Friday, September 17, 2010

Preparing for Things You Shouldn't Have to Prepare For

I've had something weighing on my mind recently. Some residual anger, I think, from things I told myself I would let go of.

The community of young adult writers, readers, and bloggers in which I currently find myself is extraordinary. The kindness and support that surrounds me is so constant that I sometimes forget about it, or take it for granted. But I am grateful for it, always.

There is a problem inherent in belonging to such a community, though, and it is this: it makes you forget that not everyone is that nice.

And believe me when I say: not everyone is that nice. And it's important to talk about this, because you have to prepare yourself. Even if you're just at the beginning of that querying journey and you don't think you will ever make it to publication-- prepare yourself. (Also, don't be so hard on yourself!) Even if you aren't a writer at all, this really has nothing to do with writing. It has everything to do with success and how the world works.


People might say unkind things on blogs or Twitter when they don't think you're watching.
They might attribute whatever success you've had to something other than the combination of talent, hard work, and good timing that it probably resulted from.
They might release information even when you told them not to, for their own gain.
They might use your name to their advantage without your permission.
And if you give them room to criticize, some of them will use that room to tear into you.

Not all of those things have happened to me. But I keep my eyes and ears open, and I know they've happened to other people. And also, some of them have happened to me. And it's at that point that my editor and my agent and my friends and my family begin to feel like bodyguards, protecting me from people who don't have my best interests in mind.

No matter how many great people you have looking out for you (and I have so many great people looking out for me), though, for some reason, it still hurts when you discover that some people have bad intentions. Most of us are at least trying to be kind, and generous, and authentic. And we persuade ourselves that if we're trying to be good people, no one will want to do bad things to us, but that isn't true. In fact, it kind of makes people more likely to do bad things to you. And that makes me angry.

I tried to figure out what to do with that anger, knowing that it isn't the last time I'll feel it, not by a long shot. And I think I have a system.

First I get pissed. No, seriously. When bad things happen, it doesn't do me any good to pretend they aren't bad, or not that bad. I try to call things like I see them. I don't think we get angry enough at the right things anymore.

And then I try really hard to forgive-- for many reasons, but also for the sake of my own heart. Sometimes people talk about forgiveness like it's this effortless process. "Just let it go." Like anger is something I'm holding in my fists and if I just stop clenching and chill out, everything will be peachy. And I think that's absolutely false. If you're doing it right, forgiving people feels terrible. Because really, what you're doing is taking in all the crappiness and refusing to retaliate, even when that's pretty much all you want to do.

It helps to remember that no matter what people do to you, they can't diminish you unless you let them. I hope that the next time something icky happens to me, I can resist the temptation to retaliate and instead, be as good as I can be. People say things like "take the high road" and "don't let them bring you down to their level" and we stop hearing them after awhile, because those phrases lose their meaning. But you probably have an idea of who you want to be. Don't let anyone derail you.

We should try to be wise. But, you'll misplace your trust, we all do. And when that happens? Bodyguards. I'm telling you. I've got them, and so do you. If you and I are friends, you have one in me.


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