or, How I Learned to Make Peace With the Dreaded WDC Review
|Well now, after wandering around and reading through so many intelligent and well-expressed opinions about reviewing the works of others, I thought it was about time to offer up my own opinion on the subject.
So here it is.
I can't help but wonder at all the fear, loathing, angst, guilt and shame that seems to surround the activity in here.
We've all had the experience (most of us, anyway) of receiving a bad review, or at least a bad response to a review we've given. That seems to be a universal experience.
Back in ancient times, when I first stumbled into WDC (known then as Stories.com) I wrote much, and reviewed little. I don't know that I felt particularly selfish at the time - I never really thought about it...I was too busy creating.
Now, back for the fourth or fifth kick at the can, it's the opposite. I write a whole lot less, and review a whole lot more. I don't feel particularly unselfish - it's more to do with what pleases me.
So I will have one more kick at this can, and then retire it and its dents, to the trash-bin.
Reviewing - can be an awful lot of fun, when approached in the right spirit.
(and what spirit might that be?)
I used to love those old baseball interviews - the ones where some pitcher who had just tossed a no-hitter would pontificate into the proffered microphone...."I didn't try to do too much out there...just stayed within myself."
Say what? As opposed to where else? Astrally project into the batter's box? Of course you're going to stay within yourself...there's nowhere else to go, man.
Well - now I understand a little better. He didn't try to be perfect, and by not doing that - he was perfect anyway.
Reviewing rules about being polite, positive, helpful, supportive....I heartily agree. How could I not?
But here's where I swerve left upon the forked road...
If one attempts to teach anybody anything about writing, I would assume that they are either a professional writer, or a professional writing teacher. (I would imagine that a few in here actually are.)
I am neither. Therefore I would not assume to pose as one.
Actually - that's not entirely true. I am a professional writer - of songs. And only of songs. I actually get paid for them. Not jackpots of wealth, but enough to make it worth the effort.
Apparently this might qualify me to review song lyrics...(a thing I despise because without the sound, a lyric staggers across the page like a drunken sot, I'm afraid.
But enough of that. Back to my main theme. I read an awful lot. I read wonderful books by terrific writers - all of whom are brilliant enough to make a university library list.
What I read here in WDC is some of the most touching, amazing stuff - all of it personally expressed from the lives of real people. I never forget that, when I'm reading. Writers are heroes after all. If they don't write, what's there to read?
I would imagine also, that some of what I read belongs by copyright, to people who dream great dreams of making a living at it. Why not? Those dreams are free.
But really - I have no idea about that - unless it's specifically expressed by the writer themselves. I would have no reason to assume it.
One might consider that, stumbling upon something particularly brilliant, a reader could assume that this writer is on their way to bigger and better things...but although I can recognize that, as a reader, what the hell can I offer as an....instructor...........to speed up that journey?
I love that word. Reminds me of all those lovely little growls and squeals and electronic gnashings of transistorized teeth that chew through tortured amplified vibrations right into my eardrums.
Feedback is a reaction, a response - something that lets a writer know what they wrote was actually understood, and provoked dialogue, thought, questions, answers, emotions.
I never review something I don't like. For (to me) the obvious reason. I can't express honestly my reaction to the piece. Well, I could - but I choose not to be that unkind.
To ask me to review as a writing teacher, to instruct, to critique..........is to invite me to pose as something I'm not.
Yet, at the same time, I can certainly recognize brilliant writing. I do it all the time.
So I send an email to the author of that book - and tell them I loved their stuff. If I'm feeling particularly brave and brilliant myself, I might even tell them why. But that is hardly offering them a critical kick in the pants. It's just giving feedback. (and they love it.)
So there it is. I will now stride boldly into that good night and go on reviewing as unstructured as I know how.
For that, my dears, is the most honest way I can do it. Not because I'm given to lying to writers about how good I think their stuff is, heaven forbid. Nope.
Because I absolutely and completely possess no training, skills, tricks or any other ticket that qualifies me to improve what anybody writes.
It's just got a good beat, is all.
And you can dance to it!