The personal touch

Three years ago, I was agonizing over how much objectivity I should be going for in my reviews. I took the examples of old-school (at least now they would be old-school, I guess) independent internet music critics George Starostin and Mark Prindle, two guys whose work I equally admired but who had very different approaches. Even though I’d had this blog since 2013, I never really thought much about this question or about my own writing here until about 2019, and by that time I’d realized that a lot of what I had written previously wasn’t that great — I felt this kind of self-examination would help improve my work here.

Well now it’s three years later, and I don’t know whether I’ve improved at all. I “solved” the problem of how I should use ratings in my reviews by not using ratings anymore, and as for the Starostin/Prindle spectrum or whatever you’d call it, I think I’ve more or less fallen somewhere in the middle of it. Not exactly by choice — I write most of my posts in a nearly stream-of-consciousness style, usually all at once or maybe in two sittings and with barely any editing, which probably explains a lot of the mistakes and post-posting edits I end up having to make. So I can’t say I’m really thinking very consciously about how objective or subjective I’m being in a review, but I write in what I feel is a natural way.

One question I still wonder about, and that this Blaugust daily posting challenge raised for me, is how personal I should be in these posts. I’ve written about some personal matters this month, but the fact is this has always been partly a personal blog — I complain about my petty problems sometimes, but I also try to connect with readers on some personal level. I think the enjoyment of art, in a very broad sense what my site is all about, can’t be separated from the person talking about it. Our personalities affect how we see art, after all; it’s not just impossible to view art in an objective vacuum but would be useless even if it were possible.

But then I still want to keep readers’ interest, and I can’t pretend I’m someone anyone should give a flying fuck about. One of the things that annoys me about a few prominent anime YouTubers, for instance, is their tendency to let their personalities overshadow whatever anime they’re actually talking about. As much as I liked Mark Prindle’s reviews, he could also fall into this very occasionally, talking about family problems or his feelings about religion for three paragraphs in a totally unrelated album review. That was just his style and something you had to expect from him, and it was rare that he’d go into that kind of personal depth in a way that wasn’t actually connected to the music he was talking about from what I remember, but it was still noticeable.

Then again, I might have done the same on this site. I think it’s best to maintain a balance in these cases, anyway, and I’ll do my best to keep that balance. None of this is to say fully personal blogs are bad — they can be interesting, but that’s also not what I’m going for, and anyway I present this site as a game, anime, and sometimes music review/analysis blog, and presumably that’s what most people come here for. And that’s what I want to give readers: my feelings and opinions about art. But again, I don’t think it’s possible to talk about art without getting a little personal at least, unless you’re going for an extremely dry sort of “here’s what this work is composed of and when it was made” sort of wiki style that I have no interest in doing myself, because it would be personally boring for me to write and wouldn’t provide any value to readers.

As a side question to the writers reading: how personal do you like to get in your posts? We all have different styles, so it might be interesting to gauge that here.

7 thoughts on “The personal touch

  1. I’ve made a concerted effort to be more personal in my posts over the last several years. Looking back at my older stuff it just feels so…sterile. Not in a good way. Besides, the few times where I would get more personal tended to result in articles that I really liked, and which also seemed to resonate more with readers. Or that’s what I took the increased engagement numbers across various social channels to mean.

    With blogs in particular, I think there’s a lot of value in letting yourself shine through. How much you do this depends on your own personal comfort level, but you’re the thing that is unique about your blog. There’s any number of other sources for opinions on the shit we write about, but there is only one us. That’s what makes the blog special.

    • Very true. I think the personal angle we take in our writing makes it worth reading, otherwise yeah, why read one review of insert indie game or anime or whatever over another. I also have a good time writing the more personal posts.

  2. I think there is a level of objectivity to apply to everything in terms of production quality and professionalism, and that should be talked about. However, in my opinion there is then the level after that, where art affects people in differing ways and leaves certain impressions on you – this can be down to your tastes, your values, maybe even the stage of life you’re in. For example, it’s not uncommon for people to say how say, a game was there for them in a crucial part of life and they found comfort in it. Those stories are really personal and often very interesting to learn about (at least for me), and they’re often linked to the art, but they couldn’t have been predicted when making said art.

    Hopefully that makes sense? I think if everyone reacted equally to something, it wouldn’t be as fun as it is to have discussions about it. 🙂

    • I agree, there are some objective qualities to art you can get into — depending on the medium, gameplay mechanics, visuals, narrative structure, that sort of stuff that’s the more “mechanical” side of art if that’s the way to put it. Reading about how it affects the writer, though, that is the reason I’ll read most blogs. Same even if I don’t agree at all with the blogger’s takeaways, and that can be a point for some interesting conversations too.

  3. Hmm I feel like I’m sort of personal? Like not in the way you mentioned where I’ll go on a random tangent about my family, but I think I do come across as myself in my reviews. There was a time I felt like I lost that but generally I think I’m good at it?? Lol I’m not sure. I guess I keep the more personal type talks for the more personal type posts like the let’s talks and nominations 🤔

    • Yeah, just having your own style in your reviews and similar posts can go a long way I think. I definitely get a lot more personal in certain posts than in others.

  4. Pingback: Writing in hiding | Everything is bad for you

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