To receive one is devastating. All of an author’s hard work — in my case, 21 years of this particular project, along with blood, sweat, tears, emotional turmoil, and substantial financial cost — is summed up with just one little star. It’s a blow, that’s for sure.
And in my beloved community of authors I’ve learned recently that some of my colleagues dole out 1-Stars, even with “brutal” editorials. And while I can admit that some of the stuff we’re asked to review (because we’re published authors) can be a little difficult to digest, none of it deserves a 1-Star Review—or brutality for that matter.
When an artist — whether painter, writer, musician, or any other type of an artist — creates something from their heart and then chooses to share it with the rest of the world, it’s a gift. Do I think that some of those gifts shouldn’t be shared? I will not say. What I will admit is that there are some gifts I choose not to open (like Fifty Shades and Twilight), and there are other gifts I choose not give my opinion about. For instance, I opened a best seller just a few months ago that I closed after the first two pages. It was what I considered an unreadable mess. The thing made no sense and was poorly written. Obviously, I was in the minority about my opinion of the piece because, like I said, it was a best seller. I looked at other reviews and did see a few 1-Star Reviews, but I didn’t add to them. My opinion in that case didn’t need to be aired in a public forum. It would have only resulted in the lowering of the author’s average. What good is that?
This past April I acquired an Indie work from a small press. I was looking forward to reading the piece because the setting was the United Kingdom. I could hardly read the thing. And while it was extremely well-written, and the author was articulate in her descriptions of UK culture, landmarks and the environment, her plot just didn’t do anything for me. I did finish the book, but I didn’t enjoy it. I gave her 4-Stars. She’d obviously worked her tail off to produce the piece, and that to me deserved merit.
In the case of reviewing a colleague’s work, I’m extremely careful about what I accept. I tend to read only in my preferred genres, but sometimes a few strays will wind up on my desk. When I’m sitting there with something that’s absolutely unreadable, and it hasn’t been published yet, I contact the author privately. There’s no need to be brutal. Loving kindness goes a long way when you’re criticizing someone’s gift.
My husband shared with me one of the most poignant stories I’ve ever heard, and it taught me a valuable lesson that I’ll never forget.
When he was a young man he built radio controlled airplanes, and not just any sort of airplanes. His airplanes were perfect replicas of specific models. One of his friends at the time decided to get into the hobby as well and produced a model of his own. He proudly brought it to my husband for inspection, delighted to share his gift with someone who’d been in the hobby for a while.
The model was perfect in every way, except for one minor flaw—which my husband readily pointed out. Unfortunately, he critiqued his friend’s gift without the loving kindness required within such a tender situation. My husband says that his friend was devastated and never built another model again.
Beloved, when we are harsh with one another’s gifts we do unseen damage, and often irreparable harm.
When the writer of the book of Hebrews exhorted his followers to continue to meet on a regular basis, he said: 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25 NIV
And while that Scripture is aimed directly at the church, it’s good advice for us all.
We should be living to encourage one another, not to insult, berate and demoralize. Things can get tough on this planet, and we need to be there for each other. Instead of thinking about how we can make someone else’s gift more palatable for our own personal consumption, perhaps we should ponder a way for that gift to be given the wings it needs to reach that person (or people) that will love and treasure it—perhaps someone who needs exactly that gift and is waiting to give it the 5-Stars it deserves!
© 2017, Ta`Mara Hanscom