Why “Go Make Your Own” Is B.S. – Mostly

“Go make your own,” is something I hear said more and more when people find a beloved piece of media critiqued. I’ve heard it a lot in video games, a lot in fanworks, often in comics and written fiction, and at times in other forms of art. “Go make your own” has become a kind of default response to critique of something one likes.

As much as we hear it, I can’t consider it a legitimate answer to critique. It’s an a response that’s wrong for a number of reasons I’d like to address here.

There are many flaws to this response, but one truth . .

Reason #1: Those Saying “Go Make Your Own” Often Aren’t

By the way, if you’re gonna say it . . .

When someone says “Go Make Your Own” to a critique their favorite game or comic, the responder rarely seems to be “making their own” as well. I consider this to be hypocrisy

When someone says “Go Make Your Own” they suggest that a critic of a media must for some reason create (often similar) media. Perhaps the idea is “then you’ll understand.” Perhaps the idea is “if you don’t like it just do your own thing.” I’ve not seen particularly good justifications of the “Go Make YOur Own” critique anyway, which alone should make one suspicious.

But if there is value in “Making One’s Own,” then shouldn’t the critic-of-the-critic also be “making their own?” If they require someone to be a media creator of some kind to critique, shouldn’t they hold themselves to the same standards? After all, a person who’s response is positive is still indulging in a critical reaction.

Negative or positive, if “Making Your Own” is necessary to be a critic, it should be a requirement for any reaction to media.

Besides, it seems I see the “Go Make YOour Own” critique the least from writers, artists, etc. Probably as they have at least enough knowledge on an unconscious level to know it’s bunk.

Reason #2: Making Media Can Involve Many Different Things

OK so maybe there’s a value in making media . . .

Though I consider the “Make Your Own” response to critique to be dishonest as noted, there’s a second flaw. “Making One’s Own” as opposed to making a critique of something is meaningless as making media is an individual experience. If there is some value in “Go Make Your Own” it would suggest there is a relatively common set of lessons/experience/validation that making media brings.

But the experience of creating a book, a comic, or a game is a widely varied experience for each creator.

Some people can write easily, while others struggle. An artist can do one style and not another. A programmer can code motion but not particle effects. Some people are good at one thing or not another. Each person thus will have a radically different experience creating media, even if its the same kind of media.

They will also have a variety of non-media skills and experiences that come to bear on producing media. Organizational skills, people skills, typing speed, etc. The supposed value of making media is diluted by all the non-creative skills involved in making it.

The creative experience is so different for people that the idea that creating something blesses a person with unique ability, insight, or legitimacy is incorrect. The experience is far too unique to individuals, and what similarities there are (which I address below) are different.

Issue #3: Making Successful Media Is A Varied Experience

Well, maybe people should go make their own and be successful to see what it really involves . . .

When I see people use the “Go Make Your Own” argument against critique, at times I hear “and be successful” silently appended. It’s as if success would legitimate the critic somehow. This only raises more questions that show the holes in this approach.

Let us say that someone took the “Make Their Own” critique to heart and, upon being told to sod off and not criticize a comic, went and made their own. That, as I note, does not confer any legitimacy. But perhaps the success of said comic is a measure or imparts some ability or right to critique, or special argument?

Success first of all would need to be defined. What is “success?” Is the success parallel to the work criticized – and does it have to be? What, in short, is the criteria here?

Though even if we have criteria for success, does this success actually measure anything?

Things are successful for a variety of reasons. To argue success is the goalpost for someone to be able to critique media is ridiculous. SUccess is a variety of favors, from time to timeliness, to the right endorsement to sheer luck. Success if a fickle, unpredictable thing . . . as many artists and writers know.

Because success often has little to bear on quality, skill, virtue, or indeed any one factor good or bad, there’s no what it someone confers legitimacy on a critic.

Issue #4: Critique May Come From Its Own Skillset

Why do you have to have the same skills and experience as what you’re criticizing . .  .

Creating media, successful or not, doesn’t really grant anyone a right to criticism. It involves so many other factors that one’s own creative experience doesn’t compare to anothers. One may at best get some perspective, but one doesn’t get granted some “right” to critique because there’s simply no comparison between creative experiences and legacies.

Having noted that engaging in creative work doesn’t give some kind of special license, let’s now turn to the act of criticism itself.

The Flippant “Go Make Your Own’ argument ignores that despite some people not making media, they are equipped to criticize, and often quite legitimately. For many critics, their ability or not to create media, their success or not, does not negate the fact they are suited for critique.

  • A nutritionist may rightly criticize a delicious meal for it’s unhealthiness.
  • A historian may criticize a novel for historical inaccuracy.
  • A well-read or well-watched person may have the breadth of experience to critique work – professionally or not.
  • A person of a given race, gender, or background may call out a comic for getting their experiences wrong as they lived them.
  • Almost any reasonably informed person may call out a story for tropes and stereotypes.
  • Some people are not only suited to critique, they may have more knowledge or experience (or common sense) than the creator they critique of some subjects. The creator, in this case, is a less legitimate source of information, nothat that negates their work, but it should be kept in mind.

