Chocolate. Reviews are like chocolate. The more we have, the more we want. However, we are fussy creatures and demand it be of the best kind. It needs to be rich and smooth and melt in the mouth. But taste, like much in our lives, is different for everyone.
Reflecting on this, I found myself drifting back to a few years ago when I received an email from a friend requesting a recommendation of books to read. Not a difficult task, I am sure you would agree.
However, I found myself reluctant to comply. Liking, not liking, loving, hating are subjective and as a reader I knew this well but add in ‘writer’ to the equation and it becomes a nightmare. I know I don’t meet the desired criteria for so many people so how can I comment on what is good? As a consequence, I struggled to make that list. I realised I could be from another planet for all I understood of good and bad.
I got over that thought quickly. A reader reads; a reader reads a lot. That reader is entitled to an opinion on what they like. As a writer we need to accept that. The quandary arising comes from reality. Critical comment is painful. Yet, we have a right to choose according to our preferences. Hence, let’s be honest, the universal truth is undeniable – there is no way to please everyone. We are different and subject to those differences when making choices whether in reading, in clothing, our friendship and spousal preferences and the food we eat.
Problems lie in how we make those preferences known. Sadly, reviews for a writer are a means to a livelihood. The question then becomes, should we hold back in what we say in order to remain supportive. In fact, wouldn’t this be considered a compromise of ideals? I don’t honestly know the answer but if we are to appreciate differences and differences are what make us fascinating as human beings then maybe we should be more thoughtful in what we do say or rather, in how we say it.
When I originally wrote the poem below, I wondered what aberration had taken hold of my keyboard fingers. (I am not an athlete of any description, ask my children. Furthermore, where running is concerned, I could seriously be from another planet.) Yet I wrote from a runner’s point of view. Or did I?
Running is all consuming so often runners only see the road ahead; they see what suits without regard to how it may affect someone beside them, in front of, or behind them. The runner is focussed on the prize – the distance travelled and not on the road itself. There is no time for distractions. It is situational. In a race perhaps, the focus would apply and consequently make sense.
However, I didn’t write about the Olympics or any race. I wrote about a runner on a road who has a choice to see a storyteller with potholes, a choice to see flowers amongst the weeds, and the choice to see the sky, the sun and to feel the rain. Complete concentration may make the runner faster, but will they miss what their surroundings offer, will they forgo the novelty and often incongruous beauty along the way?
How you may be asking, does this relate to reviews? Good question. Do we stay focused on what should be and disregard the flowers amongst the weeds? Can we not run for the pleasure of it, for the joy of the freedom offered? Can we not enjoy our surrounds and see the weeds, note they need pulling out but also mention the violets? If this doesn’t make sense, then tune in next month for Part 2.
(a free verse poem partnered with Japanese tanka (5 lines, syllable count 7/5/7/7/5)
The runner takes the first leap
and shoes, laces tight, hit the
solidity of pavement.
There is a flinch, a moment
when the challenging entity
steps out of the zone, decides
it may not be worth it. Too
late though to reconsider
for the need to win is
ingrained and selfish.
I choose to go.
The runner is focused
and fails to notice the
passing landscape, the green
of the grass, the burst of fire
from the hibiscus buds,
the fragrant scent of the roses
and the tender purple blooms
without a name. The thrill of the
workout takes precedence over
surroundings, over the
I choose to bleed.
The runner ignores the sweat
and perhaps even relishes
the liquid heat pouring
from the exertion. It is proof
of action, of doing, of being
and justifies the ignoring
of life, of people, of
everything but the satisfaction
of indulging, of gratifying
desires. I watch and shudder
but I am not that runner and I
know that the tiny heart-shaped
flowers are violets.
I choose knowledge.
fragrance and colour follow
the beauty of spring
nature indulges senses
and new possibilities
Thanks to http://www.unsplash.com for the images
Photo by Josh Gordon for runner
Photo by Pushpak Dsilva chocolate
Photo by Artiom Valla violets
Questions for me? Want to share your views and ideas? I’d love to hear from you. A like and a comment will keep me working harder. And, if by any chance you have read my books or a book, I have featured I would love it if you left a review. It helps writers become better writers. Consider leaving one on Goodreads