by thea marie
What's on my mind....
|A while back I set up a poll on this site after I realized that I was bypassing work that, in my opinion, wasn't very well written. I was interested to see if anyone else had the same issues as I had.
The theme of the poll was Why I Don't Review Really Bad Items".
The answer choices and the results were as follows:
When it's that bad, I don't read enough of it to make comment. /118
I don't want to hurt the writer's feelings by going into all the reasons why the piece reads so poorly. /91
It would take too much effort to offer the kind of comments/suggestions that would help the writer improve his/her work. /46
I don't like to appear overly critical when I give a detailed review. /42
I don't feel qualified to make constructive comment on such work. /30
For myself, I fell somewhere between the first choice and the second. When I stopped and paid attention to what I was doing, I realized that I was only reviewing work that appealed to me or that was already pretty well-written, in my estimation. I was avoiding the painful, and I was being lazy in not taking the time to find out what it was about the piece in question that was causing the pain.
This year I decided that had to change; I want to be a serious writer. Proofreading and critiquing is part of that process. The pieces I have been avoiding are probably the ones that could most benefit from an honest, detailed, objective review. Reviewing honestly, and taking the time to analyze what isn't working in someone else's work, I thought, could only help mine.
Since the first of the year, I have made it a goal to read and review at least two or three pieces a day. I try to vary the genre and to not pay a lot of attention to the quality. It's hard to be objective sometimes when something has already been rated by several people, but I have really been making an effort to be supportive and fair.
I devised a rubric of sorts to help me stay focused, and then I went for it. For the most part, for my efforts, I have received grateful responses, a couple of questions on an observation I might have made, some GP's, and the one or two simple "thanks" that read tersely, but that could have just been me. At times it's hard to interpret nuance in an email. For the most part, I have been satisfied with it all.
Yesterday; however, was another story.
In the course of my reviewing session, I came across a piece that was supposed to be a poem. From the glaring typo in one of the first few lines (broking instead of broken) to the overuse of commas, random periods, erratic use of capital letters, and the uneven, choppy rhythm, it appeared to me as if it had been thrown together in a hurry and then posted. It was new, had just been put up that day, and it had no ratings at that point. Despite all of its problems, however, there was an interesting message there, which is why I decided to review it.
I rated it low, 2.5, because of all the problems and because it looked rushed. I began with saying that I liked the message and that I thought the piece had potential, which I thought was positive. Then I detailed the suggestions I had listed that I thought might make it read better. I ended with repeating that I thought it had potential and inviting the person share it with me should he or she choose to do some revisions.
First, almost immediately, I received an email that merely said, "Wow!"
Right behind that email, I received another one asking, "Was it really that bad? I've never gotten a rating that low before."
I was writing a response, assuring the person that it wasn't about being “that bad” or about a rating; it was about all of us reviewing and offering suggestions for improving our work. The purpose of posting was not to reap empty praise, but to solicit constructive criticism. I told him/her that I thought the poem looked rushed and that it could benefit from, at minimum, proofreading with a fresh eye.
But before I could finish typing my mail, I noticed that I had yet ANOTHER email in my box. I finished typing, sent my mail. and then opened the one sent to me. This one was a very nasty, sarcastic message from the writer of the poem I reviewed. The person had gone into my port, picked out the first thing that looked like a poem and rated it a 2.5, claiming it had numerous grammatical errors, etc.
Since this all went down in a period of less than 8 minutes, I don't know how the person could have adequately reviewed anything in my port. The piece the person claimed to have reviewed had ratings of nothing less than 4 by several other people, and it had no errors in grammar or punctuation. (I went in and specifically checked to be sure.) What was done to me was done purely out of spite.
And for what? Because I was honest? Because I took the time to try and help with something that a month or so ago I would have clicked past?
I was pissed off at first. Not by the 2.5 or by the exchange, but more so by the pettiness and the waste of my time. I wrote back to the person asking why they felt they had to stoop to that. I asked why the piece was posted if it wasn’t for the purpose of seeking comment. A person has to expect that not all the comments received are going to be favorable. That's the chance that is taken when work is put out there for review. Smart writers take the useable comments and work with them, and they ignore the ones that aren’t beneficial. The numbers mean nothing. What's a 5 rating to one person might be a 3.5 to someone else.
But in my aggravation yesterday, all I could think was, "See, this is why...."
In my final mail, I promised the person that they would never have to worry about me reviewing or low-rating anything of theirs again.
But that incident won't stop me. Hopefully that incident was a random thing. I'm going to stick to the commitment I have made to myself and keep reviewing them as I objectively as I can.