Monday, January 7, 2013

What the World Can Learn From Writers



I’ve hated bickering ever since I was a little kid.  Where most siblings relish the chance to needle and annoy their brothers or sisters, I was always the peacemaker.  I avoided the situations that seemed to cause arguments, like where my brothers and I would sit in the car.  No one wanted the middle seat, but I always offered to take it so we wouldn’t fight. 

As an adult, I can be considerably more confrontational when crossed, and I’m in no way a pushover, but I still try to avoid conflict.  Or rather, I work around it, try to find a peaceful resolution by getting one side to see and understand the other.  That’s just my nature. 

Over the years, I’ve come to believe I might be in the minority.  Everywhere I look, people are badgering and bickering with each other.  It’s typically the source of every news story where someone gets shot or stabbed, and it’s the norm on nearly every reality TV show.  Viewers think it’s boring unless one person is railing at or tormenting another.  We find it amusing for some reason. 

It’s no wonder so many little girls turn mean at the age of five, why some kids are bullied so mercilessly.  For all the complaining we do about the issue, all the time we spend teaching our kids not to pick on others, the example they often see is what we leave running in the background on the TV while they eat dinner, do their homework, or just plain horse around. 

And don’t even get me started on the politicians, those inept, contentious tools who, on camera, say how they’re trying to work together, but, in secret, bully their party colleagues into vowing to never cow to the demands of the other side.  They won’t even entertain the idea of compromise to deal with the issues they were elected and are paid to do.  I’m not surprised though.  They act the way their constituents act.  So perhaps they’re just doing what they’ve been hired to do after all. 


Frankly, I’m sick of it.  I keep remembering poor Rodney King, God rest his soul, saying, “Can’t we all just get along?”  Well, can’t we?  I, for one, think we can.  The world just needs to look to the writing community for a good example.

I’ve worked in various industries, and while I never had any enemies, in the end, it was always about looking out for number one.  You’d think in an industry such as ours, where we, as writers, don’t operate as a team, but rather as individuals, that we’d be more cutthroat, more backstabbing and winner-take-all.  Yet that’s about as far from the truth as you can get. 

Perhaps it’s the ambiguity of the prize, the fact that what we each have to offer differs so much and that makes it seem like we’re not truly competing with each other, but it hardly explains why, as a community, we’re so…friendly and helpful, so cooperative and supportive.  I’ve heard of a few writers who got jealous when someone they knew landed an agent or a book deal, but those are rare. 

I’m not entirely sure why but, I think what we share is something akin to how disaster survivors are seen and treated by those unaffected, kind of a there-but-for-the-grace-of-God mentality.  Or maybe it’s just that we know what it’s like to fail, to be rejected, and our hearts ache.  That would mean we are compassionate, as humans are wont to be.  We see the other side as something more than just competition, more than the enemy, more than the scavenger trying to steal our nuts.  We see them as we see ourselves, and that is what the world needs more of.       



        

  

27 comments:

Ravena Guron said...

Really great post, and it's true. I once asked for help with my query on twitter, not expecting a reply, but two writers who were basically strangers said they'd be happy to exchange emails with me to make it the best it could be. Writers are really nice people :)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

What we have as writers and authors is rare. Whatever happened to "Do unto others?"
I don't like confrontation either. I just avoid it.

Natalie Aguirre said...

Even though I'm an attorney, I try to avoid conflict in my everyday life. So agree with you that the world could learn from the supportive writing community.

S.P. Bowers said...

Love this post. There is too much anger in the world, too much contention. I have seen some backbiting, jealousy, and bitterness in the writing world. But mostly we help, and comfort each other. I hope it continues.

JeffO said...

Conflict sells, plain and simple. That's why the news focuses so much on it, and that's why we don't see happy, touchy-feely reality shows about Amish barn-raisings, let's say. And if we did, we'd undoubtedly soon see one farmer scheming to make sure the other guy's walls weren't quite straight or something. It's unfortunate.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I'd add to Jeff's comment that negative sells, which is really sad. Salacious also sells, which is even worse.

Most writers are good people. Sometimes you'll encounter someone who is negative or unpleasant, but they eventually cut themselves out of the herd.

Eva Gallant said...

