Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Don't Let the One Get You Down
I recently wrote a FundsforWriters editorial, the topic of which was being positive to the point of Pollyanna, of all topics. The response rate tickled my heart and splashed a smile on my face for hours. Nothing beats the sensation of touching readers with a pertinent piece. Several dozen people thanked me for my viewpoint. The editorial ended on this note:
The better your outlook, the higher your success rate. Quote me on it. If you think you'll succeed, you will one way or the other. Others will sense it and want a dose of whatever it is you're drinking.
One email, however, blew me out of the water. She said my message stung her . . . it hurt. What the heck?
As I read on, she spoke of her troubles with lack of employment, inability to pay bills, and a shrinking supply of groceries. How dare I tell people to improve their disposition as a cure-all? How dare I insinuate that they are down on their luck because they simply aren't charismatic?
I caught myself wanting to make excuses, explain myself. I even toyed with arguing, telling her that her toxic email proved the very point I made in the editorial. People like positive people; they tune out the negative. Goes to reason that editors, agents and publishers want positive clients.
I practiced my own preaching and replied in a positive tone, wishing her well. In the end, she thanked me, and we parted friends, but most situations don't end that well. I've been accused of being too right-winged, too left-winged, too white, too female, anti-semantic and pro-semantic, anti-Christian and pro-Christian. The list is endless after twelve years of editorials. But with each critical email, I received dozens more in a congratulatory light. So why dwell on the one?
When I receive personal emails, I almost hold my breath. Literarally, I open all the other mail first, leaving feedback to last in case one tells me I suck.
It's human nature to want to please others. Our mothers taught it to us. Be good. Be nice. We are taught to please before we are taught to be independent, which to me can clash as we attempt to succeed.
Remember, as you rise, more will try to shoot you down. You become more vulnerable as you succeed. People have a right not to like your writing, and we all too often interpret that as a personal slap. Even amid a hundred hugs, one slap out of a hundred leaves a bruise.
I disagree that one bad apple spoils the entire basket. Pluck that sucker out of there and enjoy the rest of the bushel, letting all that juicy goodness make your day.