by Michæl W. Bard
©2008 Michæl W. Bard
There are interesting and subtle similarities between writing and fursuitingor at least,fursuit construction. Its probably true for any kind of creative endeavour.
As at least some of you know, I have been working (slowly) on a full horse fursuit. My most-recently-achieved milestone in this endeavour has been padded digitigrade hooves/legsthat is, something to make my plantigrade (heel-walking) human legs look like digitigrade (toe-walking) equine legs.
My first attempt is to the immediate left.
Now, after weeks (literally) of painstaking, finicky detail work to get them as best I could, I finally wrote down my experiences; posted my notes to some LJ groups and e-mail lists to get comments/criticisms; and, finally, created a website to put my design and construction process on display, in detail, for anyone else who might be interested in attempting the same thing.
I did all this posting and so on in one marathon late-night session. Being tired, I didnt explicitly ask for criticism, though I am always looking for it to improve. Kind of like writers. But nevertheless, somebody did, kindly, point out a significant flaw I should have been aware of. See the photo on the immediate right:
See the shallow angle of the hoof, on a real horses leg? Now take another look at my fursuit leg. Note the angle of the hoof (not the padded leg). Steep, isnt it?
I knew this. And yet, somehowwhether because I was distracted by other things, had persuaded myself it was right anyway, or who knows whatI missed it during initial design work, the entire construction process, and upon viewing the completed product.
Now, most fursuiters that I know who have posted their work have gotten page after page of thats great and neat. Very few say things like the nose doesnt look right or the one ear is off balance from the other. Maybe if you modified it thus-and-so.
Thinking back on it, something had been bothering me all along, at every stage of the construction process, like an unreachable itch in my brain. But I had no clue as to what it was not until this person told me.
This is all very well, but whats the point of this whole thing? And what does it have to do with furry, exploring furry, furry writing, and fursuiting? (Other than being an excuse to horrifically overuse the word furry :) )
From my (limited) experience, most people get into the furry fandom because they dont function well in conventional human societal groups. Note that I say mostwhile this may a general rule, there are absolutely exceptions to it. But if you look at the average furry on the street, they tend to have first gotten into the fandom as a refuge from being teased, harassed, or ignored by mundane social groups. For these people, furrydom is a shelter, a safe haven where they can hide underneath the fur coating of an animal and get immediate acceptance, since furry fandom tends to regard itself (justifiably, to a certain extent) as a group of close comrades besieged by an indifferent-to-hostile outside world.
The above is certainly somewhat true for me. Im shy; I have non-furry friends, but not many; I dont do well in large groups. Furrydom is, for me, a comfortable place where I can expect a guaranteed minimum degree of acceptance, simply from the fact of being a furry. This acceptance is not bad, in and of itself. However, one can take the whole shyness/fearfulness thing too far.
As furries, as writers, as fursuiters, as sentients, we have to be willing to take criticism from others. Maybe ones critics are wrong; maybe they state their comments in the form of a personal attack; maybe theyre completely full of it. Still, everybody deserves to be listened to, and everybody deserves to be treated with respect, at least initially.
By and large, furry communities work because most furries (having so often gotten the short end of the socialization stick) decline to say anything that can be considered less than complimentary. We go online, we put on our fursonas, we laugh and joke and be silly. But, virtually nobody will ever say "<genericfurry> you shouldnt do that" or "If you did that in RL, <genericfurry>, youd be horribly injured!"
Its easy to always say nice things, to always compliment other people. Easy but not healthy.
Throughout our lives as sentients, we must always change and grow and improve. But I fear that to some furries, the fandom is not a shelter, but more of a padded cell. An excessively safe zone. A bright and cheerful place where everything is nice and happy and perfect, and nothing bad ever happens, and all the nasty sharp corners are safely swaddled in soft plastic foam, and no errors or wrong ideas are ever pointed out.
Its one thing to live in a toddler-safe world if one happens to be a toddler. But to stay there after one ceases to be a toddleror even into adulthood? That is, quite simply, insane.
In writing, in fursuiting, in furrydom, one has to be willing to take commentary. One must be strong enough to accept criticism. One needs to be able to learn from such comments; to improve based on them; to accept them or ignore them depending on how applicable and/or appropriate the comments are.
Its what we all need to do, furry or not.