Good limits, bad limits

After thoughtful consideration yesterday, I decided that the best way to deal with my story problems was to have a raging bout of insomnia that would leave me unable to so much as read a book. (Although, granted, my current book is John McPhee's Annals of the Former World. Guys, this may be the lack of sleep talking, or it may be because The New Yorker has so thoroughly adopted his prose style that I feel like I could finish his every sentence, but I am getting to be of the opinion that McPhee is overrated as a writer. At one point he lists a bunch of different geological ages because he thinks the names are kind of cool. I'm looking forward to the page where he just starts listing names out of the phone book--you know, because they're kind of cool. And his stories just never seem to climax. I get the feeling he was probably a pretty boring person.)

Anyway, today I read Kris Rusch's post on how nowadays she can write what she wants, YEAH! Screw publishers and their schedules and their little minds!

And on the one hand, I am delighted that e-books mean that short stories and novellas and little genres can flourish once again, and Rusch certainly brings up some examples of publishers being really arbitrary about stuff.

On the other hand--well, I also read this today. It's about a Web site I happen to enjoy called Eat Your Kimchi, which is by two Canadians living in Korea. Initially they started making videos about life in Korea so that their families could see what was going on with them, but then they started getting traffic from people who were curious about Korea.

And then they started getting traffic from really oversensitive Koreans who HATED them and wanted them deported! Things got extremely unpleasant, especially when they would criticize K-Pop groups, because Korean pop fans are notoriously insane.

The thing is, as awful as it got and as unfair as it certainly was, I've watched a lot of the old videos, and I have to say that their newer ones are much better. Why? It's not the production values (although those have improved), it's the fact that they no longer offer up knee-jerk negative reactions to things that they don't know anything about ("ERMAHGERD, this food has TENTACLES in it!"--uh, you've never had calamari?).

You could say that they've become more careful, but I would argue that they've become more thoughtful--and that's a good thing. It prevents them from falling into the whole Ugly American (Ugly Canadian?) rut, where they just run around shrieking, "ERMAHGERD! Why are things DIFFERENT here? It's like we're in some kind of foreign country or something!"

In addition, when they do get critical (which they still do), they are either very thoughtful about it (like this) or they come up with something hilariously funny. Remember those crazy K-Pop fans? Instead of just bitching about these lunatics who desperately need to get a life, they came up with the immortal character of Fangurilla.

The line between being true to your vision and just being self-indulgent is a fine one, and I think it's harder to draw a lot of times because 1. criticism is never pleasant, and 2. sometimes it is delivered in an entirely malicious and dishonest fashion. But even the worst form of criticism can have some value--at least if you take the right lesson from it.