Great post, full of truth!

Rena said...

Really great post, Nancy. It's so true, and I absolutely love the writing community.

Melissa said...

Great post! I can relate to the conflict avoidance (me, too) and bickering kids (I'm about ready to tie mine to the *bumper* the next time they fight over seating arrangement - LOL), and I agree about the writing community. You nailed it. :)

Andrew Leon said...

If you haven't heard of it before, you should take a look at the enneagram. From what you just said, I'd say you are a 9, probably with a 1 wing, but I wouldn't swear to that. [I'm a 1 with a 9 wing.]

I'd like to agree with you about the writing community, but... well, there's still all this stuff going on over at Amazon due to multiple authors creating dozens (or hundreds, in at least one case) of fake accounts to give authors bad reviews on their books. So I can't say it's all writers.

Carrie Butler said...

"Blessed are the peacemakers..." :)

Ciara said...

I've worked in many industries that were like that. Believe it or not, even hospital staff behave that way. It is shocking that 98% of writers are giving and share in each other's writing joys.

Nick Wilford said...

Great post! Very thought-provoking. I do agree that it's probably about having other people who know what you're going through. I mean, before I was in this community, I'd never met a single other writer (at least not that I knew about). So blogging felt like a relevation. I can't imagine being bitter about someone else's success.

Luanne Smith said...

It's just so much easier to get along in life, isn't it? I don't like confrontation either (which really served me well working in a jail -- really, I rarely had any problems) Yet, like you, if I'm provoked I'll stand my ground. I'm no pushover either.

But I can honestly say, outside of one particular short-lived incident, I've had no problems with anyone online in two years of blogging. And when I go to writing conferences I'm always, always blown away by how friendly people are. We're a good group. :)

Jemi Fraser said...

So true. I hate bickering as well - drives me batty. Writers are an incredible group!

Lisa Regan said...

What a lovely post! So true. I wish more people were like the writers I know. I'm continuously astounded by the kindness and generosity of my fellow writers!

jamieayres.com said...

Your post was so moving! I wish I could meet all my blogging buddies for reals . . . you all seem like you'd be so much fun to hang out with~hugs!

Donna K. Weaver said...

Beautiful post, Nancy. And I agree totally. I hate conflict. It wears on me little else does, which is one of the reasons my day job is so hard right now. And all it takes is one person to make life miserable.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Sorry I'm late, Nancy; I've been writing. But I'm here now to say Bravo. You are so right. While I do have a mouth on me, I have to be pushed pretty hard before I have a melt down. Otherwise I'm like you, why sweat the small stuff. Raising 5 sons probably help turn me into a negotiator for the sake of my sanity, I'm sure.

This was a thought provoking post. Thank you!

M Pax said...

I was very much like you - peacemaker in my family. But I can also be quite confrontational. I will stand up for myself and fight if I feel the need. But it wore on me when I had to and because I'm really stubborn I don't back down. Anyway, perhaps writers just tend to have a broader perspective and more open mind. At least, I've met so many very kind ones.

Julie Musil said...

So beautifully said. I've often thought the same thing about the contestants on American Idol. They're competing against each other, but I see them cheering each other on from the audience. Our community is truly special, and I'm so thankful for it.

Cynthia said...

Politeness is often an overlooked asset. And unfortunately, some people mistake dignified behavior for weakness. It shouldn't be that way.

(I'd actually written a longer comment, but I kept deleting bits and pieces of it because I didn't want this to come off as a rant!)

Lynda R Young said...

Yep, it's amazing how eager most writers are to help other writers. This is such a wonderful community.

michelle said...

I'm also a non-confrontational type. Though I must mention that people often take niceness as a sign of weakness...
Wonderful post Nancy.

Julie Flanders said...

I'm also a non-confrontational type and have always been the one trying to smooth over disagreements. Honestly I can't believe there are so many people who actually enjoy bickering and arguing, it's so incomprehensible to me!
You are so right about the writing community, you really hit the nail on the head!

Heather Gardner said...

We are all pretty cool. :)

Maybe we will set the example!

Heather

nutschell said...

i love this post. And you're right--our community of writers is just downright inspiring. I love how helpful we all can be:)

Nutschell
www.thewritingnut.com