Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Feeling versus Being

I guess there was some writer who vented on twitter or some other social media platform about not making some "Best Of" list. I haven't read the tweets (if they were tweets). I don't even know the name of the author, but she's spurred a huge conversation in the blogisphere about her 'behavior.' Much of that conversation is negative, so much so, I guess she's even apologized or has had to come close to apology. Putting aside all that, the one thing I know and know with surety is:

She's human.

I also know I'm very tired of people having to censure their feelings so others only see rainbows and sunshine. I do it, yes, and I'm sure you do, too, but that's not life. That's not the human experience. And doing so isolates us and the people around us.

Us: We can't really say what's on our minds.
If I have a bad day or I have a bit of crazy going on in my head (and let's face it, there's a lot of crazy in my head,) I can't express it because I'm not supposed to. Writers, we aren't supposed to talk about our experiences with rejection (even though some rejections hurt and venting would make us feel better). We can't talk about the contest we didn't get into or the tweet we know was directed at us. We can't say how sorry or disappointed we are when something doesn't go the way we anticipated.

We can only look at the tweets of successful writers, successful people, successful everything. That contest we were excited about? We aren't even supposed to say, 'Ugh. Bummed out, but better luck next time.' We're told to take it off the internet, off where others can't see that we've essentially failed. Because failure is bad. If others know we've failed, they'll expect us to fail them, too. There's nothing to be gained by failure.

Nothing? Really? There's nothing to be gained? There's nothing to be said about a shared experience? No camaraderie.

So what we do becomes a little more isolating, a little more lonely.

Others: They don't know they're not alone.
Writing is naturally a solitary activity. You can join a writers' guild or a critique group. You can talk to people online using twitter or posting on blogs, but ultimately, you are on your own. Then, when you have a hard day, when you have that moment you say to yourself, 'What if this wasn't meant to be?' you still have nowhere to turn--not unless you have a strong offline network, and let's face it; many of us don't because many of our friends and family don't take what we do seriously.

So you get a rejection, but you can't read someone else's experience about rejection because they don't post about it. You only read 'How I got my agent' and 'My publishing deal.' In effect, you only read about sunshine and rainbows.

But you don't have sunshine and rainbows. In real life, you'd talk to someone who has shared the experience. But you're the only writer in your family, the only of your friends. So you turn back online to the stories and you look harder.

But you only read about sunshine and rainbows.

And you read enough of these stories, that you begin to think you're the only one who doesn't have sunshine and rainbows. Then you start thinking, 'Hey, what's wrong with me that I don't have sunshine and rainbows?' which eventually becomes, 'Why the heck am I the only one?'

The only one. You see that? The only one.

We've created an internet culture of loneliness. It doesn't matter that you *know* you aren't the only one. The human experience isn't that unique. But you *feel* that way. It doesn't matter what is. It only matters what it feels like. And if you feel alone, you are alone. In the end, there's no one out there. (Again, it doesn't matter that there is, and you just can't see it.) You know it to your core because no one is talking about how hard this is.

I take that back. Sure they are. They say, 'This is hard.'

But give me a break. We're writers. We know we're supposed to show and not tell. I applaud this woman for showing me. She didn't tell me, 'You'll have some disappointments along the way,' and then hope her calloused sentiment was going to be enough. It's never enough for our readers; why should it be enough for us? She showed us she was disappointed. She showed us the world of writing is hard.

Thank you, sunshine and rainbows culture. You've effectively made a lot of people lonely. It doesn't have to be. It would be nice if we could talk about our failures when they happen,when the emotions are hot, when they're real. It's what we give our readers. It's what our readers expect of us, but not what we give or expect of outselves.

Because we're afraid. Maybe there's someone out there who's going to read this post. She won't want to read my book now because she disagrees with me, or disagrees with my sentiment, or disagrees with the apparent negativity, or disagrees with my humanness, or disagrees with any number of things with this post. Or maybe someone reads this, and she won't want to be my agent because she doesn't want a client who speaks about rejection, or speaks her mind (occasionally), or any number of things with this post. She might tell me it was this blog post or she might not. But in the end, I'll have lost something by venting, by speaking my mind, by being human. That's what we're afraid of, isn't it?

I know that's what I'm afraid of. After all, like this woman, I'm human, too.