Stop the presses! it’s another FWR blog post! This one will be short and (mostly) sweet, I promise.
People ask me for advice sometimes. It’s crazy, right? I don’t think of myself as terribly advice worthy but it happens! Recently, I’ve been getting more questions about losing weight but I’ve also gotten questions about writing or resumes or having sweet, sweet heavy metal hair. Anyway, when I’m asked, I am always happy to offer feedback, encouragement, or guidance. It will be sincere and honest and based on my personal experience and it may be completely worthless. That’s okay! It doesn’t hurt my feelings if you don’t do what I suggest! There are three things though, dear readers, that I ask you to try to do when seeking advice not just from me but from anyone. These three things can be tough and I slip up on them all the time but I think it’s worth trying.
Don’t Argue With Me.
I was a jerky know-it-all when I was younger. Regardless of what anyone had to say I had the hubris and book learnin’ to refute it with passionate and often rude intensity. This most frequently came up when I asked people to read my writing or the topic of diet and exercise came up. Both were– and remain– deeply emotional and personal topics. I would argue with my friends and peers to the point where it could bruise the relationship. I offended some people I respected because I couldn’t listen to them without needing to be right. And I still struggle with it! I get notes back on a new piece of work and sometimes I want to scream and stomp around like a petulant teenage punk muttering how no one gets it like I get it. The thing is, with writing and weight loss and life, I’m always most sensitive about the things that I’m insecure about. I struggle to be as confident as I need to be sometimes and it’s in my own crippling personal doubt that the petulant teenage punk waits, ready to storm out and try to protect me with my most effective defense mechanism; the argument. I’m wise enough now to understand that rationally, though emotionally I’m sometimes still powerless to it.
So it’s with that preamble and with utmost understanding and empathy that I implore you not to argue with me or anyone else when they offer you the courtesy of their point of view or summation of experience. If you ask the best way to lose weight and I say “eating well and exercise works for me” it’s not useful for either of us for you to say “yeah, but these 728 articles say that’s not possible and 1600% of everyone that’s ever done that has gained 200 pounds and died and my aunt Sheila only ate clovers and drank 7 liters of olive oil a day HOW ABOUT THAT YOU FUCKING LIAR?!?!?!” Just get out of here with that nonsense. If you want to learn anything from anyone you need to listen and understand what they say even if you don’t agree with them and just because you don’t agree with someone doesn’t mean you need to argue about it. These are basic concepts I could swear we all learned from picture books or Disney movies right? I know we have the Internet now and that’s really upended things but c’mon. Try to argue less in 2019. It’s a huge time sink and it’s a distraction. Discuss and explore and follow-up and engage- but don’t argue. And obviously, punch Nazis and believe women but don’t argue about it on Facebook. Everyone’s got better things to do.
Don’t Waste My Time.
This second guideline is maybe more curmudgeonly and self-serving but it’s no less critical. Want me to read your short story? Will do! But you should probably read it first and make sure it’s not full of plot and spelling and other obvious and simple errors. Want to ask me about food recipes? Cool! But you should probably be comfortable with some basic terminology or know how to Google things. I could write a million examples from my day job but I think you get the point. I’m the tyrant that rejected short fiction and poems for literary journals because the writer ignored the submission guidelines. I’m the guy that tossed your resume in the trash because it was unprofessional and looked sloppy. I do these things because my time is valuable. So is yours! I make mistakes. We all make mistakes. That’s okay! In fact I’m confident some argumentative fellow who ignored this post up to now could spot some typos and “well, actually…” me about this very blog. It’s not about perfection. It’s about respect. If you ask me for feedback or advice, please do a reasonable amount of due diligence. Think things through a little bit. Acknowledge and appreciate the investment I’m making– that anyone is making– in you. If you’re terrified that I’m going to bark at you for wasting my time, first, I’m more of a wagger than a barker, and second, just put on your empathy hat. Count to 16 or something and ask yourself if you’re going forward with good faith and that’s probably good enough.
Just Say Thank You.
When I was 17 I had a mentor named Brian, a great but occasionally scatter-brained guy that was old enough to be my father. He was returning to college the same I was starting and had all these crazy stories about being a pastor and brokering truces with gangs. Sometimes Brian would offer me compliments about something and I would minimize or argue that I didn’t deserve them because I was a Very Serious Tim Burton Boy and Brian gave me the absolute greatest advice; “just say thank you.” I took this to heart for compliments but it took me a lot longer to embrace it for criticism. Now, if someone gives me unexpectedly bad notes on something the best way to get my petulant teenage punk in check is to start by thanking the note giver for their time. Maybe I’m old-fashioned but a little bit of a gratitude goes a very long way. If you ask for advice and I give it to you, the FWR guide to etiquette says you should probably reply with something like “hey, thanks buddy!” Just try it! It’s a magical life hack. Thanking someone helps you to recognize and value their time and investment and it can ease some conversational tension. I swear by it. Thank people more in 2019, you guys! It’s the magic currency that keeps polite society functioning!