Friday, August 16, 2019

Moonlight Musings: the Interactive Edition, #1

Greetings, word lovers. For quite some time, Poets United has offered Wednesday and Sunday prompts. That won’t change. We’ll just have a 3rd prompt on the 3rd Friday of every month, too. I hope we can use it to explore writing, reading, books, publishing... I wish us to share thoughts on the art, the craft, the magic (and business) of words.

The idea for this prompt came to me after an exchange on Instagram, about the following elfchen:
Hard
times turn
into easy grinning,
when love shows itself
thoughtful.

Through the comments, you can see that many people enjoyed it and found they could relate. Someone liked it so much that they reposted it. In the repost, someone else commented, “Sounds like a pipe dream… If I only could not choke on the smoke!”

Some of my Instagram friends were beyond outraged. They messaged me to show their support. One of my friends was so upset, that she informed me she was ready to “open a cyber-can of woopass”. I asked her to lower the can opener, and to let me deal with the issue. I did. The commenter’s attitude towards the poem changed, but the hostility didn’t decrease much—bitter people often stay bitter, methinks.

After my friend read the whole exchange, she asked, “How can you be so calm about this? They insulted your writing, belittled your relationship… And you didn’t even correct them!” My friend’s reaction made me wish for a place where I could discuss these sorts of topics with other writers and readers. And out of those thoughts, the Moonlight Musings: Interactive Edition was born.

I summarized my response to my (feisty) friend, in this poem:


So, for our 1st Moonlight Musings: the Interactive Edition, I invite you to write a short article (in 369 words or fewer), which explores negative criticism. 


Add the direct link to your article to Mr. Linky. Visit other writers, read their thoughts. Let us critique each other’s words, constructively.


Please remember that this is a prose prompt, in article or essay format. Links to poems and short stories will be removed. We can get creative with it, even use quotes from our own work to make a point (as I did with the prompt itself), but our responses should be in article or essay form. Thank you!

37 comments:

  1. Kim, the crickets and I can't wait to read your responses on this issue. Bring it on, Poets and Storytellers. Let's talk in typed words... words are good.

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  2. Hi Maga! First, I'm sorry to hear you had such a nasty experience. But your poem is an apt response.

    Second, I think a great idea to have these interactive musings. Because as the saying goes, "A problem shared is a problem halved."

    To you, all word lovers! I'll certainly be reading you, and if possible leave a trace. :) But I won't be contributing myself, due to my tight, tight daily schedules.

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    1. Thank you, Khaya. I share your belief--talking about certain issues makes their effects less damaging. Also, we can learn from each other's methods.

      I hope time allows you to share your own bit. But I completely understand not being able to (I'm running away like a chicken with my head cut off).

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  3. For me, it is calling out the troll, I can see what you are!

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    1. Calling things by their names is an old bit of magic. No wonder it also works on trolls! 😁

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  4. Great topic to address! I'm working this weekend, so will likely be late commenting on others' writings, but I definitely will read them as soon as I can.

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    1. I just finished delighting in your contribution. I don't usually say "I wish I'd written this", but I wish I had written that. You explain your views and methods with the sort of clarity and class and understanding of human nature, which I hope my soul and I can get fully acquainted with one day.

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  5. Thank you Magaly for the wonderful topic. It's nearing midnight. So I'll catch up with you tomorrow morning. Good night everyone from my part of the world :)

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  6. I love your beautiful blue banner, and this interesting topic. I was taught that critiquing must always be done positively and respectfully. I personally never offer criticism. I keep in mind a person is putting their heart out there along with their work, and I can always find something positive to say. I think your response to negative remarks is excellent. No use engaging. Our words show who we are, and I try to use them carefully. This is an interesting discussion and i will come back to follow it. I am travelling today so might try to write something tomorrow at home. But i will read all the links.

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    1. Unsolicited criticism can be unsettling. When it comes to things published online, I limit myself to point out what works for me and why I like it. If I see a typo or something doesn't make sense or I see a typo--and previous interaction with the writer suggests they might welcome it--I sent a private message. Anything else is just unnecessary (and often unwanted), I think.

