Tuesday, April 24, 2012

For My Next Trick: I'll Turn Crap Into A Blooming Flower

People think differently. It’s true. I know that some people think that some ways of thinking are righter than other, just like some people are thinking at this very moment, It’s not “righter,” it’s “more correct.” Duh, Sheralyn. I thought you wrote for a living.

Yes, I do write for a living. I write for businesses at my day job and for fiction readers at night. And usually—and yes, I’m saying usually, not always—I don’t have much of an ego about it. There are days, or rather instances, however, when I kind of do.

^^ Liar.
It’s interesting to do a character study on yourself—to be sitting in a room where everyone else is calmly going about business as usual while you are furious. And in that moment you think, Why am I the only one suppressing violent impulses at the moment? Why am I the only one who is freakishly, steamingly mad when anger is very atypical for me?

In this situation, on this day, I know the answer to that question. I know why I’m mad. But in this case, knowing is not half battle.

G.I. Joe totally lied, which is disappointing, really. I expected more from a Saturday morning cartoon.

I. Am. Mad.

The good news: I’m a believer that good can come from anything. God turns crap into flowers all day long. Therefore, the logic follows that if we wish to become more godlike, we need to learn to turn the crap of this earth into blooming, sniffable eye candy.

It toils not. Neither does it spin... or freak out.
Which brings me back to my original point: people think differently. Consequently, this means we do things differently. And because we frequently don’t know the thoughts behind someone’s action, sometimes their methods don’t make sense to us. We look at others and wonder how they got where they got when they are so obviously incompetent. How they get through a day, a project, a job, we have no idea. Only that they do. Somehow, and in some baffling way.

But if only you could step in and get them to do it “right,” it would be so much better!


Now I’m not saying there aren’t incompetent and unqualified people in the world. I’m not saying there aren’t managers who delegate themselves into inactivity. I’m not saying that some people don’t need mentoring or a guiding hand. What I’m saying is that there are some people who don’t see any value in doing something any way but their own. Other ways are not “different,” they are “worse” or maybe even flat-out "bad." Different ways of saying things are not different, but wrong. A different approach is unacceptable to them even if they have nothing to do with executing the approach.

They are right. And by force of their will, you will be “right.”

We all do this to a degree. I’m guilty, for sure. And I can be super pushy about it, too. In recent years I’ve improved upon my compulsion to help people be "right" a little by offering a mandatory disclaimer any time I offer correction that states I am simply speaking from my own experience and may be totally wrong. People are welcome to ignore me, no matter how convincing I may be in explaining why my way works in a superior manner to theirs.

Conversely, I've also learned to appreciate the insight offered when someone else tells me how to be “right.” I’m a writer, after all, so understanding the psychology behind different ways of doing things is very much to my benefit.

It’s when advice turns to force and agency is taken away that I freak out a little.

I would imaging any person in a creative field experiences this. For example, a writer feels this way when an editor makes a change in a manuscript without consulting the author because they think they’re improving the text and know the author well enough to know that the author will fight the change. The author thinks what they've written is perfect as is, but the editor notices a hiccup in flow. So, hush-hush, they just sneak a fix in, believing no one (including the insufferable, immovable author) will ever notice. 

In truth, the author may not notice the change unless a reader asks them to explain it. It’s only then that they read the sentence for the first time and say out loud, “I never wrote that!” Because they didn’t. 

Their editor did. And when asked about it, the editor lets out a long-suffering sigh as they explain how a colloquialism that wasn’t popular until the 1920s found its way into a regency romance while the author balks. The author did their research, by darn, and that saying didn't exist in the same century as her characters. How dare that change be made without consulting her?

No one will notice, the editor might say. What you had before wasn't working. This is better.

And, really, at this point it doesn't matter who's right or if either party is right. What's done is done. The book has been printed and it's not changing.
For my editors: Nothing but love.

To be super clear: this did not happen to me. An editor is NOT the reason for my terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. I LOVE EDITORS. Desperately! I need them—as anyone who’s edited me can attest to. 

The kind of Pooh you don't mind on your shoe.
I’m simply using this hypothetical,power-abusing, self-righteous editor in this example as the metaphor for what I’m dealing with that has made me Little Miss Pooh-On-Her-Shoe today. (So if there any any editors with ruffled feathers right now, sorry. I love you, and 9.9 out of 10 times, you are absolutely right.)

So after thinking about my little pile crap I metaphorically stepped in today and analyzing it for its flowering potential, I offer this little tidbit of maybe-wisdom:

There are many paths to the same location. The path we take frequently depends on our goals.

One person may be seeking the quickest route from point A to B, while another person prefers to go a little out of the way if they can spend more time on the freeway. One person may choose a different route because they need to stop at the store to get some medicine for a splitting headache, or because they want to take the opportunity to drive past their late-grandma’s house. Still another person may need to drop off a child at a babysitter, while another person going to pick up a date.

If all these people start at the same origin point and set off without conferring with each other, some of the drivers may certainly be baffled at the turns other people make. The one choosing the quickest route may see the other driver turn on the freeway and think, “That’s going to add 3.2 miles to your travel time—6.4 miles if you take the same path on the way home.” At the same time, the person getting on the freeway may be looking at the one taking the most direct route and thinking, “You’re going to have to go through eight more stop lights on the way there, and none of them are timed. Have fun sitting at the red lights.” They both may watch the guy going to pick up his date and think, “You’re going the wrong way, dude. Are you totally daft?” or see another driver pull into a store parking lot and think, “Seriously? You’re going to the store now? You couldn’t do that before?”
The point is that everyone is doing what’s best for them in that moment. They’re all going to end up where they planned, as planned. And they will all accomplish what they need to on their way, if allowed.

But if those who think they are most right forbid the one driver from stopping from the store, because they should have done it before.

They have just forced that person to endure the night with a headache.

If they tell the person who is taking their child to the babysitter’s that they’re going the wrong way and have to turn around, they’ve also tied that person’s hands from doing something (dropping off their child) that would help them be more present in the evening’s events.

And if one of those people who thinks they are the most right decides that it’s time to be frank with the person who likes to drive past grandma’s that, “Your grandma’s dead. It’s time to accept that and stop wasting time and gas driving past a memory.”

That will also change the mood and disposition of the group when they all arrived at their destination.
In short, when going from point A to point B, we all have the ways that work best for us for reasons all our own. Maybe those reasons are based on logic, maybe, sentiment, maybe a random memory, a heard-of crime, or any number of other reasons.

Point is: people have their reasons for doing what they’re doing based on their previous experience. Their pathway may be different from yours, but if the other person has repeatedly and competently shown that they can make it to the finish line with time to spare and in good spirits, let them do it in the way that works best for them. Or at least do some probing to discover their rationale before forcing change just because you can.

I’m pretty sure if we all did this, the world would be a more harmonious place.

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