Every writer gets them. No one can escape them. No one, ever, has been brilliant and perfect enough of a writer with universal tastes that everyone agrees with to evade the reality of bad reviews, angry comments, or rude messages.
Rest assured, this is not a rant about a horrible review I just received. I’m actually quite OK with people publicly declaring if they don’t like something I wrote. (In fact, if everyone agreed that my book was brilliant, it would look like I’m paying someone off.)
What I want to discuss is how internet users sometimes hide behind anonymity in order to…speak ugly. As if it’s okay to say anything under the sun as long as our name isn’t tied to it.
My position is this: Our name should be tied to everything we say and write. It will solve a lot of problems.
In the book The Four Agreements, the very first agreement is to “be impeccable with your word.” To expand on what being impeccable means…you speak truth, you stand by everything you say, you do what you say you’re doing to do, you don’t use your words to tear others down.
When I see that someone has taken the time to say they think my writing is awful (without giving any specifics) and then leaves their post “anonymous,” I feel like they’ve done the equivalent of putting on a mask to rob a bank.
Anonymity is a wonderful thing when it protects the innocent from people who would silence them (I’m thinking of protecting the identify of the maids in the book The Help). But it should not be abused as a free license for spewing out hurtful words and then ducking into hiding.
As someone who deals a lot with online communities, reads a lot of blogs, and feels empathy for other bloggers and authors who are the victims of verbal onslaught by faceless people, I want to encourage us all to sign our names to everything we write.
Words are incredibly powerful things. Like a sword, they can be used for great good, or great evil.
Just the mere act of signing our name to what we say will cause us to think twice about it, and if we can’t stand by it confidently, we shouldn’t post it at all. This will make otherwise angry reviews into (I hope) courteous but dissatisfied critiques that are helpful to the author and the author’s future readers.
Imagine a place where we can all carefully share our thoughts, positive or negative, in constructive ways to help each other. Some of the best things I’ve heard were feedback that told me what didn’t work with my writing, rather than praise for what was working.
What would it look like to be impeccable with our words?