WHO’S THE BULLY NOW?

WHO’S THE BULLY NOW?

A Story by Elise Anton
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I have been musing on an issue...

"

The word bully did not exist when I was growing up. The concept was around I’m sure; anywhere there are kids (or adults for that matter) there’s bound to be a hierarchy forming, and a top-dog rising… Part of human nature, one would assume.


I’ve been a victim of many things but bullied as a youngster - no. Sure there were the usual cliques; the ‘in’ girls, the ‘bad’ boys, the ‘nerds’ and so forth. Then again those were the days when as a girl you kept away from certain areas, such as the boy’s lockers on the ground floor outside the cookery room - a gauntlet you ran through, risking any amount of teenage-boy hand groping…


Today, all those young boys would probably be in therapy or on some mind-altering medication or kicked around schools were they to attempt similar behaviors. Back then we just got on with it. It was part of school-life. Some of those boys went on to become great people, sportsmen, academics, business executives. The girls - none of us suffered any permanent psychological ‘damage’. Today we’d probably be in therapy too I guess…


I was bullied as an adult. By other adults. Social Media has its benefits but has also given rise to the ‘keyboard-warriors’. I quit all Social Media several years ago and it has been a blissful time since.


I also taught my boys to use words; use language to overcome the new ‘bullying’ trend, on and off-line. I showed them the magical power of the word “And?” as a response to any insult flung their way. There is no come-back to this single word. One can say it as a response over and over and the ‘bully’ sooner or later runs out of insults. Quite fun to watch actually.


When I arrived on here about a month ago, I noticed a couple of things: Everyone was so nice! All the reviews - however ‘bad’ the piece of writing was - were positive, feel-good accolades. There were moments when I wondered if I’d somehow found my way into a Mutual Admiration Society disguised as a writer’s hang-out.


Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for positivity and not tearing people down. But there was a level of discomfort; I was sensing that this mutual admiration was destructive rather than constructive, especially for the young and those of all ages just embarking on the great writing journey. I wrote a piece on mediocrity a while back, and yeah, I was feeling as though all this niceness everywhere was promoting and supporting this mediocrity.


How is a new writer to explore, expand, perfect, if their every offering is accompanied by gushing admiration from the readers? One learns any craft through correcting mistakes. We call ‘Masters’ those few who have perfected their craft; over a long period of time and after undergoing any amount of ‘botched’ and ‘butchered’ attempts. Usually the public never sees those, they see the perfected craft, the ‘Masterpieces’.


In this new world of computers and internet and instant connectivity, sites such as these have emerged. On the surface, they seem great - you are afforded the freedom to share your work, to expose it to the world by a mere click of a button. Everyone is a writer; everyone suddenly has the ability and the opportunity to ‘get out there’, mix with like-minded people, exchange offerings.


Problem is, these offerings are often the botched and butchered first attempts, the ones the world once never saw. None of us here are ‘Masters’, else we’d be sitting comfy in some place like L.A., sipping a martini poolside, watching the royalties pour in.


I have come across example after example of extremely poor work, cringe-worthy work. I have scrolled down and read bullshit after bullshit review, others seeing greatness where there is none, lauding a creativity that is non-existent. I have seen the creators of these botched pieces respond with “Awww…” and “:)” and any amount of feel good acronyms.


Everyone gets rewarded for encouraging this mediocrity. The writers, given time are awarded a little gold star, like in school. The reviewers in turn, given time, are awarded their own little thingy.


I’ve got a little gold star. Here’s the problem: Is it real? Am I to believe from this that my work merits it? In an environment where EVERYONE is lauded and where reviews have to be over a certain percentage (95% or higher!) to earn the top reviewer thingy, how good is my work REALLY?


Not everyone belongs to this society. I’ve met a few in my brief time here who dare to openly criticize and offer genuine feedback. Some do it nicely, some are quite brash and ‘in your face’ and some like me, work with new writers behind the scenes, when we spy raw talent and a willingness to work, to evolve.


What I am finding interesting is how people react to outright criticism, to the brashness of a few who say it as they see it. If it is crap, they call it crap. If it needs work, they say it needs work. Somehow, these people are perceived as ‘bullies’; and are hounded down, crushed, bullied so much that this dissuades others from openly speaking their mind. In the end they get banned from the site. The status-quo of mediocrity and feel-good brotherhood is thus maintained.


I have to question here, who the real bullies are. Are they the people who believe in truth and in honest opinion and in their right to voice this opinion on the premise that they are helping? Or are they the emergent warriors, quickly rising to defend the ‘hapless victims’ of this honesty? Their excuse sits on the premise that a bad review i.e. a negative review is unwelcome here, as this is a nurturing, supportive environment.


