When Not Caring Is Good

Me being silly. What the heck was I talking about anyhow?
Me being silly. What the heck was I talking about anyhow?

This morning I chanced on a blog post by a fellow mystery writer, Jess Lourey. In her post, she discusses being herself out here on the Internet, which is to say letting go of the fear of what others think of us.

We fear alienating people and getting harassed for not being polite and nicey-nice. As writers, we fear losing readership or at least not gaining more readers. We fear that in being ourselves, we may offend some folks, who may then rip us apart in their Amazon or Goodreads reviews.

We fear not being liked. We fear being found wanting of whatever virtues others hold most dear.

I’ve met Jess, and she’s nice as can be, and (not but, and) as she says on her blog post, she’s also inappropriate, foul-mouthed, and raunchy. I identified with this because I am too. I can also be blunt and confrontational. I can be snarky. I have a warped sense of humor–even sometimes scatological or macabre. I’m not particularly grossed out by stuff, so when I joke around about my dog eating my cat’s vomit, I’m not likely to think people will be disgusted and think ill of me for wondering if there are still nutrients in the vomit …

(Seriously, are there nutrients when the cat just ate not five minutes previously? My dog hasn’t gotten ill yet. And for Christ’s sake — she nibbles on kitty rocca from the litter box. She must be getting something out of it. Right?)

Last week I had a revelation. I was on my way to Entitled: A Reading, which I mentioned on this post. It was quite the cool art show/reading event with seven of us writers reading flash fiction pieces. I’d written a short story called Cinema Verite (which should have accent marks, but I don’t know how to do that in WordPress).

On the ride over to the reading, my friend Cindy Brown asked me if I was ready or how I was feeling, something like that, because she knows I’m not a public speaker. My answer surprised even me: Oh, I don’t care. She said, “What? You don’t care?”

The revelation is this: I meant “I don’t care” in the best way ever. I didn’t care if people liked my story, and I didn’t care if I stumbled over words here and there. I didn’t care how I came off or how my piece compared to the other pieces.

And I felt SOOOOOO liberated. I was only a little nervous, nothing too bad, rather than on the verge of stage fright. The reading went well. I would say I even had fun while I was up there. I made eye contact with the crowd and all that good stuff.

The thing about being out here as ourselves is that we’re likely to encounter flack now and then. Someone may willfully misinterpret us, or project false images onto us and then get disappointed, or look for ways to be offended (especially those righteously PC types).

We can spend our lives jumping through other people’s hoops, or we can be our authentic selves. The older I get the more intolerable the first option has become.

All this is to say that I liked Jess’s blog post today; she was my hero for the day.


5 thoughts on “When Not Caring Is Good

  1. With bands, there are generally three stages. Young bands freeze up and make faces when they goof up. Then they learn not to react when they make mistakes, charging ahead no matter what’s going wrong. Mature bands just make a joke out of it and move on.

    Public speaking is much the same.

    “We fear alienating people and getting harassed for not being polite and nicey-nice. As writers, we fear losing readership or at least not gaining more readers.”

    Because the great writers of the past were all so charming and considerate. 🙂

    It’s the same mistake that writers make when they think all their characters need to be “likable.” Sherlock Holmes is (by far) the most consistently popular fictional character in the English language over the last 100+ years. He was not likable. He had no friends outside of Watson, and even Watson got sick of him sometimes.

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