Good criticism is something many people can deliver. In fact . . .

Issue #5: Critique Is Its Own Art

The critic’s art is their own art.

To tell a critic to “go make their own” really misses that criticism is its own art form. It takes a skill, it takes ability, and it takes effort to develop. A good critic’s work is its own art – it is, in a way, their”making my own.”

It’s just not a work. It is a response to a work that is also a work.

This isn’t to say that there aren’t plenty of awful critics out there, one merely has to read online reviews to see that. It means that a critic should not be judged by if they make their own, but the intelligent effort they put forth in their work. You may not like it, but if they can be honestly good about what they do, it’s worth appreciating, if disagreeing with.

Admittedly the highest critique may indeed be “making your own,” to take lessons and apply them, but that’s not for every talented critic.

We need critique.  Brushing off critique with “Go Make Your Own” degrades its value.  We’ve got enough lousy critique as it is.

So what does “Go Make Your Own” Really Mean?

After hearing the “Go Make Your Own” argument for awhile, the argument is essentially a defensive derailment of a conversation.

It’s derailment in that it distracts from the conversation at hand to be about the critic. Wether it suggests the critic lacks legitimacy, or is wasting their time, or whatever, it changes the subject. Perhaps one simple doesn’t agree, but switching the subject avoids conversation.

It’s also defensive in that it’s an automatic attack on the critic. It does not involve engagement or analysis or conversation. It’s an attack-as-defense reaction that doesn’t involve actual interaction. In some cases – too may cases – it goes way, way too far.

Though I’m no fan of the “Go Make Your Own” argument I do wonder if some of it is because of the amount of awful, bad faith, sensationalist criticism out there. That is something I may address in detail in time to come.

But having said “Go Make Your Own” is an illegitimate response to criticism, let me know there is something of a real point in there. Let’s take a look at that reason

You Should Make Your Own

Though it’s obvious after a giant essay on it that I think “Go Make Your Own” is not a legitimate response to criticism, I do think people should all try and make their own art.

It could be any kind of art. Painting, drawing, writing, speaking. It could b fiction or nonfiction. It could be jewelry-making or cooking. Something that is creative, expressive, and about communication should be a part of everyone’s lives.

This is not because it gives us some “right” to criticize or involves us marching off to create a media revolution no one wanted. It’s because to do this helps us become better communicators and better consumers of media. These are always important – but moreso in modern times.

To practice communication lets us find better ways to work with others – more and more important all the time in a smaller world of multiple cultures that often finds new ways to come apart. Any kind of experience creating for people helps you get better at interacting with them.

Developing creative outlets also let us understand how others create, and how they may both satisfy us – but also manipulate us. To write a book can tell you in turn what you may like, or what tricks are being used to sell you a crap novel. To learn he art of cooking can not only be nutritious, but let you find out when someone is selling you something bad for you in the guise of delicious.

I said earlier that the act of creating varies for each person in what it involves. But the above benefits I find are nearly universal.

Your art may even be critique. Go for it.

So, yes you should “Make your own,” but not for the reasons critics say.

And the first people that should “Go make their own” are those telling us to “go make their own.”

– Steve

Make It So: Say Hi, Shut Up, Have A Creative Jam!

Colored Pencils Circle Rainbow

Creative people all the help they can get. If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’re writer or artist of some kind, if in the amateur sense, and know the challenges that face you, from publishing to editing. If you’re not a creative, you almost certainly know an artist or cosplayer or the like and their travail (which they will share gladly). Even if you, mysteriously, know no creative people, you’ve heard of the challenges they face unless you’re living under the proverbial rock (and a rock with no internet).

One of the issues that creators face is a peculiar paradox – they both need alone time to write, but often thrive in the company of their fellows. The stimulation of interacting with fellow writers or artists, for the most part, is inspiring and reinforcing. The time to actually make something is an invaluable window to create uninterrupted. This paradox seems, on the surface, to be best resolved by separating socialization and activity.

However, a local writer’s group has a different way to fulfill the need for both time and connections – and one I think we geeks should run with at cons and even other events.

You can combine both.

Read more

Way With Worlds: TMI


(Way With Worlds is a weekly column on the art of worldbuilding published at Seventh Sanctum, Muse Hack, and Ongoing Worlds)

TMI is a slang term for “Too Much Information” (and one that hopefully is still relevant when your read this). It’s basically a remind you’ve said too much, usually in an embarrassing way about an equally embarrassing subjects. Writers and worldbuilders face their own risks with TMI when we communicate our worlds.

We can overdo telling people about them.