My argument is that these warriors who spew out bullish and despicable words in defense of mediocrity ought not to emerge. Life is tough. Young people and new writers need to learn how to defend themselves, how to take in criticism in whatever form it arrives and learn from it. On their own. This builds resilience and generates the need/desire to improve, perfect their craft. 


It is partly the fault of this site, the giving out of all these little thingies on your profile others see and aspire to gain. I have three now, and I don’t ‘trust’ any of them. I’m getting a fourth one soon, that of ‘top reviewer’. Honestly? I only review work I feel merits my positive review. The botched and butchered pieces I leave alone, as I cannot award them low points or speak sincerely. (More on this later.) So this new thingy coming my way soon is probably the only one I merit, but it too sits on falsity, because I have been selective in the work I review.


The past few days, my news-feed has been full of a mix of mutual-admiration and atrocious bullying. Quite innocently, I stumbled into a situation where the warriors were on the attack. Defending ‘hapless’ women (including myself) and others who have fallen prey to ‘honesty’. I’m far from hapless and certainly not in need of any male(s) coming to my rescue.


I took the criticism aimed my way and turned it into word-play, a glib banter. I rather enjoyed it. Then again I am older and perhaps significantly more resilient than some of the budding writers on here. Regardless, what I was reading - I can only say it took a great amount of self-control not to engage.


In hind-sight, I should have engaged, thus this piece. See, I was surrounded by all this admiration I almost fell victim to the mediocrity. I almost joined the ‘Society’, fearing a back-lash, fearing my being banned from this place which despite its issues, still attracts me, still inspires me.


I fear for the new generation overall. I fear for young/new writers the most. I say to you now, openly ask for criticism. Never accept praise or feel-good accolades on face-value. Fight. Get out of the cocoon of niceness and political correctness and see your work for what it is. Early, botched attempts at a craft many spend a lifetime perfecting and even then, find they have run out of time.


To reviewers and seasoned writers, I say cut the bullshit. Forget that little thingy pushing you to reward where reward is not merited. Help young talent openly or behind the scenes but HELP them. Don’t fear speaking the truth. Truth is good. Criticism is good. Praise is good, when it is merited.


Do any of you honestly KNOW how good your craft is? Do you believe the false niceties and accolades? Is there a part of you- like there is in me - which questions the validity of every ‘review’ you receive? There should be.


Here’s the thing: I had a very early poem sitting unnoticed under the title ‘Spring 2012’. Uninspiring title, right - but that was how I headed all my work on notebooks when I was writing out and about.


What did I do? I changed the title. Suddenly it became the best thing since sliced bread. It got more reviews than any of my other pieces - some of which are far superior. It became a wagon everyone jumped on and gloriously lauded, trying to outdo each other in praise. My somewhat cynical mind watched with amusement. A background in Sales and Marketing comes in handy sometimes…


I played the game, responding with profuse thanks and appreciation in turn. It’s a game. Give nice, receive nice. Do it often enough and you start to believe it’s real. Your work is that good! Is it? Your review is honest and free from the pressure to conform and speak within the PC guidelines! Is it?

© 2016 Elise Anton


Author's Note

Elise Anton
I am really not looking for reviews here. I am looking for honest and open discussion. Am I wrong? Prove it. Am I right? Prove it.

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Reviews

Irish Murphy's pigs were bullies.... so were them god damn pig dogs... Tiger, Wolf, and Creampuff. Also, Cecil, the impotent ram... I think he's been havin gay sheep on goat sex with The Goat....

Suprisingly, despite The Goat's obvious strength.... The Goat turned out to be a bottom....

A fine story none the less.

Posted 5 Years Ago


Elise Anton

5 Years Ago

Huh? You're going to call me simple again, I can feel it coming my way. Heeeeeere it comes.....
DDav

5 Years Ago

It is simple.... http://furrypause.com/cartoons/footrotflats/misc/index.htm
Elise Anton

5 Years Ago

Haha... ha.
Awesome... full marks. Keep up the good work!

Nah, just kidding :-) Can't say I disagree with anything you said, although I think on this site one is more likely to receive valuable feedback than on others (wattpad comes immediately to my mind) - at least once you've figured out whom to ask.

The tough thing about criticism is... well, I remember how utterly scared I was when I posted my first piece of work and if the reviews had been devastating, I certainly would have been reluctant to post anything else. I'm not an over-sensitive teenager anymore, mind you, in fact I consider myself quite robust, but for someone still struggling to find one's place in life - oh, bursting the bubble can be quite a blow. I wouldn't call it bullying though.

Personally, I always try to give either honest feedback or none at all. When I see problems, I address them and since I am here to become a better writer, I appreciate the same in return. But I know a review can take quite a while (several hours of reading, reflecting on a story/chapter and sorting my thoughts are not uncommon in my case) and it takes effort to pinpoint the things that didn't work. Yet, since I feel that it helps me find problems in my own work I make that effort. Do I come across as a bully? Hopefully not, but I get blocked occasionally. Once by a kid who boasted that he wrote a book chapter in two hours (less time than I spent on the review actually) and posted it without any editing. He was obviously pissed when I pointed out (rather gently I'd say) that his chapter needed a ton of more work. Fun fact: he still kept sending me reading requests.

Eventually I came to the conclusion that to me anyone saying they wish honest feedback is "fair game". Anyone saying "be nice" is off limits. I simply can't be nice and honest at the same time. My honest thoughts aren't always flattering and even if they are - even if I consider a text is the best thing since sliced bread - it's not nice of me to say it, it's just my opinion. If the writer didn't specify his/her expectations and I'm reviewing them for the first time, I usually add a disclaimer at the beginning of the review, clarifying that it's all just subjective opinion and not my goal to be mean. Seems to work for the most part.

All in all, criticism is a kind of art in its own, I suppose. Not that I'd purport I've mastered it, but I've seen incredibly talented writers here who seemingly couldn't spot the most blatant problems in someone else's text (and I don't think they were playing nice) and I've witnessed mediocre writers giving the most insightful reviews one could ever wish for. A good writer doesn't necessarily make a good critic and vice versa. The rating system on this page is definitely not helpful either, thus I've stopped using it. Maybe some sort of questionnaire would be a better solution (e.g. on a scale of 1 to 5 how developed were the characters/how was pacing/grammar/setting etc. ) I've even thought about starting a reviewing contest, but I haven't figured out the logistics yet. Would anyone even be interested to participate? Maybe we could start a group that doesn't promise a cuddly pat on the back to anyone but honest opinion and feedback? Perhaps we should develop a rating system of our own? Would that seem too elitist or pretentious? Oh, I don't know.

For myself, I guess, I kind of rate my reviewers in my mind. There are some people I know I can trust to be brutally honest with me. I always listen closely to them, even if I don't always follow their advice. Some people I value for their wise insights about life and the meanings behind stories; not everyone is obsessed with technicalities, as I tend to be, and I deeply appreciate that. Others still are obviously just flattering me, hoping I'll do the same in return, which rarely works out. Most fall somewhere in the middle, I guess, and I'm fine with that as well.

In the end, the vast majority of us writers won't ever make a living of our hobby, however awesome that would be. Gosh, I wish I could earn money doing what I love, but I don't expect to. I'm glad about this community though, with all its flaws and shortcomings and I still feel I'm learning something here. And I'll never take a simple "keep up the good work", that doesn't justify the notion in any way, seriously.

Posted 5 Years Ago


3 of 3 people found this review constructive.

M. L. F.

5 Years Ago

Yes, I agree. Sorry you had this experience and I hope she keeps trying. I mean constructive likel.. read more
Elise Anton

5 Years Ago

@Kaliope: Commerce/Marketing degree and one thing I managed to retain lol - the sandwich... comes in.. read more
DDav

5 Years Ago

This particular thread has a t**d in the punch bowl. Some jerk talking about ignoring someone by lo.. read more
To honestly critique is fine but no one here has a degree in poetry do they? I wouldn't want one. I always wrote for fun. What good would it do me to waste my time on a writing site giving critiques for no wages? The owner doesn't even care about that. This is all subjective anyway. I might like something you don't. You might like something I don't. If I don't like a poem I look for something else.

Posted 5 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Elise Anton

5 Years Ago

Is there a lot of aggs? All I see is "your add could go here" which always amuses me because I don't.. read more
Elise Anton

5 Years Ago

Dud I write aggs? Shoot me down! I meant adds duh!

Also go check this out:
read more
DDav

5 Years Ago

Relic (UFO), man.... most people already know you are also UFO.... just post under a single profile.. read more
I absolutely agree with you and I think that this had to be said. I too am guilty of giving not exactly dishonest reviews, but ones in which I mention what I liked, but not the overall impression (which would rarely please the writer). If I see anything to criticize, I do and I find works 'worthy' of criticism far better than those, which are difficult to comment by anything but 'I enjoyed it' (though if I were to be honest, I would have to add 'but it was nothing special'). And the same goes for the received reviews: I value criticism far more, than a review saying 'nice job"!' and such, or even praise. I stopped going to the writer's cafe for a while because I saw no point in the routine exchange of reviews (at first I thought it polite to return every review, but it is a waste of time for me as well as the one who receives it - I demand a right not to review if I have nothing to say!) The system of points in review has become useless (I myself don't even give less than 90 so I'm not a b***h and don't prevent anyone from getting the 'thingy' - it's stupid, I know). How about we start a group with one sole principle - blunt honesty? I think it would help everyone.

