Why I Don’t Lob Softballs

Ever see a link for something, get a flash of what you think the link’s content might be, then you go read the content and you’re not just disappointed, but downright angry at what you read?

Not because the content was controversial, but because it was absolutely less than you were expecting?

That just happened to me. And it’s prompted me to talk about something that you should know –

I don’t write a lot of fluff pieces, I don’t toss softballs, I don’t go light and gentle when it comes to writing advice, motivating writers, answering questions or otherwise working on craft and development.

And the reason is very simple: doing so at best does nothing and at worst is detrimental to a writer who needs actual practical advice and help, not a stack of GIFs like they’re on some Buzzfeed listicle.

It’s around this point that someone says, “Well doing the opposite of being gentle isn’t helpful either,” assuming that just because I won’t sugarcoat and waste your time I must therefore be mashing you and your work into a fine pulp. And no, this is not about swinging from one extreme to the other.

This is about knowing that a person who wants to handle rejection better or how to grow their audience or how to better frame a dialogue between two characters isn’t going to get a lot of help from a GIF from a recent Pixar film or television show.

What a softball like that conveys is not the ‘Aww, I’m sensitive‘, but rather ‘I don’t know how to address you and your problem in a specific way, and I’m not willing to try and make a reasoned response, so here’s a moving picture with the word YAAS imposed over it.’

There’s a downside to not writing milquetoast and benign posts, and I know it. I lose a lot of people who are used to a sea of advice that’s more pat-on-the-head than get-in-your-head, and I get called everything from abrasive to intense. For the most part, I’ve accepted this, and aside from occasionally rounding off a few edges and tailoring profanity more effectively, I haven’t changed.

Part of this business is hearing stuff you aren’t going to like be that rejections or bad reviews or criticism. Being aware and prepared for that experience, bursting whatever bubble and dismantling any echo chambers is critical for helping a creative take steps forward to being better and doing more and reaching whatever goal they have.

It’s worth asking if that three-second clip from Inside Out is really making you a better writer or if it’s just something to stare at while you spend time not addressing the problem, not improving, and not accepting the reality of what’s going on.

It’s worth asking if the advice that doesn’t push you just past your comfort zone, or doesn’t rattle a few of the things you took as firm is really the advice you want to keep absorbing.

A whole lot of people talk real big about wanting to be a writer, wanting to have a bigger and better career, wanting to do more than just write like it’s a hobby, and then they surround themselves with the well-intentioned but toothless content from tame inoffensive outlets, like forever trying to be not-a-boat-rocker is going to get you from creative point-A to point-B.

If you want to get better, the boat, your boat, all boats, need rocking. You need to step out of that comfort zone, disabusing yourself of horseshit fuckstick preconceptions and assumptions along the way. Yes, sometimes that even means being pulled and challenged out of the comfort zones that you cling to because there’s a fear keeping you belted down and held back.

The goal is to get you where you want to go, I keep coming back to that here, because this is something I’m passionate about. It’s my job. It’s what I love to do. And the route we take to get there is not always easy, and not always pretty and scenic, but it does get you there.

Is it worth it? I think so.

Posted by johnadamus

Leave a Reply