Monday, March 7, 2011

Honest Balance

It started innocently enough this morning. I saw a comment about a book that caught my interest. I went to a site to see what people thought of the book. What I was looking for? Intellegent reviews and feedback on what readers did or didn't like so I could get a feel for this book and decide if it was something I wanted to purchase. What I got?
Now, I don't mean to get all mommy-minded here but honest and nice are two of the things I'm struggling to teach my toddler at this very moment and it's not easy. It would be way easier to teach him one of these very important life skills. Not both. Here's an example:

Toddler being honest: "Ew! *throws chicken* "This chicken is disgusting. I'm not eating it. I want something different!"

Toddler being nice: *winces and spits out a mouthful of chicken back on plate* "I'm done. My belly is full."

(yes, they are both things son has done or said) See the difference there? One lands him in big trouble and two leaves him hungry. I'm doing my best to teach him to combine them. State his honest opinion in a nice way. To me nice doesn't mean pretending to like something. No one should have to pretend to like something (unless it's a present from Great Aunt Marge that she's watching you open, but that's a whole different subject). I want my son to feel comfortable telling people his honest opinion on things in life. But I want him to stop and think of a way to do it nicely. I don't want him to let people walk all over him but I don't want him to be a bully either. I must tell him 10x a day now to, "Treat others as you want to be treated."

We aren't robots. We all have our own invididual opinions. On everything. That's part of the beauty of this world. We should embrace that. Share it. Honest does not equal nice or mean. Honest is honest. It's how we choose to deliver it. It's a choice. (I struggle with this daily in my personal life!)

I've been involved in creative endeavors in one way or another my entire life. I took art lessons all through school, went to college for art. I had teachers, judges and every one with an opinion, dissect my work. Some were honest, some were nice and some were mean. The only ones I remember are the ones that were a combination of honest and nice. The ones that helped me grow and learn. Become a better artist even if it stung.

Same with my writing now. I seek out the people who take the time to be honest and nice. Not only nice. As great as it would be to hear nothing but complimentary things all day it wouldn't do a thing to help me grow as a person. To me, being nice and honest shows that the person respects me even if what they have to say about my writing isn't all ponies and rainbows. It makes me respect them. Value their opinion.

Awhile back I made a decision not to post negative reviews on my blog or any review type sites. Do I read books I don't like?  Definitely. But I'm a writer before I'm a reviewer. I want to spread the love, support authors and help people discover books they'll love. That's my choice. I know a lot of people disagree with this. On the flip side, I'm grateful for those who share thoughts on both books they like and don't like. I resepect that. I just wish we could all remember that no matter where we stand on issues, what kind of lives we live outside the internet, we are all connected by our love of books.

What are your thoughts on this? I know there are some very strong opinions on this subject but
remember honest AND nice, people!


Krista Ashe said...

I think people can get very mean spirited in book reviews. When it comes to me, I always try to look for the good and the bad, even in a book that is really, really bad, lol. On Goodreads, I tend to place the stars and then tell what I liked or didnt like. I don't ever go on least I try hard not too. In the last few months with the pressure on authors doing book reviews, I've become extremely careful about what I say.

Rebecca L Sutton said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Krista! It's a very tough thing to balance and scary for authors. I hate seeing people twist words around to make it sound like writers think readers don't have the right to say they don't like the book. How silly and untrue! Careful is a good way to go. lol

Amparo Ortiz said...

<3 LOVED this post!

Nice doesn't equal shutting up. You can speak your mind without crossing a line. This is what I hope all reviewers understand before pressing 'Publish'.

Megan said...

I post a fair number of reviews, and I am constantly striving for that honest balance. I think every book review, whether you loved it or hated it, should include a bit of the positive and a bit of the negative. But regardless of how you felt about the book, reviews should always be polite. Even if you can't see them, there is a real person out there who put a lot into the book. While constructive criticism is good, criticism for the sake of being mean is not so good.

Anonymous said...

I've been thinking a lot about this subject since it's being discussed a lot this week. I know I don't publish "mean" reviews on purpose, but I think I've written a couple that could use some editing. I think a lot of people are brutal about a book because they're frustrated that it failed to meet their needs.

I like how you explained the quality of being nice and honest. To be cliché "what goes around comes around", right? I want to be published so I know I need to be careful with how I place my thoughts. From now on I'll only review books I like.

Lynn Colt said...

It's so true that there are nice ways to express even a negative opinion. Critiques should be thoughtful and take into consideration that a real live person wrote that book and is going to curl up and cry at a mean review. Then again, I'm a writer, so I understand!

Too many people think blunt, cruel honesty is better than "censoring" themselves, when really it wouldn't take much effort to phrase things honestly AND nicely.

Great post :)

Anonymous said...

There are always ways to be diplomatic when giving a lukewarm or negative book review or critique.

I'll never forget a crit group I left two years ago, and how ridiculously rude and arrogant a few members were because they didn't like my work. It's night and day compared to my current critique group, where they're honest and helpful. And the tone is completely different, too.