By Dawn Cranfield
The Truth – You Cannot Handle the Truth
I have recently joined an online writer’s group to get feedback on some poetry and short stories I have written, as well as connect with other writers. The basic premise is one where you upload your written works for critique by other authors, selecting artwork provided by artists in the community, and eventually become ranked as either a short story author or a poet.
Additionally, as an author, you have the opportunity to critique the works of other writers, both the poets and the essayists; each work is given a rating of one to six stars, and then an evaluation is offered. You can assess as many pieces as you like each day, but each author may only post two pieces of their work per day.
Once a writer receives the analysis, they have the option to respond to the reviewer using the “Reply” feature included on the site. When replying there is a notice that states verbatim “Only use to thank a reviewer or to request a clarification. Never attack a review or a reviewer. Do not defend your work.” Since I have joined the group, I have reviewed roughly 40 pieces so far, and most people simply respond with “Thank you for reviewing my work” or something similar. My ratings have ranked from 3 stars, Good, to 6 stars, Excellent; on this website, each reviewer is allowed to rank two pieces with 6 stars each week.
I had been enjoying the community for a few days when I received a response to a poem to which I had given a 3 star rating and had offered comments that I liked parts of the poem but was terribly confused by other parts. Imagine my surprise when the poet chastised me for even reviewing said poem; she claimed that I had no right to review her poem if I was not going to rate it highly and that my low marks had cancelled out another high rating.
Confusion set in immediately; my understanding of the community was one of getting legitimate reviews and therefore improving one’s writing skills, not one of collecting stars like children in grade school putting gold stars on a chart in front of the classroom. I responded to the poet, explaining politely that it was my prerogative to rate her poem honestly and to critique it as such and that I meant no offense.
She responded again, saying she had read some of my pieces and did not agree with my lifestyle but would not judge me harshly as a result and offer me fewer stars. I opined she was free to evaluate my works as she saw fair, but as a point of fact, I was critiquing her work based solely on the merits of this particular piece, not on her background or otherwise and felt it would be childish if she did anything less when appraising other works.
Again, she retorted with something more malicious than her last comment, and also changed her profile to read that she believed works should be passed over if one could not give a high rating. At this point, it was clear she was not going to understand, so I tried once more with a reply stating that I thought we should agree to disagree and move on. She had to get the last word in, and claimed that she would rate my works highly because she was a bigger person than I, and she rated my latest poem with 5 stars.
My point being, as I have opined before, this is an example of what happens to people when we do not teach them as children that there are winners and losers, not everything in life is equal. The situation is, this person joined a community where her work was going to be judged, but then whined about the fact that she was not going to get 5 or 6 stars on every piece she wrote, and could not understand why. She is a product of a nation where kids are not told “no”, where every child receives a “participation trophy”, and where parents stand up for their children even when they are wrong.
So, when you ask somebody “Do I look fat in this?” make certain you are prepared for the truth.