Judgment Seat

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint  Judgment Seat

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint
The Golden Throne of Judgment

When I click “publish”, “post”, or “tweet”, I am essentially saying, “Criticize me, please!”

We have an open invitation to sit in judgment; whether we are consuming music, books, films, photos, meals, or even other people’s lives, from neighbors and friends to celebrities and strangers, and much more.

We are encouraged, almost expected, to give our opinion. We are prompted to share and often incentivized for it.

It’s a function made easier and easier every day:

  • Service surveys on receipts e.g. restaurants and retailers
  • Social media icons everywhere e.g. blogs and articles
  • Popup windows e.g. websites and apps

In one click, with little or no commentary we can tell the who, what, when, where, why, and how of our misadventures and mundane undertakings. We can be a cheerleader or a naysayer in another person’s story.

Some would consider lending a voice to our likes and dislikes, hopes and dreams, a privilege. Others would call it a right. You know, freedom of speech? Or maybe a Public Service Announcement? We have something to say.

Regardless, our opinion matters to someone somewhere at some point in time. Possibly it will only matter to us.

We are like snowflakes. Individual and unique, falling from the sky with the power to collectively blanket the world with our thoughts.

Our voices shape the world we live in, its future; and so, some would also label it a responsibility as well as a privilege and right.

But is there a danger in our acknowledgement of the good events, bad events, and underwhelming events of our lives?

With a sense of immediacy, often while it’s happening, we become the real-time superstars of our own narratives. We begin to believe the artificial hype.

Don’t believe me? Check out this article. Now I ask again: Is it good for us?

One challenge I find is the lack of universal language or philosophy relative to the act of rating. It’s not regulated (nor am I suggesting it should be), but we need a shared language.

If we return to the snowflake analogy, we can comfortably say, we have differing definitions based on our personalities, preferences, and pasts which all act as filters.

There is one universal standard we could and should apply but don’t, at least not often enough. The Golden Rule: Treat others how you would like others to treat you.

Since opinion giving is pervasive today we sometimes forget the importance of reciprocity in relationships.

We tend to think it’s acceptable to use harsh words and accusatory or mocking tones, demean another person; especially because our sentiments often reside in cyber space. We tend to judge others without respecting the fact that on the other end of a post or comment is a real person with feelings.

I have to admit I’m on this reflective path because I was struggling with rating and writing a review on Goodreads for a children’s book I’d read. I agonized over it. Why? Who knows? After all, it’s just my opinion.

Keeper by Kathi Appelt was a story I enjoyed. However, there was a storyline that parents may be concerned about their children reading.

And I wondered if I needed to draw attention to the content in case other parents saw my rating and review and then deemed it appropriate for their kids. Would my review matter to the Goodreads community? Probably not. Would it matter to my personal circle of influence? Possibly.

I felt the responsibility tied to my privilege and right. The trifecta.

The whole experience had me questioning: “What does it ALL mean?”

What does a 5-star book rating mean to you on Amazon or Goodreads? Or the other extreme a 1-star book rating? Does it affect your decisions about what to read?

I am easily entertained. Therefore I tend to be generous in evaluating creative works.

Plus, I feel “bad” being critical of what an author or artist invested their time in. Again, generosity.

My ratings on Goodreads range from 3 to 5-stars with only one 2-star rating. Not everyone shares my view or operates as I do.

We have to wonder about the differences I referenced. Is our rating based on the merit of the writing, plot, and characters? Subject Matter? Reader enjoyment? Or something else entirely.

Maybe it’s not an issue for you, the idea of applying individualism to a collection. I actually considered editing my comments to address the storyline / parenting issue. I probably shouldn’t have allowed reading some of the other reviews to throw me.

Yet and still … How can we use the information that is so readily available, thanks to the opportunities we have to speak up, say what’s on our minds.

The irony of my blogging and asking you to engage in this conversation isn’t lost on me by the way! Now let’s see how many views and likes and comments I get on this post (I’m kidding … kind of).

Seriously, “Criticize me, please.”

What are your thoughts on rating? How does it impact your decision making, if at all? What can we all do to keep the process positive even if the feedback is constructive?

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3 Writer’s Truths

Writer's Stop

Writer’s Stop (Photo credit: Stephh922)

I love how our experiences teach us the best lessons. I love how they shape us.

Over the past few weeks I’ve heard some interesting statements which have made me reflect on my writer life. These statements have led me to some new truths.

I want to share my new found knowledge with you. Forgive me if these are truths that you already carry around with you.

1. Knowing is half the battle.

I had the privilege of attending a motivational conference for work. One of the speakers said, “Know some stuff, so you can say some stuff.” Her topic was about meeting new people, striking up conversations with strangers.

My colleague and I were tickled by this assertion. Why? Because it’s obvious. To have something interesting to contribute to any conversation you have to know something.

I guess this is why some of the most frequent advice to writers is you should be readers especially in the genre you write. Reading is research. It helps you know stuff.

Another frequent piece of writer advice is write what you know. My recommendation … know some stuff, just as the speaker at this event said. Then you’ll have lots to say.

But equally important to remember, like in a conversation, is the other person knows something too. Your reader knows stuff. You don’t have to describe or explain everything because the readers’ experience can fill in gaps.

2. Boring is relative.

I listen to a few podcasts. On a recent episode of I Should Be Writing, the host was reading comments and questions from her listeners. One said, “My life isn’t interesting enough to blog about.” Hmmm.

Then I listened to an episode of Writing Excuses where the writing prompt was:  The Hero of the Most Boring Story Ever.

Both made me think of the Seinfeld phenomenon. A show about nothing that has a cult following.

Isn’t it the responsibility of the writer to help the reader connect to the content; to get them to feel something?

If our lives aren’t interesting or if we are the hero of the most boring story ever, it doesn’t matter. Boring is relative. We need to make them feel excited about what we perceive as boredom, just as Seinfeld writers accomplished.

My recommendation … write with abandon … write like what you have to say is the most important and exciting, interesting, wonderful story that needs telling. It’s your job.

3. Solitude produces the goods.

I recently added a new podcast to my list, The Introvert Entrepreneur. In this episode, they were explaining the differences between introversion and shyness. The guest quoted Carl Young, “…The introvert is usually happy alone with a rich imagination and prefers reflection to activity…”

This made me think of a cartoon that my mom-in-law sent me by Jason Love. The caption is:  “The writer:  Someone who spends a lifetime in solitude for the sake of communication.”

Sound like any writers you know? Maybe yourself. Definitely me.

Now … let me say that not all writers are introverts and not all introverts are shy … but it stands to reason that if introverts are recharged by their alone time that their best work would come during times of solitude.

My best writing ideas come when I am alone with my thoughts like curling my hair, taking a shower, doing the dishes or driving to work.

My recommendation … make solitude a priority if you want results. It can get your creative juices flowing.

So … these are my new truths. Maybe I’ve always known them but hadn’t categorized them. Either way I will be operating in truth.

What have your recent life experiences taught you? What new truths will you be exercising? Share the stuff you know in the comments and make it engaging!

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