from murder charges by saying, “oh no, it’s cool, I planned from the very beginning to shoot this guy.”

I know that Hollywood ends up being a weird cocoon for a lot of creative people, especially really successful ones. Success ends up being an insulator from any criticism. The fact that you’ve got a show on television proves that anyone criticizing it is wrong. But you need to hear that “negativity.” It’s the only thing that keeps you honest as an artist. There’s an old saying that great writers have to be schizophrenic: simultaneously so arrogant as to believe that their words are so important that strangers need to pay to read them, and so neurotically lacking in confidence that they agonize over actually making the words that good.

Screening out the negativity is death to the creative process. It’s supposed to burn like hell to have your work in front of the public, because that’s the thing that drives you to make it better and better every time. If you’re just going to screen out the negativity, you’re not an artist anymore, you’re just another anonymous suit. Your business might be art, but you’re not an artist if you shut out your audience.

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Steven Lloyd Wilson is the sci-fi and history editor. You can email him here or follow him on Twitter.