Subtitle: My Negativity Will No Longer Be Tolerated
There are really only two things that press my buttons: one is being called too sensitive, the other is being called negative. As far as being sensitive, I actually consider the quality an asset to me as a writer because feeling and understanding emotion, whether for me personally or for others, gives me valuable insight into developing the characters for my stories.
Being accused of negativity, however, raises my hackles and arouses my inner Canadian. We are a nice people, and I am no exception. This happened to me recently and I found it very upsetting.
What happened was this: I belong to a fairly new local writers’ group who has a private group on Facebook. In a conversation thread, I called the owner of local book store “stubborn.” I later learned that one of the founders of the group, I’ll call her Martha, removed the post stating that if my opinion were ever to get back to the bookstore owner, it would be “destructive” to the good reputation of the other members of the group.
When I found out I’d caused such a stir, I felt terrible and tried to ask for forgiveness. Unfortunately my apologies went on deaf ears- I was out- putting me in defense mode and making me feel very sensitive. I was caught in a loop.
Martha’s notice didn’t do me any favours. My husband has stage four cancer and I’m having trouble coping with the stress, thinking emotionally instead of logically. In my panic, I had seriously considered that she might be correct and I had done something terribly wrong. Martha’s notice truly intensified my suffering, and I shed some tears. I like Martha, and to be so called out made me feel absolutely awful.
After the dust settled, as I like to learn from my mistakes, I looked at my comment again. While Martha had erased it from the writers’ group, it still existed in my feed. I read it over and over, analysing the so-called “destructibility” of my offense. True, calling someone stubborn isn’t flattering, but the man in question in fact prized this aspect of himself, something he himself once told me. He didn’t give a flip (use the expletive) if people didn’t like his attitude.
I surmised that if he’d seen my comment, it would neither destroy his reputation, lose him business, nor make him take our consigned books off his shelf—selling books is how he makes his living! Local authors also do book signings at his store, which gives him notoriety.
My comment not withstanding, I also advocate for him, frequently posting endorsements about his store and encouraging people to buy their books there, a courtesy on my part that I do because I believe in what we are all doing and that supporting local business is always best. The proprietor of the shop isn’t even on Facebook and can not see what is written about him to be either affronted or thankful.
I’m truly saddened when someone takes issue with my opinion. It is never my intent to offend. My preference is to discuss it, work it out. In a pinch, I’ll take the high road and apologize leaving the matter to be forgotten.
Later on, I reconsidered the situation. I’d offered an opinion, which was my right. Was that actually something worthy of such a severe action? In the thread, we were discussing a suggestion I had made which Flora (not her real name and Martha’s collaborator) objected to. Martha and Flora had responded to my suggestion negatively under the auspices of keeping things “positive,” whereas my suggestion, which was designed to take action, which in and of itself is positive, was viewed as negative because I used an adjective both people decided was not positive. Confused? Me too.
I had been censored, but it seems to me that we rely on writers precisely because they offer up suggestions and voice opinions with a mind toward moving forward and inciting change. And if that is so, then doing such a thing in the company of other writers, particularly those who gather with the express desire to engage in the act and process of writing together, ought to be allowed.
That’s when I realized there was more to this story than the utterance of an adjective that was perceived to be negative.
It was about power. The women were asserting that their mode of communication was the overarching style with which the group needed to comply in order to remain in the group. In a writing group, to be told what to say and that my opinion was not permitted made me question the leadership of the group.
Fortunately having understood what truly was at stake with this whole affair, I gained enough clarity to leave them to their business. Being censored and removed for having an opinion meant this was not a literary organization that valued the true tenants of what literature is for: exploring ideas and possibilities in the human condition and being at least receptive to all stripes of both communication and the engines that generate that communication.
I personally value and welcome debate and argument, free expression being the king pin. I believe that is what creativity and good writing are all about. It is only when everyone’s voice is heard and valued that progress and growth are accomplished.
In way I am grateful to Martha and Flora who through their censorship have given me the opportunity to be a better writer. I write every day and do so knowing it’s my choice what to say, think, and express. In such a freedom, there is growth for everyone.