Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Sweater and boots weather?

I have to remember that I am not always right. Rather, I need to remember that while I know full well I am not always right I might not make that obvious to those around me. And believe me when I say I am well aware I'm flawed and am incredibly capable of making mistakes and being wrong. Sometimes my mistakes hurt people. Sometimes they piss people off. And sometimes they're just annoying. And for the longest time I couldn't figure out why anyone would react any of those ways to anything I did. I'm forthright about my limitations! Or at least I thought I was.

The fact is that after having some sort of public voice -- in various media -- for so long I sometimes forget that people don't actually know me for the most part. And much of my writing is based on my perceptions of things and how they fit into a particular art form and the world at large so it's easy (and aside from interviews I've given or actual conversations you might have had with me or the rare piece of writing that addresses this directly) to think that I believe I am always right. I'm not. I do believe deeply that in some things, primarily music, I am right far more often than I'm wrong but I'm also not so completely clueless as to think that's going to convince this fan or that their favorite act is no longer their favorite. Nor should it.

Here's where it gets tricky. I write about many things in a way that could be described as "sure of itself." And that is because in that moment I am sure of myself. But I'm always open to reasonable argument. In person you will find me the kind of person who spends as much time listening to your point as he does arguing his own. I admit even then sometimes that might not be obvious since I tend to process things rather quickly. And sometimes I completely skip the step of validating another person's argument since I already agree with it and then can't figure out why they think I didn't pay attention to them or am still disagreeing with them. But it's not unheard of to actually hear me admit another person's viewpoint is an excellent one that I had perhaps not fully considered. This is easier online, for when I encounter folks that would like to argue reasonably I will take the time to correspond with those that actually want to talk about why they disagree with me and not simply hurl names this way and that. This correspondence makes it necessary to plainly state when I accept a certain point or validate a stance that differs from my own.

So does this mean that I will stop writing in a way that is "sure of itself?" Hell no. In my critical writing I'm not going to fall prey to watering down where I stand about something just because I want to save someone's feelings.* What it DOES mean is that in my day-to-day life I want to make sure -- and this extends through every relationship I have both personally and professionally -- that people know I am listening to them and that just because I seem certain about something doesn't mean I won't listen to, and readily incorporate their thoughts and ideas and feelings.

The funny thing is that none of this changes who I am. It's more getting people to realize I am not who they think I am. And that is as much my responsibility, if not more so, than anyone else's.

*One of my music writers recently got a rather hostile email from one of their idols that was triggered by something they wrote and it caused them great distress. My response was, "Welcome to writing about music. It happens. You can't have a critical viewpoint and never piss anyone off. At least not if you're going to write well about music."


Allison Angell said...

Was that meant as a humblebrag? I spotted at least three in this post! Amusing.

Tankboy said...

Auuuugh! I can't win!