I'm most recently a writer. In the six plus decades of my life, I've been a wife, mother, grandmother, Jill of all trades though mistress of but a few, and most of the time pretty content with my lot. As a much younger person, I believed I was called to write, but life and living distracted me for most of those decades. An unwilling transplant from the South, twenty years ago I unintentionally landed in the geographical center of the US. Writing came about in part due to the unwillingness, I expect. When caring for family, gardening, and renovating a century-old house failed to provide sufficient creative outlets, I turned to the one thing I always intended to do. Eight titles later, I'm grateful I found myself while Lost in the Plains!
Thursday, January 16, 2014
My mother always told me. . .
But the one I want to address here, briefly, because I have some surmounting to do myself this morning, is the simple adage, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."
In this day of open forums and anonymous commentary--yes, I'm talking about FB, blogging, buyer reviews and every other venue in which an individual can express their personal opinion on any given subject on any given day--it seems carefully thought out comments have given way to the more popular and sensational rant.
I'm a writer, or on most days now I consider myself such. I value the opinions of those who chose to read my work. I realize my books are not going to appeal to everyone equally. I fully expect to receive my share of less than glowing (but I would hope constructively critical) reviews. And I know full well I'm just kidding myself. Somewhere out there, someone is going to read something I've poured my heart and soul into and point out in excruciating detail just how much they did not enjoy it. If I'm lucky, they'll be short and to the point. If not, if they're having a particularly bad day and have a penchant for wordy prose, they're going to pour it on. I haven't received any of these yet, but I've seen reviews where the nameless, faceless reviewer lashed out at everything from the plot and characters in the book they failed to finish, to the author's lack of sensitivity and honesty in dealing with his or her subject, to declaring that paying nothing at all for said book was still highway robbery. Some seek to personally insult the writer, just as they might derive satisfaction from lashing out an innocent sales clerk or airline ticket agent, as if by doing so, the disagreeable experience will be made any less so.
Nasty negative reviews don't impress anyone, with the possible exception of the reviewer. If you derive pleasure from telling off the checker at Walmart because you had to wait in line longer then you wanted to, if you enjoy complaining about the price of your burger to the person who takes your money through the drive-thru window at McDonald's, if you habitually put up denigrating political comments on FB, regardless of their basis in fact, then you probably get a chuckle from leaving a review labeled, "Not worth your money" or "Don't waste your time." And that's your privilege in our open society. Just don't imagine you're destroying the creativity of the writer or their chance to reach other readers.
There was another little nugget my mother used to offer that applies here. "Consider the source." We never know what someone is dealing with, what might have gone wrong, or what may have influenced their opinion at any given time. Maybe that irritable customer has a painful bunion, or really wanted a steak but couldn't afford it. Maybe they never had a sweet, gentle mother to teach them that it's always better to build up than to tear down. Maybe they're just not very happy people. We provide any number places for them to express their unhappiness, so we can hardly take offence when they do. Just consider the source and try to say something nice in response. Or just say nothing at all.