Comments with my morning coffee.
It’s barely six-thirty here in Eugene OR, where the sun’s early paintbrush has already gilded the St. John’s Wort in my driveway. By this time, being burdened with an internal alarm that pries me out of bed similing like some sick banshee around 3:30 am, I’ve already written at least two articles, gotten coffee’d up, done some yoga and weights.
And read comments from those worldwide, or those world-weary types in parts of the world where it’s already approaching 10 am.
I receive a lot of comments and feedback. My social media expert warned me that the more I wrote, the more followers, the more widely read, the more sewage dwellers would rise to the surface. No truer words, so for those of you Medium hopefuls who wanna believe that by gaining followers, it’s all sweetness and light, nope.
I’ve got nearly seven thousand followers on Linked In, about a thousand on Newsbreak (home of the constipated trolls), and approaching eight and a half thousand on Medium. That doesn’t count the folks who read my stuff and are not followers. Lotta people see my shit.
The croissants I savor in the morning when I respectfully read my feed so that I can respond to those kind enough to make comments on my work can be full of love and light or stuffed with shit. Like Forrest Gumps’ box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.
However, as with all feedback, it exists for us to sample, discard, ingest or toss it into the garbage heap.
That said. Two things arrived in the early light that I want to share, and some thoughts about how to receive them, as well as what they said about the person(s) making the comments.
First: in response to a comment about beauty standards for Black women by Allison Gaines, one commenter wrote:
Well why don’t you start up your own Mag. You can edit it how you exactly want. Then you can stop bleating.
Well, this is really mild by comparison to what I got from a Trumper the other day, but you see the point. Block. Delete.
Then there’s this from Hpickens:
I deeply appreciate your articles. Honesty. Eloquence. Perspective. Authenticity. Humor. And craft. Thank you for all you share.
Now look. I wrote M. Pickens back and said thank you for beginning my day so beautifully. But wait, there’s more.
And there’s this: I can wear both hats simultaneously, and understand that both are true. I can also choose to be very careful not to lean so hard into the second, complimentary comment that I lose sight of the fact that sometimes I rant, sometimes I am not careful with my writing, and I write shit.
To that, Cherry Soda, who is an older Millennial (her words) and a northern neighbor, and I had an exchange yesterday which perfectly expresses for me why our commenters are so valuable. She made a couple of observations about an article which she (accurately) pointed out that I was making age-related comments which were just as dismissive as someone else’s attacks on me as an older woman.
If you and I can’t hold such comments as potentially true, then go re-read our pieces with different eyes, we shouldn’t be writing in such public spaces. I made some appropriate changes to my piece, because she was right, and we went on to have a few more exchanges.
That is a fine use of comments, the way we grow, the way we use community.
To be fair, if someone has so much shit in their system that their FIRST outreach is to attack, I would argue that it isn’t worth your time. However, if you receive solid feedback, like I did from Cherry Soda, take the time to make some thoughtful observations, it strikes me that we need to first, honor the investment of their time. Hold that thought, explore our material with a new perspective, and ask whether or not it’s valid.
It often is. When home, I power out some two to three articles every single day. Some of them go off a cliff, and every so often Dear Reader will politely throw me a lifeline by pointing out that oh, by the way, how’s the scenery on the way down?
Dear Reader in this regard is priceless. They do not owe us lovely compliments every single time. And while I am deeply grateful for the grace I got -and continue to bask in for another three minutes- from HPickens, those readers who are kind enough to critique are the ones who truly pull me up by the bootstraps as a writer.
However. Don’t get me wrong. The kind comments, the supportive ones, are the ones which soothe the wounds that mentally anguished people inflict. I’ve done that myself, regrettably, which is one reason why I prefer to Block rather than engage a commenter whose personal pain is so severe they need to hurt folks they don’t know. That’s an epidemic. I don’t want summa dat on me, thankyouvery much.
The greater reasons why not:
- The more I engage with rage and hate, the more I head down the rabbit hole, the more likely I might well turn around and do the same thing to some other unsuspecting writer whose work annoyed me for no reason at all but that I needed to unleash my anger.
- Time vampires. You will change nobody. You can hand over your precious time or choose to walk the high road. I know where each one leads, and one of the paths bleeds you of life you can’t get back.
A kind reminder to so many: reader highlights ARE comments. I review them assiduously, for those are the signposts which indicate to me where I’ve said something profound (BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA) or touched a responsive chord. Highlights are the greatest teachers on Medium, for every single one is a conversation with Dear Reader telling you and me as writers “THIS. THIS is important to me.” Ignore them at your peril. After three plus years on this platform, my writing has improved considerably in part because I attend to comments and highlights. Those are our finest teachers.
Your comments, my comments, are windows on OUR souls, not the writers’. Like it or not, they speak far more directly to our own state of mind. I know how HPickens started their day, and how they started their day stirred my morning coffee with joy. I am immensely grateful, for such comments allow me to better navigate the inevitable trolls and naysayers that are drawn to my work.
Imagine being able to do that for others. That’s grace. That’s a gift. That’s personal power. And to finish this off, yet another gift.
I just received this in response to my thanks, and I warned HPickens I’d be stealing it. For if this does not underscore the immense responsibility and power you and I have and wield when we write, nothing else can:
Thank you for your kind response. May your day be filled with the deep, embodied knowing that you are making a difference in the lives of many through the power and truth of your words. Writing is such an ephemeral thing; for me, and for those who are close to me who practice the writer’s craft, the words we write, once they are out in the world, in the air, have their own trajectory. We don’t know how they ‘land’ with others, we wonder if our communication is understood, we lose all ‘control’ once the work is released into the world. It can be a challenging, difficult, vulnerable way to live, sharing your innermost thoughts and feelings and perceptions with an invisible crowd that you may never meet. So in the midst of all of this, you write with such courage, vulnerability, passion, and LIFE, sharing even the most difficult moments and experiences in service of readers who you will never meet. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
No. Thank YOU. I am crying as I write this. Because words like this heal a hurting planet. Words like this remind us that when we write, we can mend each other.
I hope with all the grace I’ve been offered this good long life that by highlighting and sharing the words of readers wiser than I am, and kind enough to share them with me, that you do what my dear beloved friend Rosenna Bakari, PhD:
Let your words be sweet and honey dipped. They will stick on someone’s heart.
I don’t always succeed. However I am reminded to keep trying. I hope you do, too.