Stop Telling Me What to Do

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I don’t claim to know everything. I hope everyone who reads what I write understands that. I hope people who read what I write understand that I’m just trying to help by putting what I do know and more tenuously but less definitively what I think into words. I hope everyone else out there understands that they don’t know everything either. No one does. No one can.

And yet there are some who feel sure that their way is the right way with no room for deviation or difference. And they have no second thoughts about telling everyone who will listen and the vast majority who don’t want to. I get a bit tired of being told I’m living my life wrong. If it’s true, then I will be the one who ultimately suffers. If I’m not (and even if I am), I don’t want to listen to other people’s judgements on actions that only affect me.

So let me say this. (No, actually, I don’t care whether you let me or not, I’m going to say it anyway.) Stop telling me what to do. Continue reading

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Why I Sometimes Don’t Want to Tell People I’m a Writer

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Imagine this scenario:

“Hi, I’m Rachel.”
“Hi, Rachel. I’m John. What do you do?”
“I’m a receptionist.”
“So you just sit around talking on the phone all day?”
“It’s a bit more involved than that.”
“Where do you work?”
“At a small family company.”
“Oh. That’s a shame. Any chance you might be able to move on to a big corporate?”
“I’m happy where I am.”
“Are you a good receptionist?”
“I haven’t been asked to do it differently so I guess I am.”
“How many calls do you take a day?”
“Um, well, I’m not sure…”
“How much do you earn?”
“That’s not really any of your business.”
“But how will I know for sure if you’re a good receptionist?”
“Call the main switch and I’ll make sure I transfer you to the right person.”
“But that won’t tell me if others think you’re a good receptionist.”
“I like what I do. I don’t really care if others think I’m a good receptionist. And I really don’t care what you think.”
“That’s a pretty poor attitude for a receptionist to have.”
“Stop talking to me.”

Okay, so it seems like John is a special kind of asshat. But imagine now an almost identical conversation with just a couple of small changes: Continue reading

Why writers should call out other writers when they do poor work

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Earlier in the year, my stepmother was dragged into a PR nightmare when the founder and owner of a program for gifted children became the subject of an article in a major Australian newspaper. My stepmother is a licensee of the program and a teacher, taking it into primary schools and offering additional educational challenges for children who have been assessed as gifted. The owner had made the mistake of posting opinion pieces on the business’s website and a concerned parent, upon seeing the controversial posts, immediately contacted the newspaper wanting to have it exposed.

That concerned parent had a point. The posts weren’t just controversial and inappropriately featured on the business’s website, they were also completely unacceptable in the context of the program being offered in schools. However, instead of the journalist making these points in a balanced piece of reporting, she instead decided to target and ridicule the elderly owner of the program. Continue reading

Deciding Who or What Makes a Writer: Is It a Worthwhile Use of Our Writing Time?

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Recently in a writing forum, a poster asked the question, “Can saying ‘I’m a writer’ make you a writer? If so, is this a positive or negative trend in the context of preserving the art and craft of writing?” One witty response was, “Can saying ‘I’m a doctor’ make you a doctor?”

Of course, the answer is no. Just asserting the truth of something doesn’t make it true. In almost everything in life, it is our actions that prove who and what we are. Writers write, doctors study for a long time and then use that knowledge to help people get better. Even love, which is difficult to prove in the abstract, is almost always demonstrated in the small, everyday, practical tasks people in love undertake for each other.

So what are the small, everyday, practical tasks writers undertake that make them writers? Continue reading