They say the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem.

Well, if that’s true, then I have something to get off my chest.

I’m kind of a dick.

Not always, of course. In person, I’m socially awkward and fear conflict enough that I’m rarely dickish, though it does sneak out from time to time.

For example, I recently participated in a ping pong tournament, where I took fifth place out of forty players, if you’re wondering. Anyway, the way the semi-finals was structured was a bit strange and everyone on my side of the bracket ended up with the same record so the winner had to be determined by points. The problem is, the organizers of the league hadn’t thought through what it might mean to determine a winner “by points”, which is complicated in a game where you might play 2 or 3 games, meaning more or less points, before a winner can be declared.

I was standing beside the main event organizer as we all batted around ideas for how to fairly determine a winner “by points” when I made the off-hand comment, “Wow, this really wasn’t planned out very well.”

She wasn’t happy. Of course, in that example, I merely said what we were all thinking.

Where I’m really a dick is online. Not in comment threads or anything like that; I’m no troll. No, where I let the dick in me out to play is on the Online Writer’s Workshop, where other amateur authors post chapters or short stories for other authors to review and critique.

And critique I do.

Here’s the thing: I think I’m a damn good writer. Not the best, certainly, but I’ve studied the craft enough to think that I can recognize when people are writing effectively and when they’re not. I have some pretty strong opinions about what makes writing good and how to efficiently tell a story. In my mind, the challenge of writing lies in doing those things well, which is remarkably hard even when you know what they are.

In the Online Writer’s Workshop, I hold nothing back. In fact, my spot comments and reviews can be scathing. I don’t actually mean any ill will; in my mind, my vitriolic verve is sarcastic and even funny. Some authors I review don’t agree, understandably. They see my harsh criticisms as attacks on them and their style.

I’ve been in their position, of course. I post my own chapters to the OWW and they sometimes get torn apart, though usually in a nicer way than I typically work. I pride myself on rolling with the punches, however. You learn the most about what’s working and what isn’t when you get to read a review by someone who didn’t enjoy what they read; those that pat you on the back provide little to no value beyond an ego boost which I frankly don’t need.

The problem I’m struggling with now is that I have no credentials to my name. My belief in myself as a writer is a personal one that few people share because few people have read my books. These authors that I tear apart have often been writing longer than I have and boast more published works. So do I really know what I’m talking about or am I just too much of a dick to see that I’m not helping anybody?

It’s a rhetorical question, of course. That’s the thing about being a dick: there’s really nothing that can get you to change because you don’t care enough about others to want to.


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