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Ramey On Reviewing 1 by Mike Ramey
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I don’t need to tell you what is going on in the land. Those who have an ear to hear, and eyes to see already know what is going on. The purpose of this series of columns is to teach those who have been ‘slowed down’ by life another skill to add to their ‘quiver’ of experiences to help lead them to the next level.
We’re going to spend our time learning about the Art of Reviewing.
Being a Reviewer does have its ups and downs. You have the opportunity to write about what you see, hear, or digest. You have the skill to impact society and those in the written, spoken, or culinary arts. A Reviewer is an influencer; one who spots trends on the horizon, or, has the opportunity to revisit some history that may be helpful in the future. Plus, along the way, you may get the chance to meet some of those heroes who have inspired your life.
These are the ups. As I said, there are downs. A Reviewer is the oil to the water of an artist. An honest Reviewer may not be appreciated, could be corrected and railed against for taking a realistic stand--but they are a blessing. A dishonest Reviewer--one who may have never ‘made the grade’ in the sector of art that he/she may be reviewing--could cause many problems for honest Reviewers. Dishonest Reviewers seem to always abound, just out of sight of--but in the way of--honest Reviewers. Nevertheless, it is always wise to be an honest Reviewer. You represent a genre of writing that has stood the test of time.
Now, IF you happen to be a Christian, the Art of Reviewing is even more critical. You get to focus your attention on the spiritual side of effective writing, and whether or not those who claim to follow and serve Christ are using their talents for His glorification, and not merely their own. You get to observe the eighth and ninth commandments in action from your own keyboard.
There are several basic questions I have found that one must answer for themselves as they move forward into serving as a Reviewer:
1) Do I have the patience and stamina and memory to write reviews?
2) What do I want to review?
3) Where do I want my reviews to run?
4) Am I able to tell the truth without fear?
5) Are my basic writing skills up to speed?
Over the next few columns, we’ll hit each of these one by one.
Reviewing does take a lot of patience. You have to learn how to read and comprehend what someone else has written and give your honest opinion of their mastering what they are putting forth for public consumption. This also takes patience…a lot of it. One must also develop the stamina to churn out a review of the work of--say--some 500 to 750 words (or more) under deadline pressures to get your work to the outlet on time. Then, there is a little thing called memory. Not only about past reviews, but concerning past people whom you have reviewed. A solid Reviewer knows how to keep their material fresh, their eye keen, and their memory firing on all cylinders.
These are skills that not only can be learned, but can be developed over the course of time as a Reviewer.
HOW I GOT MY START:
In wrapping up our time together, I wanted to put myself up on the operating table. This section will cover some of the ups and downs I had to suffer myself in getting my own reviewing career off the ground. I’ll be doing this in each column, just to let you know that I’ve been in the trenches.
I was blessed to start reviewing books when I was a reporter. After all, the Radio and Television stations, along with the Newspapers I worked for always received stacks of free books, videos and CDS from a host of publishing and music houses. Not to mention invitations that were dropped off by the people in sales who wanted to get the lowdown on potential new clients. One of the quickest way to ‘add’ to your job skills (and beat back the risk of being laid off) was to help out the powers that be and take the time to review some of these offerings.
Reviewing ‘sharpened up’ my writing skills by having to form an opinion on an author or artist who may have been laboring in obscurity for years. I learned quickly what constituted good and bad writing--both of myself and others. Reviewing also provided the added blessing of having a ‘hot’ new CD or video to take home with me, at no extra cost. In terms of reviewing restaurants and the like, I got a few good meals on the deal.
The best part of the deal? Reviews count as writing samples. They provided a nice little portfolio or ‘clip’ file of work to show to new publications and editors when I had to make those job hunting or freelancing rounds. That little extra ‘pop’ that could make the hiring difference!
Yes, the Art of Reviewing is just as important in this information age, as it was when keyboards were located only on manual typewriters. If you’ve ever had the urge or the gift to be a Reviewer, you’ve come to the right column to get started! More to come!
Mike Ramey is a Minister, Book Reviewer, P-School Ranger, Modern Street Gangs Specialist and Syndicated Columnist who lives in Indianapolis, Indiana. “Ramey On Reviewing” is one of a variety of columns that Ramey has in cyberspace. To drop him a line…or a whine…the address is still the same:
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