This week's lesson, for me anyway... is you can't please everyone.
I spend a lot of time - more than is healthy, I expect - thinking about not just what to write but why I am writing it. And one thing I know is, I write stuff that's bound to annoy people.
I don't write stuff to tell people what they want to hear; I'm a liberal (yes, really) who doesn't think every liberal is always right and every conservative is automatically wrong or bad. I write because the actual, literal, act of creating a written piece is some of the hardest, most satisfying work I ever do. I do it to try and keep getting better at it. And sometimes, when I share my ideas and views, I can reach other people, get them to think, discuss and challenge their own worldviews. And challenge mine.
What I write will not please everyone. And sometimes that's fine with me... and sometimes, it's depressing, frustrating, and challenging. I'm challenged to remember what I don't know, what I can't prove and that I can speak with an authority which isn't always earned. It's humbling... and I try to remain humble in the face of it.
This week has brought me back, in some ways, to basics, made me think about, and remember, what I'm doing and why I'm happy doing it. Writing makes me happy. Debating ideas, in a constructive atmosphere, makes me happy. Seeing the issues I care about get addressed in national politics, well, that makes me happy too. And on that last score... there's not much to be happy about, these days. And writing about that, I've found, isn't easy.
When my writing fails, when it fails to convince, or illuminate, or keep a constructive dialogue going, I've found it's probably got a lot do with not saying what I mean in the clearest way. Words matter - that's my love of writing, right there - and finding the right words is a constant challenge. I'd like to be clear, simple, direct. A lot of times, I'm wordy and indirect and complicated. And you may not believe this... but I'm way better than I used to be about all of that. My way of thinking, which seems logical to me, doesn't to others. I'm way better about remembering that now and laying out my thinking than I used to be... and still, sometimes I know I fail to get my logic, my reasoning, across.
Which, generally, gets me to go back and try to write better. And sometimes gets me to wrap myself in a comforter and watch all the episodes of Archer that I've recorded on DVR.
These are difficult times, times when a lot of people are frustrated and angry. I don't write angry; I don't do frustrated a lot, and cerainly not well. I try to figure out what's interesting, what's possible, what can possibly make things somewhat better... and focus on that. As I've been saying - a lot, lately - I don't prefer to go to extremes. I don't feel that I represent "the middle", but I do stand (okay, I'm sitting, but sometimes I get up) for the proposition that the things I want to see, as a lefty/liberal/progressivist, are only going to happen with some compromise (and some action). And so I ask... what's possible? What isn't? How can we live within that notion of the possible and accept that some things can change slowly and get better of time... and some may not?
And that, most of the time, is where I'm coming from... and what I write about.
I said all of that to say this: I may have left the impression that, looking at events and issues over the past couple of weeks, I'm happy about the shape and tenor of politics these days. I'm not happy - indeed, I don't think I've used "happy" or pleased" in a sentence I've written on this blog lately - about the way things are going. The things I want, the liberal ideas I favor, aren't being addressed, and a lot of programs I care about are being systematically dismantled or destroyed... or could be, maybe, in the future. I could write a lot of angry, bitter stuff about that - really, I could. I just don't.
What I write about - or at least try to write to - are the positive possibilities, and identifying the kinds of things that I think are needless distractions that can distract from getting the things we need to do - the things I want done - from getting done. Those distractions, and the uncomfortable realities we live with, don't make me happy, either. And I may give the impression, at times, that I don't just accept the status quo, but favor it. And I don't. I want change, I wish things could be different. Wishing will not make it so. And being angry or unhappy about the lack of change or the slow pace of change... is not a healthy thing. Not for me, and I think, not for anyone else.
I write because I love to write, because I think ideas matter, and because I think I have something to share. It makes me happy. And if it makes you happy - that's a great side benefit, too. If what I write doesn't please you, that's fine too. I love a good debate about ideas, I'm a happy contrarian and devil's advocate. But I'm not here to satisfy anyone's views but my own. And as much as I'm willing to listen to a good argument and be challenged to think differently, whether or not I eventually do that is up to me. Just as your mindset is up to you. Chances are... I'm not going to tell you what you want to hear... but hopefully, I'll tell it well. And if not, I'll try again, tomorrow, to do better. After I take off the comforter and turn off the DVR.