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  7. I guess I would just point out that there is a distinction between needless attack and the opposite extreme of agreeing that The Emperor's New Clothes are certainly stylish. Declaring everything that's written to be "A" Number One just results in lazy writing and kills any discussion that might shine a light on how to improve.


    In my own experience I have had people I never saw before stick their nose in with rants and I have also had people I respect gently suggest that I might want to change X. I have always been glad for the latter.


    While nobody wants to have their work savaged, rigidly declaring even the most syntax-fractured silly pap to be "brilliant!" is the sort of stuff that makes the whole exercise meaningless, at least in my view.

    There have always been two camps on line--those who write as a hobby in order to connect and have fun, and those who are more intense about the writing itself. The two groups tend to clash.

    I signed up some years ago for a course where they paired you up with a professional writer. At first they gave me a very pleasant woman who was always encouraging and positive. I asked them to give me a drill sergeant and did they ever. That man had no hesitation in telling me exactly when and where I was messing up, and I am a far better writer today thanks to him. So, again, trolls are trolls and nobody needs that. But universal positivity seems off to me as well.

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    1. Last year, I asked people on Facebook if they wanted to have a "focused" writing group for poetry and storytelling (I was really missing academia). Several people said to be interested and I was delighted. A mutual friend advised me to test the waters before throwing myself into the venture (she is wiser about these things than I am). I tested the waters. And even the test nearly broke my neck.

      People got upset and defensive. No, they didn't get like this about snarky and nasty unfounded criticism. We didn't get that far. They were infuriated about the fact that I pointed out that we had to answer 5 specific questions about each piece, and that two of the questions would discuss what didn't work and how to improve it.

      From that time forward, I realized that what you say in your penultimate paragraph is mostly correct--some people write for fun and don't really want to discuss grammar or language or so many other things that make writing interesting (and nearly addictive) to me.

      After that, I stopped offering critiques. I comment on what a piece of writing makes me feel. If I feel nothing, I say nothing. If I find the topic offensive, I walk away... unless I think discussing it will offer some benefit.

      I agree that universal positivity feels, well... unbalanced. The world doesn't work that way, neither does writing. The same goes for the never-ending snark and nastiness of trolls. Perhaps the trick is trying to figure out the difference, if we can. If not, walking away works too.

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    2. Yep, walking away is what I've pretty much done, though I do still participate a little bit on an informal basis. I have learned to--usually--bite my tongue and do like Bambi's mother advised.

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    3. I hope you put some ice on that tongue *runs away cackling*.

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    4. That is an interesting point, those who write with social interaction in mind and those writing seriously, and really trying to improve their craft. That was the underlying premise of Toads branching off from Poets United, to provide a smaller forum for those who wanted to work more closely together. That made Toads a very special venue. I did some of my best work there. I looked up to online poetry greats: Kerry, Joy, Shay, Kelli, for example, all made me work harder. It is a privilege to have had those years when we were writing with such energy. Reading such poets, admiration is the only possible response. Smiles. For those writing less seriously, or just beginning, encouragement may help them spread their wings, and sometimes they ask for input, too.

      What an interesting conversation this is. Yay!

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    5. I’m with you all as to the value of serious feedback - and in having learned online to either praise what I can find to praise, maybe comment on content, and if something is truly awful say nothing. However, have noticed over the years that with encouragement and practice clueless beginners can turn into very good poets.

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    6. @Rosemary, as a former clueless beginner, I can say that you absolutely correct. I don't think I would've ever learn to love poetry without receiving Kerry's and Hedgewitch's encouragements.

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  8. Magaly, you've made me think today. Mostly, I realize that I've been a rather lazy writer, only mildly attempting to improve what I write and frankly enjoying the fact that I don't have to agonize over form, style, perfection. I've enjoyed the freedom to simply write, appreciate the comments and enjoy reading what others have written.
    Thanks for this interactive prompt.

