By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine
Are you reading what you are reading or are you scanning, trolling and searching for an opinion? An opinion which agrees or disagrees. An opinion which you can find fault with and attack? Well this is not uncommon. In today's climate we are told we must have an opinion if it is agreeable or none if not. We are told we must pick a side if it is the correct one or remain neutral or silent if not. It is easy to get caught up in the self-righteousness of critiquing content. But what are the consequences?
Some years ago, I had written a post for Suite T and had used a one-line quote to make a point. The point was well missed by one reader who found fault not with the topic or the quote but with the author of the quote. I admit I too found fault with the author of the quote in the fact she was a 1940’s political activist with socialist leanings. “You can’t see the forest for the trees”.
Her quote was one of encouragement not solicitation to her political way of thinking. Her reputation over powered her positive message for this one reader. I do admire that reader for even knowing who she was. The fact remains the reader dismissed my entire post due to their focus on this one quote and its author. I can only wonder if I had said “someone once said” instead of the authors name would there have been any concern.
I find myself falling into the same trap when reading a piece for the sole purpose of editing it. If the piece is well written and interesting, I tend to drift into the reading for pleasure mode. Once I notice I’m not editing the piece but enjoying the read I simply finish it for pleasure and then go back and edit.
This may work for those of us that are reading for pleasure and drift into critiquing the content. Finish the piece and then go back and search the content. Focus on the point of the peace. What is the author saying? If we do not, we tend to close our minds to any and all ideas we find contrary to our own. I am not saying adopt their ideas but hear them and make sure you are clear about them prior to totally dismissing them. Someone once said, "There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments, and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance – that principal is contempt prior to investigation."
As authors we must be aware of the possibility we may offend. Edit your work. Look for anything that may take away or redirect your reader from your topic. No matter the lengths you go to there will be those that are offended and they may be among those looking to be offended. We can never know where someone will take our writings but a large majority of those that read it will take it in and use it.
Last and certainly not least is the fact we need feedback, good or bad. Without it we may never know if we hit the mark. Someone once said, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” Hearing back from our readers will certainly let us know if there was communication. Look at your feedback as a blessing.