Thursday, June 25, 2015

Hanging It Out

Today's draw of a TAROT CARD brings to mind something my friend J has been saying about not drawing attention to your flaws or weaknesses. She has been attending a Toastmasters group and picking up pointers about how to present oneself and get one's message across.

While they have been telling her not to point out possible drawbacks in her own presentations, my card today advises not to waste energy trying to hide them.

A couple months ago I wrote an editorial about the inevitable errors and oversights made in publishing a newspaper. So many words go past your desk that by the end of a day, you're seeing what isn't there. It doesn't matter how capable you are, how fussy, even how intelligent; mistakes will be made, they'll be in print for all to see, and you'd better get over it and get on with the next task. I wrote that when I began working at the paper, I was a bit hoity-toity about sloppiness in published productions, but before long I came to understand that we are all probably as bad as each other. Shit happens.

Under the oak trees

I was surprised to hear how different readers interpreted it.
One thought I was apologizing for imperfections. I sure as hell wasn't. I was saying they're inevitable, period.
One thought the editorial was too personal; I should write about more important subjects, like politics. (When I know something about politics, maybe I will. What I do know about? Published typos and other errors that make me grit my teeth and struggle to maintain my healthy self-esteem.)
Another thought the piece was a bit too long.
We don't get a lot of feedback on anything we put into the paper, but one reader responded that she understood what I was talking about and that we do pretty well as far as she is concerned.

For the benefit of new readers, HERE'S THE ARTICLE. Originally I wrote it for this blog, then thought it might fit well on the editorials page, where we sadly lack input from local readers (and writers).

Where I agree with the Toastmasters: when you're trying to make a point, focus on that point. Don't be self-effacing; don't say "It's only my opinion" and "I think." It's already obvious that it's your opinion and you're saying what you think.

Where I disagree: I believe it's okay to admit you aren't perfect, that you're nervous and uncertain. A little humanity goes a long way with your listeners, who can relate to you more easily when they can see that you are more like them than not. Don't work too hard to present a polished image; let your human self show. Maybe this isn't the best approach on a speaking stage, but in life? It's the only way to go.

In the oak trees.


  1. Beautiful flowers and picture of the bird. Wondering what kind of camera you're using..... And geez! Does a newspaper ever get positive feedback? There's a lot of work in putting a paper out every week as my daughter, the editor of the Rat Creek Press in Edmonton has told me and shown me. People who work on a paper don't get enough positive feedback in my opinion.

  2. It's a little Fujifilm digital camera that Scott picked up for me when I wanted something small and easy to carry. It's at least three years old now and has been dropped several times but is still doing its thing.

    Most of our positive feedback comes from subscribers from a distance; when they call to renew, they usually tell us how much they like the paper, and sometimes what their favourite parts of it are.

    When we do get feedback closer to home, it's often along the lines of what there is too much of and what there is too little of. Too much from one town; not enough from the same town; that kind of thing. Too many pictures. Too many schoolkids. Just ... people's different tastes.

    I'll check out the Rat Creek Press online!

  3. It seems to me that people may have given you feedback about your article because they liked the idea of connecting with you. That everyone interpreted it differently is not surprising.

    1. It's not surprising that everyone interpreted it differently; that's not unusual. But the feedback that took the article as an apology or maybe excuse-making did surprise me, as that had not crossed my mind when I wrote the piece. I guess it's no different than writing a fictional novel just to tell an entertaining story, and then having readers ascribe themes to it that you hadn't purposely put there. Or writing a song and having listeners hear things in it that you wouldn't have thought of in a million years. It's not surprising ... yet it is.


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