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    1. I think we have that right and should use it! Every now and again, I write something that is pure fun--usually silly and dorky and slightly dark (like moi). It's the good thing about freedom, that we can define it together.

      But I also want a place like this--or like what I want this feature to become--a spot on the web where we can discuss the blood and bones of language, where we point out our overuse words, where people remind me that I need to be careful with my ellipses and em dashes or my writing might try to commit seppuko in self-defense...

      Maybe, one of this days, we'll be able to have both.

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    2. Myrna, i love your poetry. I often feel the same way. I know when a poem of mine isnt up to snuff, is just words, is not as good as poems i used to write. I also know my fatigue impacts my writing. I guess i am grateful to be still here, and writing anything at all. I know i love your voice in your poems. I would miss them if you werent writing.

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  9. That reminds me of my severest critic, my friend Chris, a very talented poet recognized in the B.C. literary world. She doesnt hesitate to point out where i have used the same word three times in a poem, etc. And i am grateful, because i know she is trying to help my poetry. It doesnt bother me at all. Building up, as opposed to tearing down.

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    1. And that last bit makes all the difference, I think.

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  10. Fake positivity gives me the hives, but so do people who think they're extra cool or edgy when offering criticism in excessively harsh or dismissive terms. It's almost like they care more about how smart they look when they are delivering their barbs than they do about actually discussing the art of writing so people can grow. Because let's be real, everyone knows acid rain storms don't nurture as much as they kill growth. And anyone who thinks they do is as self-deluded as perpetual sunshine pushers.

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    1. Balance, reality, and empathy are much to often underused, methinks.

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  11. Magaly, thank you so much for this. I learn so much from all of you here, and I am so grateful to have found you!

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    1. I was just telling my Piano Man that I feel very lucky to have found a place where link-minded people can delight in words. Some years ago, that would've meant leaving the house and attending events my immune system can't quite handle at the moment. I am grateful to have found you, too!

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  12. Wow, Magaly, what a lively Friday! I am very impressed. This was/is such a good discussion and most definitely interactive!

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    1. Thank you, Sherry. I'm so happy we are talking about writing and reading and all that good yumminess. I love writing so much, and I really missed talking about the process, about what we experience on the way...

      Can't wait for next month!

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    2. I LOVE discussions of process ... in all the arts.

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  13. Dear Linda, I couldn't comment on your blog, don't know why. It was a very enjoyable read. Like you I also felt, 'I found my people' when I found Poets United.

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  14. Thank you so much, Poets and Storytellers, for making the first Moonlight Musings: the Interactive Edition exactly what I hoped it would--a place where we can write about words, our feelings towards them, our reactions to them.

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  15. Sorry Magaly, I am unable to contribute to this debut interactive edition of Moonlight musings. The week was insanely busy. Anyway I would like to contribute a comment here.

    Many years back, when my blog urban poems was pretty new, an anonymous person commented and urged me to "just STOP writing poor excruciating poetry".

    I could have just deleted off his/her comments, but I didn't and posted all the exchanges.

    He/she claimed to have a MFA, and I requested the writer to have a peep at some of his/her poetry. Of course the offer wasn't taken up. I have come to view that anonymous critic as a troll, and nothing else. It is just his/her opinion, and if you are not going to give a name or reasons why my poetry is bad, then it is just an opinion, and one is entitled to that. I do not mind criticism that can improve the poem, e.g. grammar, suggestions to shorten or lengthen the lines. I will be grateful for that.

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    1. Time is always playing hard to get, isn't it? We can do nothing but run after it and hope to catch up when we can (at least, that's what I do... still, I don't always catch up).

      I think our creative sanity remains as whole as it can be when we remember what you've pointed out: feedback (positive or negative) "is just an opinion". We take the good, and let go of the bad.

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This community is not meant to be used in a negative manner. We ask that you be respectful of all the people on this site as each individual poet is entitled to their own opinion, style, and path to creativity.