This past week I've seen a few people I care about, both online and off, talk about how they don't feel like they have anything interesting to say, and I would like to talk about how this very much isn't true.
I have a lot of feelings on this sort of put-down, because I'm obviously a person who's established themselves, however minor in form, as someone who expresses their opinion online non-stop. And I think about how I go about doing so, whether it's worth doing, if what I say is worth putting on the net, etc. I also think about about whether what I'm doing could even be considered "art" in the traditional sense.
I don't think I'll ever be comfortable with an answer on whether critique is an art. But one thing I know for sure is that it's a skill. I think this is the main reason why I see people say don't have interesting opinions on things - they don't realize that it's a muscle, and like any muscle, it must be trained.
Let me tell you about how I got here.
When I was a kid I was more quiet than a stone statue. This was by my nature, and I'm guessing being a middle child between two loud as hell siblings didn't help either. I had trouble saying anything to anyone, and spent more time reading books and writing silly stories about Terry from Dragon Warrior Monsters (this is true).
Being a child right before the cusp of the internet, I had very few people to talk about what I loved most, which was nerdy shit. Games and anime and whatnot were still niche. But when we finally got a family computer, a whole world was opened to me: online forums. I was in everything from Redwall Roleplaying forums to Starmen.net, GameFAQs boards to Gaia Online. And while I had trouble letting my voice be heard in the real world, I was starting to talk online.
Writing was always easier for me as a vehicle to express myself growing up. And now I had this new portal I could enter where every conversation took place on a battlefield I was comfortable with via the written word. Couple that with easy access to groups that shared my interests, and I was writing...probably hundreds of words a day about everything from the new Bleach opening to my theories on Shadow of the Colossus.
I've written about the game that got me into media critique in a more focused sense. But I've always loved talking about and reviewing media. It's a spark I've always held. And I think it's an important thing to do because it lets you be more than a passive consumer of media. You get to draw upon your own life experiences and tastes to explain why you might love something, or loathe it, or worst of all, felt indifferent to it.
My belief in that importance only cemented itself when I got a minor in Media Studies. And now you see me on one online corner or the next, talking about how sick Stranger of Paradise is, or how dogshit FFXVI is. And I'm having a blast.
All of this is to say that I absolutely believe that your opinion matters - whether it's about media or otherwise. You just need a push in that direction. So let me give some tips on how you can do it.
Find Your Medium
I'm writing from the perspective of - well, a writer - but maybe writing isn't your thing. Maybe you can talk about something you love for hours. Do that! It can be something as simple as you or your avatar on camera, talking at length. Or maybe you just wanna ramble at length in podcast format. That works too! Just do the thing that you know you can do comfortably and go from there.
It's Gonna Take Time to Find Your Voice
I know this sounds like cheesy garbage, but it's true. Like I said, expressing your opinion is a skill. Getting better at that skill takes practice. And part of that practice is finding your "voice."
Maybe you're a NakeyJakey-type that's all jokes in-between critique. Maybe you're like me and prefer a more casual tone that's prone to hyperbole. Maybe you're interested in being super detail-oriented, wanting to cover every aspect you can think of about a topic. All of these methods are valid - it's just about finding what works best for you, and then...
I'm not making any ground-breaking comment here, but it might stick a little differently when you reconsider how talking about something at length requires a bit of effort. And you won't get anywhere if you don't start practicing. The more you do it, the easier it'll get. You don't even have to share the first few if you're not comfortable with what you've created. That feeling will pass. Okay now something to remember.
It Doesn't Matter if it's Been Done Before
A common thought I've heard from friends is that they don't feel like they need to talk about something they're interested in because someone else has already described how they felt about it, for the most part. I want you to lean in real close okay. I am speaking directly in your ear now:
It doesn't fucking matter.
There are 8 million people out there talking about shit online all the time. Of course someone might have a thought similar to yours. That's still not your opinion, so you should talk anyways. And a good way to go about doing that in a way that feels unique is to:
Use Your Life
For me, as a POC, I very often write about media from that angle. For example, talking about FFXVI's complete lack of diversity. And as I've honed in on my taste, you'll also notice that I talk about my never-ending pursuit of that GOOP high. The more you start building this skill, the more you'll start connecting the person you and the things that matter to you to the media you're talking about!
Now if you're looking for something to start with...
Talk About Something You Hate (or Love)
It might sound weird, but this is what got me started - I personally find it very easy to talk about what I hate. This is because I'm haughty and rude by nature. In fact, I had to learn how to get better at talking about the stuff I love!
With that said, I suggest starting with either of those dichotomies. Think about your favorite (or least favorite) piece of media, whether it's a movie, a game, or anything else. Then!
I know. It sounds like homework. But taking notes on the media you're consuming is super helpful when it comes to putting together your thoughts. Even if you don't want to take notes while you're taking in a piece of media, you should at least outline your overall thesis before you start writing, talking, etc. It helps! It gets you organized and makes you seem like you know what you're talking about, even if you don't feel like you do. But this leads to the most important part:
It'll Start to Come Naturally
The more you do this in a "formal" capacity, the more you'll start feeling the confidence to just speak your mind about shit on a general basis, even when you're rapid-firing posts about how much you hated the FNAF movie at 2 in the morning. One thing a friend told me when it came to expressing themselves online is that they felt like they couldn't speak with authority, because other, "smarter" people seemed like they knew what they're talking about compared to them.
It's not true. No one knows what they're talking about. We're all just a galaxy of dummies, gettin loud about the shit we care about. It's that steadfast care that comes across as expertise. I get it! I feel like an idiot next to Austin Walker too. But you're not a professional getting paid to talk about Pocket Card Jockey or whatever the fuck, so you don't have to write or speak with PhD-like precision. You just have to say it with your chest and I'll care about what you have to say.
Anyways, I can feel the Focalin coming down as I come back and forth to write this throughout the day. The point is: your opinion really does matter. Because you're the only one who can share it!
So share your thoughts, please. I wanna hear and read them!
December 5th Update
One of the cool things about Obsidian and Digital Gardens is how easy it is to go back and edit stuff with new thoughts without worrying about disturbing the chronological layout of a traditional blog.
All of this is to say that I've come back to tell you that your opinion matters because if it didn't people wouldn't steal it.
Opinions that are the same but different ↩︎
I've never written an official piece on Gravity Rush 2 for this reason. Also because I'll cry. ↩︎
Who would do something like this. ↩︎