I’m new to this wine writing thing. Wine is still as foreign to me as, well, learning how to write. If I dig through a few memories stored deep in my mind, I can recall holding my very first pencil in kindergarten. It was gigantic, glowing yellow and so heavy that at times I needed both hands just keep it vertical. And like any new tool, it always took awhile to get a handle on using it effectively. In the beginning, I found my letters to be crooked and backwards, looking more like hieroglyphics than an attempt at modern literacy. I remember panicking that my “a” would never stay below the dotted line, nor would I be able to hit that upper solid line just right so that I would receive a gold star next to name. Unwilling to accept defeat and humiliation by asking for help, I tried to move class time forward by focusing my attention on the clock, wanting to trade the distinct smell of eraser pilings and lead for sun and four-square. Yet, each and every time, I finally gave in, having to accept my teacher hovering over me, guiding my hand with hers to make each letter rounder, straighter and more legible. My cheeks would turn a progressively darker shade of red, terrified that everyone would laugh at me during recess, but they never did. Why? Because they needed just as much help as I did.
Although practice and time has aided me in becoming a better writer, I would never call myself excellent. If anything, I stumble and falter, hoping that someone out there will actually take my writing in hand and say, “Gabriella, this is a good piece of work. Well done.” or “I liked this part, but I might suggest you include X next time.” Regardless if the critique is positive or negative, it gives me something that I don’t have now, direction.
This has led me to the great question, at what point does the wine blogging community step out of the shadows and take responsibility for their work? When do we stand up for quality? Or is this just another case of individuality, where a wine blog is seen as a personal endeavor created for the author and the author alone. Like the president, who surrounds himself only with like minded fans who cheer him on during a public speech regardless of the consequences of his policies, are we also surrounding ourselves in a reader bubble?
In a Web 2.0 world, we bitch and moan about community involvement, frantically embedding every user generated platform we possibly can on our website. Through Twitter, Facebook and Jaiku, we know when you sleep, eat and whether you floss at night. We tell each other everything, in a desperate attempt to keep us together, inter-linked, but the environment we’ve created is rather adolescent and isolated, isn’t it? Because let’s face it, is you knowing what we placed on the grill last night going to help me improve my posts? Granted, we may build a closer relationship swapping good wine pairings with blue cheese and garlic stuffed burgers, but I doubt this will cross over to whether you have some pointers on my posts.
On the other hand, we typically feel comfortable critiquing outside our world, but not inside. Somehow, we’ve deemed it okay to slam or praise Parker or Wine Spectator, but rarely will we do it among wine blogs. We overlook poor translations, grammar, style and content as unimportant as compared to the message. As wine bloggers, the art of writing comes secondary, if not tertiary, to tasting notes, wine awards and harvest reports. We complain that the professional wine community doesn’t take us seriously, but do we take ourselves seriously? Do we help one another grow as wine writers, podcasters or vidcasters?
Being an aspiring wine writer, I would love your feedback! I would appreciate someone telling me that I always misspell “there” and “their” (thanks Jack!), or that my articles are repetitive and consistently written in the same style or tone. The only way I can improve and change is with your help, your expertise, your experience. Sure, for a short while I may curse you and your online thesaurus under my breath, but I’ll improve and be a better writer for it!
Where does this all lead? Well, after much consideration, Ryan and I came up with an idea this morning to spur dialog around wine writing. Recognizing that there currently isn’t a common forum for us to discuss our work, we thought it was high time to create it. Pimp My Wine Blog, is a new Facebook group dedicated to wine bloggers who want to improve their writing. This group is intended solely for those of us willing to be vulnerable, to put our work on the studio wall for the world to look at with a fine tooth comb. Post a video, a podcast or a written article, placing your trust in us to offer solid constructive criticism on areas such as structure, grammar, style, or whatever the author/producer wants for their piece. The only area I think we need to keep separate, regardless of the medium, is content. The goal with the group is to improve the piece, not the message. Let’s clarify this with some examples of a critique on a written article where the author asked us to focus on the overall structure of the article:
A Good Comment: Michael, in paragraph two, I suggest you cut down on the wordiness because I think your message on over oaked chardonnays is getting lost.
A Bad Comment Focused on the Message: Michael, I don’t agree with you about over oaked chardonnays because….
A Bad Nonconstructive Comment: Michael, your article sucked!! Maybe you should start drinking more beer.
We want people to walk away feeling as if you just gave them some tangible ways they can improve their post, rather than needing therapy.
Sign me Up!
If you’re committed to improving your wine blog, you can post on Pimp My Wine Blog by doing the following:
1. Use the discussion board for general ideas and comments.
2. Use post a link to direct people to the article you want critiqued
3. After link is posted, follow it up with a comment about what you want us to focus on.
4. Then, take a moment to reply and critique someone else’s post.
5. Done! You can go on with your day knowing you’ve actually done something constructive to help your wine blogger community!
Remember, this is a new idea, and therefore, in need of some adjustment. So please, let us know what you think. Are there ways we can improve it? Change it?