Thursday, May 10, 2007

Honesty v. Kindness

On this BookEnds, LLC's blog post, Jessica Faust discusses professional jealousy among writers. Of course she dislikes it; who wouldn't? I prefer people who are supportive of one another also.

I've certainly felt such jealousy, and dealt with it in a hopefully-mature way (by keeping my green-eyed sniveling to myself), but her comments gave me an uncomfortable realisation: some comments you make (say, on a blog) that are appropriate to make if you're a reader are not appropriate to make if you're a professional writer.

What I mean is, I have a reading list post at the bottom of this blog. I update it when I finish (or don't finish) a book. I also give a short review of that book.

As a reader, I believe I have the right to say whatever I please about these books. I can slam an author if I want to. Anyone who presents their work to the public should be willing to accept a public criticism.

As a writer, however, that sort of thing looks like sour grapes. There's also the possibility I might tick off someone who otherwise would have become a valuable contact in the industry someday.

So, in the interests of my would-be future career, I've toned down my reviews a bit.

But it felt really cowardly and dishonourable to do so.

I'm a scientist too, after all. I believe in reporting the truth accurately and unflinchingly. Science would be meaningless without that sort of integrity. Toning down even an opinion - if I have good reasons for thinking the way I do - seems dishonest.

I've always had a bit of a war going on within myself between the desire for honesty and the desire for kindness: clarity versus tact. I believe in being kind to my fellow human being but I also believe in speaking truth. You sometimes can't do both; you can either wound someone or lie a little.

Am I being schemingly self-serving by toning down my reviews? Yes. Am I also being a more gracious member of the writing community (that I'm not actually a part of yet)? Yes.

Well, boogers and bogey-men; there's no way to both be honest and refrain from sticking your foot in your mouth! I will have to console myself with the fact that the reviews are still honest - they're just more polite. They also still note what I don't like about the books - they just highlight what I do like.

"Nice" has its merits too. I can swallow that.

Pageloads since 01/01/2009: