Rate the Writer

Saturday, October 06, 2018
I decided to take the plunge and check myself out on Rate My Teacher. It’s been years since I’ve done this. The last time I did, someone said something mean and completely untrue about me, and I spiraled into a sea of self-doubt, convinced I was a terrible teacher.

That icky rating is still there; however, this time I have lovely students who stopped me from sinking into a second wave of teacher-sadness.

“But look at all the good reviews!” one of my students said. It was then that I tore my attention away from the snarky comment and read some of the others. Had my student not stopped my pity-party, I might have missed this review:

Mrs. Harar was awesome. She is one of those rare teachers that is laid back but can draw the line. It's hard coming across people with such a great balance between the two. She was considerate and forgiving . . . a lot like a mother. I love how she was always happy to help. She was absolutely HILARIOUS. . . don't even get me started on her Romeo and Juliet commentary :'D.

And this got me thinking about book and writing reviews. I have one book published and, just like any other book out there, the reviews vary widely on Amazon and Goodreads. At first, I gobbled up the comments and stars, checking every day like an addict, both eager and terrified to see what people thought.

Eventually, however, the bad reviews were the only ones which caught my attention. I read them over and over again, beating myself up, telling myself that everything they said must be true. I ignored anything positive said in other reviews, and even stopped writing for a while, convinced I wasn’t good enough.

Talking to my students inspired me to revisit my book reviews, and I’m so glad I did. Sure, there are reviews that make me cringe, but there are also reviews that lift me up and inspire me to keep going. It’s easy to focus on the bad, but much more worthwhile to pay attention to the good.

Remember – reviews are only opinions. Not right or wrong. Just opinions. Use them to bolster your writing and not drag it down. You’ll be glad you did.

And for the record, my Romeo and Juliet commentary is on point.  😉

Bethany Masone Harar is an author, teacher, and blogger, who does her best to turn reluctant readers into voracious, book-reading nerds. Check out her blog here and her website here.


Angela Mackintosh said...

There's a great Black Mirror episode, "Nosedive," where people in the future rate each other on everything, and you can see someone's social media score hanging over their head. The ratings determine what kinds of cars you can rent, flights you can take, homes you can buy, etc. And one woman is obsessed with boosting her rating, and let's just say, it doesn't go well for her. It's an amazing episode! And it seems like it's not so far from the truth. I didn't know about Rate My Teacher, but apparently you can rate everything these days. The Black Mirror episode seems to be a warning against obsessing on ratings and social ranking and reminds me to focus on authenticity. It's so easy to get caught up reading bad reviews, but I know from owning a retail business that there are really only a few types of people that leave reviews: ones who are pissed off and don't like something, the super fans, and ones who are doing it for some kind of incentive (like a freebie or coupon). There's also professional reviewers and those who review everything. The average person just doesn't take the time to write a review. And yet we take reviews so seriously, and use them as a gauge for everything from restaurants to movies to books. I remember interviewing Amy Tan, and I was surprised when she told me she wouldn't be reading my interview with her. She told me she never reads articles or book reviews.

Anyway, thanks for making me think! :) It sounds like you've got a healthy outlook on reviews now. Congrats on the great teacher rating, and you should try and get the untrue one removed. I used to do that with my retail business. And I agree, book reviews are just opinions and writing is so subjective, and the ones posted are from a small percentage of people who read the book, and we need to remember that. :)

Margo Dill said...

Recently, I said something like this to Angela: The negative voices are not necessarily right; they are just louder.

It is so true for some reason. I could get 10 praises for something I do, and then one negative comment or voice and I'm devastated.

People pleasers unite! I am really trying to kick this terrible habit of letting bad opinions get me down. I try to learn from them, consider the source, and move on. I do think constructive criticism helps us grow, but some people do just like to complain or are never happy.

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