You know what I’m talking about. The infodump that goes on for pages, the loving detail in a character’s mind most normal human (and human-alikes) would never think like, the historical quotes that seem like their own stories. It’s when you tell too damn much, so much people are taken out of the story or game, out of the world, and into your notes.

Maybe we can’t resist doing it because we have so much to share. Maybe we want to make sure people understand. Maybe we want to make sure they’re not totally lost. Maybe we follow the style of an author or writer we loved and overdo it.

It seems that when we do it, we do it big-time.

People don’t need TMI. TMI distracts because there’s suddenly a Wall Of Exposition. TMI confuses as the context may make sense only in your head. TMI disappoints as it can spoil stories. TMI breaks the sense of realism as infodumps feel like they came from outside the world. TMI can even change your story, as a rollicking adventure becomes a three-page discussion of dragon biology.

We as worldbuilders have to learn to communicate the right amount of information. That’s hard.

How Do We Avoid TMI?

TMI is actually hard to deliberately avoid because so much of it is emotional, or easy to misinterpret, or private. We don’t want to go the other direction and not reveal enough. In the end I’ve come to a simple conclusion.

Communications in your text, characters, story, exposition should:

  • Come naturally to the story so it doesn’t break the sense of involvement.
  • Contain enough information appropriate for the characters. Remember you can learn a lot from “overhearing.”
  • Contain enough information for the audience (this may mean that when you make some choices in the story it needs to be in ways that are informative).
  • Be phrased appropriately – a good sign of an infodump into TMI territory is when the language shifts from appropriate-to-tale to “have some stuff.”

This is an organic process, and empathy is a big part of it – you have to have a sense of both your characters and your audience. It’s art, not science, and I think awareness of it gets you halfway there – the other half is experience in doing it (or not doing it). Keep world building, keep writing – and keep taking feedback from your editors and your readers and your own reading.

However I can provide you guidance to know when you’ve gone into TMI territory. Setting the outer boundaries may help keep you out of TMI territory, or learn when you cross over.

Here’s where you may mess up:


Sometimes our writing and world building results in us shoving the fact we have a world in people’s faces. There’s a huge world out there and we feel we have to remind them of it. Suddenly there’s unneeded maps and infodumps and unneeded references. This takes people right out of the story or game where they experience your world, and puts them into knowing the world was constructed.

Worlds are experienced, not told about. Remember that. Help with the experience.

Oh, and doing can also seem like bragging. Don’t make the readers dislike you, it’s not conductive to their enjoyment.


Be it realistic or weird, sometimes we go into TMI mode because we want to show them everything we did. We’ve got to cram it in descriptions and dialogue, and . . . well at that point suddenly we’re giving too much information. There’s so much there, but it’s hard to help ourselves.

In real life I don’t launch into extensive discussions of public transport history without prompting. Your characters shouldn’t do the same.

In real life you don’t look at a bookstore and recall your entire past history of going there in florid detail. Neither should your characters unless that *is* the story.

Don’t go showing off extensive detail. Show what is appropriate for the stories, character, and setting. Your audience can fill in the gaps.

Besides, then you have enough for your eventual world guide book or tip guide for your game or whatever.


How many times do you need to know a character went to the bathroom? Or the sit through a five minute FMV discussing why this elf is a psychotic killer? Or . . . you get the idea. Realism can be overdone when people brag about it.

When your attempts to communicate to the audience are “look see how realistic I am, man I thought this out” then you have a problem. Your audience is probably going to give you the benefit of a doubt, you know? Working too hard to show realism becomes a source of TMI.

People are not going to be impressed by the realism of your world when its shoved in their face – and some things can be assumed (such as characters actually going to the bathroom or eating). People can give your characters and world credit for being realistic or at least having its own realism. They don’t need it described to them in painful detail.


Another form of TMI is “look at this weird thing I did, wow isn’t it awesome” where your story or game or play shows off, in painful detail, the crazy thing you did. You want them to know how innovative you are, how odd this is, as opposed to letting them feel the impact.

it’s almost a flipside of Aggressive Realism; instead of trying to convince people of the realism of your story more than you need, you try to bring them into the strange-yet-real part.

It’s really showing of how weird you can be but still pull the world off.

In reality, if it’s not weird for your characters, it shouldn’t seem weird to the audience. In fact, keep in mind the impact of weirdness is amplified when it seems normal.

Learn What To Say

TMI can affect many a worldbuilder and storytelling. In a few cases we probably need some writers to lean towards it a bit more as they get lost in tropes and assumptions.

In the end however serious TM ruins the experience of a work, it takes people out of the world and into you lecturing them or showing off.

Worldbuilding is about detail. When it comes to your stories or gmes or whatever, instead learn to communicate what’s important to people. The details you know let you tell the story – the details they find out let them understand it.

You just don’t need to know where all the trap doors and scenery is to enjoy the play.


– Steven Savage