A lovely idea launched me into writing this morning, and perhaps it will help you as well. My friend Christina has been writing a lovely blog containing a thank you note a day to different things in her life: people, organizations, inanimate objects. And this morning, she received a thank you note in return from one of the organizations! As much as you hope people may glance at your art, it’s still incredibly thrilling and shocking when people do. It’s especially thrilling when you realize that your writing has effected someone positively.
And then I thought for a minute about what would have happened if Christina had decided to write a post a day about everything she hates. What kind of response would she get, if any? Essentially, it would be a giant invitation for rage and rants. What a waste of energy on both ends, and pretty much the most obnoxious blog ever.
Most importantly, it was a reminder that when you send out gratitude, people appreciate it and send it right back. When you send out enthusiasm, people feel enthused, and when you send out a constructive piece of advice about a problem, people sit and think, which is never a totally bad thing.
In the past several years of having this blog I have discovered a few (possibly obvious) things:
1. If you write it, people will read it. Someone needs to hear what you need to say. Hooray!
2. There are many ways you can present one idea. No kidding, Ginny.
3. The way you choose to present your thoughts will affect the way you live your life and how others feel in theirs. If you can’t find the best way to say something, hold off, it will come to you later. Writing about writing? Getting a little meta for me, please explain. Also, are you talking to yourself in bold? Does Ben know you’ve lost your mind? Hush.
These sound like obvious points. Why would anyone write a post a day about things they hate? How exhausting! And yet, you find it all the time online, just not listed this bluntly. SO I’ve started to think about where all this online negativity comes from.
What an interesting soapbox you have there….
We are human beings that need to feel all the feels sometimes, but it is important to keep an eye on what you are putting out there for public consumption and what you’re instead, putting in your journal.
It seems that negativity is often falsely regarded as confidence. You have the right not to like something, I understand that. And the world is far from perfect. Constructive ideas are needed to fix many terrible things in society. But the next time you write about how all people should stop doing something because you think it’s dumb and then have no logical take on how to fix it, think about why you are throwing all that negative energy into something that is A. beyond your control, and B. Most likely an insult of someone else’s personal expression.
Ask yourself if it’s harming you or anyone else. If it isn’t, maaaaaybe you’re actually upset about something else. If it is, it is still that person’s belief, and so there are more constructive ways to speak to them effectively. Let’s be big girls and boys about this.
Pick a nicer soapbox, you have your choice
There aren’t many things in life that you have complete control over. Your soapbox is one of them. If you have a particularly open mind about a political problem, and a practical approach about how to improve someone’s life, then by all means, shout away! I will support you! (Though I will probably not come to your literal soapbox because I hate crowds. But I will totally give to your Kickstarter).
If you find joy in making scones and posting scone recipes, power to ya! Who doesn’t like scones?
Okay good example: Let’s say you hate scones. Hate them. They’re dry and your great-aunt made you eat them when you were little while yelling at you about being too skinny (This did not happen to me. I love my aunts. And scones). But damn those dense pastries of doom! You go on this person’s scone blog and rip into their very being of artistic identity. And now it’s for all the world to see, not only the writer/struggling baker.
Your negative comment sparks a defensive attack online that somehow causes half your facebook readers to storm away from their computers, yell at their barista, yell at their dog, over-eat pastries out of spite, and then stomp around for part of the day carrying your family issues with them.
I believe it all goes back to fear. And fear mixed with a healthy dose of ignorance creates a tunnel vision of rage and bizarre soap boxes.
The best example to me is the Ice Bucket Challenge. I know, I’m late to the game. But I wanted to wait until the angry people calmed down a bit so we all had some hindsight. I found that people who ranted about the Ice Bucket Challenge had trouble looking at the whole story, and perhaps were projecting their own discomfort with group activities altogether.
Many people said, “What does pouring ice on your head have to do with ALS? THIS IS DUMB!” *throws laptop, pouts, eats scone*
Now if they had perhaps researched the story of the challenge a little further, they would have seen that the challenge was to raise awareness about a disease that didn’t have a lot of attention. By spreading knowledge, we realize it’s a problem that perhaps lost fundraising steam, which clearly is something to be fixed.
I also read, “People are just trying to get attention instead of donating!” *posts on facebook, hopes for likes and comments*
As I used to tell my first graders at camp, don’t worry about what your classmate is doing, worry about yourself. If you feel that their approach to spreading awareness about a disease is too showy, then don’t do it. Keep gluing your macaroni. No one is leaving you out.
And then the ever confusing, “This is taking away from other charities.” (Well, now I’m just getting judgy. I see how easy it is!)
I don’t know about you, but I don’t donate to a list of charities each day, and it took me a while to get used to donating at all. But one way to get in the habit of giving to ANYONE, even if it’s a smaller amount, is having something inspire you to think of yourself as a charitable person in the first place. It is easy to assume that a good portion of the Ice-Challenged gang was not planning on donating to Gorillas in Need (made that up, I’m not sure if they’re in need) that day and decided to blow them off. So it was a good step all around.
Same amount of energy for something more worthwhile
Instead of using the word “better” or “right”, let’s go with constructive or worthwhile. So much energy goes into choosing negativity without properly researching your point. Will your rant actually help the situation, or are you a commenter that likes to stir up trouble because you’re speaking from a place of anger?
I have plenty of moments when someone has said something simply asinine online and I have to hold myself back. If that guy I went to high school with is defending another crazy Fox News Anchor simply because he isn’t exposed to anything outside our small home town, would it be worth me lashing out at him without a plan? No. People who carry angry ideas are always looking for someone to be defensive. And from his point of view, he believes he is fighting the good fight. Me attacking would get us both nowhere. Until I have a calm and helpful way to approach it, I will keep my mouth shut.
People do listen! If you build it….you get the point.
So the good thing is that people do listen!! I have found that when you put your art out there in the world, people do care and appreciate your effort, even if it takes a little while to make a career out of it (Want to cast me?? Ginnybartolone.com! *insert tap dance*). So write that blog! Start that painting! Build that baseball field for ghosts! Just remember that what you build will reach people, and helping them grow in the process is much better than millions of other lousier and honestly, less interesting options out there.