Whoa Nellie. Stop clattering your sabers. Holster your sidearms. Turn off your engines. Click off the TV. Put down your beer. Freeze frame.
I’m floored with how many good writers (I put myself in both camps) can’t send an email message without pissing off the whole world.
Yes, WRITERS. We are communicators. We should be the ones who write the pearls that make sense, not cause enemies. When someone said the pen is mightier than the sword, boy was that the understatement of our civilization!
Being a writer comes with it a set of rules. Be respectful, only make people cry if it is good for your story, get people mad at the characters, but not you, the writer, or anyone else. Push the envelope, okay, but don’t push those other writers and readers off the cliff.
My first manager, when I was in sales, used to ask me not to send memos to the office staff, because I made them cry. I was blamed for one or two quitting. You can imagine how I felt, all 50 other people in the office looking at me like I had leprosy of the fingers. It isn’t important whether or not–well, it is, darn it. I did make them quit. There, I’ve said it. Trying to be honest, here. (There’s another rule).
So, as I said before, there are rules, but no hall monitor. No one to say, “Oh, this is this and that is that.” Everything is opinion. We judge our results with some numbers, like sales and numbers of readers, but the largest portion is through opinion, a much harder thing to judge.
I once complimented a new coach of my daughter’s volleyball team after a “successful” tournament. We lost 50% of the games we played, but these were 12-year-olds, most of them looking like baby giraffes who had just been weaned, unsure of their bodies, and the enormous height they had at such a young age, towering over some of their teachers but certainly all the boys. He asked me:
I told him: “Because we won some games we shouldn’t have, lost some we shouldn’t have. Everyone got to play. You managed not to piss off any parents or send any girls to the bathroom crying.”
Now, can we talk? You’ve seen the emails, the crash and burns and long accusatory rantings by people who should have seriously thought about another job other than writing. The names are not important, but you’ve felt your flesh crawl like a good horror story, burst into tears when someone left an unkind, I mean out-of-the-way unkind, review of something you thought was half good. Not saying everyone has to like everything I write, but unkind is not just in the eyes of the beholder. You’ve seen the group dynamics of one dissenter being piled on. I thought we got over that in Jr. High. I never want to go back to those times. But some people haven’t grown up.
Before you send that steaming email, think. There’s another T word. Don’t finish your sentence and end it with the send button. It should end with a sigh, about ten proofs and a little contemplation. And then send it if it still holds up.
Let’s take a little time out and agree to be decent, people. There’s a new thought: Try A Little Tenderness. Now those are a couple of great T words for today.