We all have a lot of feelings lately, don't we? It's the year of feelings and shouting them on every social media outlet. And admittedly, I've got a lot of feelings, too. I always have--I am, after all, an INFJ. In addition to being a person who feels all the feels, I also think...a lot. I tend to get "lost in my mind," (any fans of The Head and The Heart?!?). Since I've inserted myself into the world of freelance writing, though, I've thought a lot about slowing down and its necessity in our culture today. Not only is it important to slow down the frantic pace of life Americans have adopted, but it's important to slow down our mouths and typing fingers, too.
Aaron Burr's character in Hamilton, encourages the young Alexander Hamilton to "talk less, smile more." I'm taking his words a bit out of context here because Burr was all about keeping his ideas inside his mind while Hamilton was quite the opposite. I don't think we should silence our opinions, but I do think we should talk less and listen more. I'm learning this value is preventing me from really making it in the freelance world.
|This guy is clearly shouting.|
A lot of the websites I've written for have begun running trending pieces, which basically means when you see a story on social media that is going viral, you rewrite that piece to either present it from a new angle or simply re-report on the story. Trending pieces trend for a reason: People like them. These trending pieces bring in a lot of clicks and likes and views and followers, which all translate to more dolla-dolla bills. I understand the business side of this, but I just can't get on board with writing trending pieces (I'd be a terrible business person!).
I've written culturally, socially, and politically relevant pieces before, but these are the pieces that take me the most time to write. I mull and revise and research and revise and mull some more. Then I torture my husband by having him read EVERY revision. I bombard him with a thousand questions: Do I come across too strong here? Am I alienating anyone? Do I contradict scripture here? Are you sure? How does this word sound? How about THIS word? If I put a semi-colon here, does that change the meaning? Are you sure? I identify the implications of these pieces. I revise more. It may be hours, days, or weeks before I hit "publish" on these pieces (and many others). It's exhausting. I don't have the energy or the spontaneity to write trending pieces.
I also have some ethical problems with writing trending pieces. A few months ago, I came across an article on Scary Mommy that featured an incident that happened at a school my husband and I taught at. I sent the article to one of my best friends who still teaches there, "Have you read this?" I asked.
As I scrolled through my social media feed in the next 24 hours, I saw this story covered by several LARGE websites and news media outlets. All of the stories called this incident a malicious act of bullying. The number of interactions these articles all received was astounding. But as the week went on, I began to hear from my former colleagues about the real story behind this incident. Most of the websites reporting on this incident got it all wrong. The incident wasn't an act of bullying; it was a theft. Two very different acts. All of these articles and the comments they provoked tore apart my former school, its teachers, students, and administration. Trending pieces require a quick turnaround time that may end up in irresponsible reporting. These kinds of pieces are meant to evoke an emotional response in readers, which works in 2016, the year of feelings, but the consequences of these pieces can be detrimental.
When our words are motivated by our feelings, we tend to abandon logic. There was a time in my life when I shot off at the mouth pretty quickly (ages 13-23!). I said a lot of dumb, insensitive things in those ten years. The older I get, though, the more I learn to slow down, to pause before speaking, to listen (in addition to acquiring more gray hair and becoming a bit softer around the midsection!). 2016 might be the year for shouting our feelings from the proverbial rooftop; hopefully 2017 will be the year of listening. Let's try and do our part to make that happen.