I recently read an on-line posting about the value of a critique from a group member who opted not to identify himself/herself. Though all writers need a tough skin when dealing with critiques, those offered by an unknown may lack validation. I suppose some people feel they can be more honest when anonymous. Being anonymous isn't the issue.
Yesterday, I went on a short hike with my husband and a couple of friends. We drove up the highway to the small gold-mining town of Coloma. The town sits on the edge of the American river but has several nice hiking trails.
My husband thought it would be great to take the trail up to a supposed waterfall. First, it is late in the season and honestly, not one of us actually thought the waterfall would be all that impressive, but we went anyway.
And we had our sticks…
We headed up a thin trail, thinking (at least I did) that the trail would widen and all would be hunky-dory. My husband took the lead. I came second, followed by my friend with her husband taking up the rear. To the perils of four adults venturing out unprepared with short pants and basic jogging shoes this trail lacked all the qualities that usually make a trail an actual trail. Instead it was a thin twelve inch pathway through thistle after thistle of thorny little spurs scrapping our poor unprotected legs. But being the optimistic bunch we are, we trekked on.
All was fine for about the first 200 yards or so, when my husband heard a rustle in the grass and stopped and turned. Up popped the head of a rattlesnake. I am right next in line. Luckily, I wasn't following too closely, maybe about five feet behind. But when I saw the snake raise his head at my husband, I took off screaming toward our other two friends and hid behind them like the scaredy-cat that I am, shaking.
With the coaxing of my husband's stick, the snake slithered backwards across the wimpy trial, half in retreat and half coiled to strike forward then plopped over the edge about ten feet. The snake was about three feet long and at approximately two inches in diameter, seemed to have had his share of the abundance of field mice in the area.
I was beside myself with fear. My knees rattled about as much as the snake's tail had as I clutched my friends arm for comfort. With much pleading and reassuring from the three, they managed to persuade me to go on. We walked. All a lot more cautiously than we had been, but still, I watched the stick shake in my hand as I swayed it over the thorny brush, looking for any undesirable movement. As we got a little deeper into the wilderness, I managed to hold back sobs, but not the tears that hid behind my sunglasses. I did wimp and whine the whole rest of the way though, thinking what next, a bear? Finally, to my husband's dismay and to my relief, my friend claimed she didn't want to go any further and so I, just to make the point stronger and knowing I really couldn't go any further myself, refused to take one more step forward. Well, the men went ahead about another 50 yards just to see if they might catch a glimpse of a waterfall while we stayed right where we were in the middle of one of the widest parts of the trail and waited for them. It was maybe three minutes.
So, you're now asking, what does this have to do with critiques?
Absolutely nothing and everything.
The recent encounter with that rattlesnake has caused me to reevaluate the tough girl persona that I thought I possessed.
What I really want to know is; am I a wussy? Well, the word itself is most traditionally used for a man. So in that sense, no. I am definitely not a wuss. But did I act wussy? Now that would be the question.
By WordWeb's definition of a wussy: A person who is physically weak and ineffectual.
Okay, I suppose I was and am at times.
Urban Dictionary's definition: A person with no guts. A person who whines all day and sits around and cries like a little baby for years over nothing. Will blow anything out of proportion and create drama to forget about their sad miserable lives.
Well no, this is not me.
It takes guts to write. It takes guts to receive criticism and keep going. For me it takes guts to open myself up to people and let them see a part of me. My writing is a part of me. My comments are a part of me.
I have appreciated most every critique and comment I have ever received but sometimes I am baffled by them, but I keep trying and have most definitely, over the past several months, acquired a very thick skin. Don't get me wrong. I believe that every critique and comments I receive are helpful. Not all of them come sugar-coated nor do I expect them to. But please, have a heart and remember the person receiving the advice or the comment. If you can't give me some sense of who you are then how am I supposed to accept your validity?
There are some people online who choose to keep their identity private. Like the snake. He kept himself hidden until it was time to pounce. If you can't identify yourself, and share a bit of yourself with your peers then I don't want your opinion. A private identity is fine. I'm all for pseudonyms for fiction writers, screen names and so on. But if you're going to be part of a group and you want me to take you seriously, then give me something to base your advice on.
So, I guess, what I'm saying is, I'm afraid of rattlesnakes, along hiking trails and online. Don't be a rattlesnake. I have feelings and like to know who is crushing them, or building them up. If you want to give me your opinion, tell me a little about what qualifies you or doesn't, otherwise, keep it to yourself.
All-in-all, I have never received an unidentified or unwelcomed comment here on my blog, so those of you have commented, thank you and please continue to do so.