Posted 5 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Elise Anton

5 Years Ago

Haha, I expected that. I am responsible for this mess I have to clean it up now lol. Off we go then... read more
richy

5 Years Ago

you know I'm going to support. It would be nice to have a place where we subject our writing to a "c.. read more
Elise Anton

5 Years Ago

Ah Stefano. If I didn't love him so much I might join you... Heed his words is all I can say.
What can I offer to this discussion, but my experience? You already know my position regarding poetry and mediocrity. It is not easy to remain true to yourself when there is a positive-inciting atmosphere in this community. I have tried countless times to explain to someone my position on how poetry should be. As you may already know, since the standard of poetry is almost non-existent (in my opinion), my words are mostly met with stern opposition. It is easier to lower the standard than to increase it.

I know much about my craft, and even more so about poetry/prose-poetry in general. As someone that read poetry in four different languages, and wrote around four hundred poems - in all kind of forms, styles, structures, rhythms, including lyrics for songs - in those languages, I do think I have a certain experience. If I read now my first collection of writings I only see experimentations, something raw and undefined, but definitely not poems. They are utmost bullshit. If I read my second collection I would say:"Definitely an improvement, but still bullshit". As if the first rocket reached space...

I did not have the opportunity to have my works published online, so I never head guidelines or insights from other people. There are many perks in being an autodidact.
However, I am sure if I received prise for those kind of poems I would probably feel hollow inside. To trolls and bullies I would feel indifferent.
A constructive review is always welcome and those are mostly obvious. Fortunately, my experience with this community in regards to my writing has been mostly positive/honest. There are those who like it (and we discuss it more in the inbox), those that love some parts, and those that have something they dislike.

I am also aware that not everybody is capable of doing a constructive critique. There are those that do not know how to do a proper review (again, something you don't learn in one day) and simply write a few lines "I like it" or "I enjoyed it". You cannot blame them for this prise, but most of the times you can spot the difference between them and those that give empty prise.

I agree that the general standard of writing is low and the general standard of criticism is even lower. But this is an obvious result when myriads of people try to do the same thing and almost none of them have experience whatsoever. Since they are the majority they can set the standard they want.

p.s. Thank you for calling me a poet, for I never considered myself one (:

Posted 5 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Elise Anton

5 Years Ago

As always, your insights are spot on. I help a few behind the scenes as I am sure you do. I likewise.. read more
Elise Anton

5 Years Ago

http://www.writerscafe.org/writing/HouseofRelics/1730587/

Go read and weep dear frien.. read more
Stefano Segnan

5 Years Ago

Nah, I prefer weeping on inspiring music or inspiring moments in movies.
I have seriously come to admire you! You piss me off sometimes and "i" mean that In the best way. You see the limitations I thought only I could see and comment on them every time. It's become a motivation to me. The only thing I know about my writing Is that it is mine. (also I'm a creative genius) I beg that you continue to bully me so that I might learn more about this "thing" i can't help but do. (Insert praise for this post)

Posted 5 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

richy

5 Years Ago

I agreed with him when I read his post further down. It was the reason I unblocked him and left a pl.. read more
DDav

5 Years Ago

I did get it, it was clearly a play on one of reviews somewhere. Ever hear the saying "If I'm the o.. read more
Elise Anton

5 Years Ago

I missed that bit richy... Now I get where all this font stuff came from lol. Different reasons/valu.. read more
I'm a bit "winded"at the moment but I'ld like discussing this "write". At the moment I'm dealing with a bit of snow... so I'll drop by later.

Chris

Posted 5 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Elise Anton

5 Years Ago

Oh for some snow! We are slowly being roasted here atm. Talk later, sure.

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Shelved in 4 Libraries
Added on February 24, 2016
Last Updated on February 24, 2016
Tags: writing, thoughts, people, self, sharing, fans, followers, bullies, reviews, criticism

Author

Elise Anton
Elise Anton

Australia



About
Hello from downunder! I am one of those people who can just sit and write. It's like breathing for me. I've never shared and never published. It was my thing, my escape, my therapy... I have two so.. more..

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