Today an excellent e-mail conversation sprung up concerning a website by a writer named Brian Plante, whose work I’ve never read. On those pages, Plante chronicles his experiences with a local writing group which he basically infiltrates, hiding his status as a semi-professional writer from the participants in the group and then posting comments about them and their practices on the weblog. It seems to me he has a specific idea of how a writing workshop should be run, and he’s unfairly grinding his axe on the members of this unsuspecting writer’s group.
I am a member of three writing groups (and a non-participating member of Andrew Burt’s excellent Critters.org group; I just couldn’t keep up with the pace and maintain the others as well.) It seems to me that the most important aspect of any critique group is honesty. Critiques should be civil, but honest. If a piece is written poorly, the writer needs to know so s/he can fix it; the writer won’t benefit from false “I liked it” criticism. The writers putting their work out for critique have to trust that the other members are going to be honest with them. By posing as a novice writer and then exposing the group’s goings-on in his weblog, Plante is betraying that trust, even if he has changed all the names to protect the individuals involved.
Plante claims to have posted notices about this blog on the Speculations website, but I didn’t see them in the Rumor Mill. If he did post them there, I have to wonder about his motivations; by advertising this, he has to know that he’s coming across as duplicitous. Does he think that other writers — and especially editors — are going to find this to be an admirable trait?
All this discussion about blogs made me question whether I am being fair in mentioning friends occasionally in this creativity log. I think I’m okay, because when I do mention my friends by name, it’s only in a positive context, and generally only in relation to how that friend has affected my creativity for that day. This is not a personal journal, like some blogs. It has a theme, and I think it’s smart for me to keep it that way, after reading Diane Patterson’s excellent essay “Why Web Journals Suck..” I stumbled across that while reading a journal recommended to me by my friend Michael Main. Bluejack is an online journal that seems to be intentionally anonymous; I couldn’t find the writer’s name on the site at all, and rather than dig through the WhoIs records, I’ll just take it on faith that the writer would like it to remain somewhat anonymous. The writer of this journal is currently attending Clarion West in Seattle (lucky dog) and I think I will find his daily journals to be inspirational.