Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sometimes I Hate Writing!

By Cecily Markland

At times, I really don't like to write. Actually, let's tell it like it is, should we. There are times when I HATE writing. I know, I know, it's a strong word for the thing that I also love and that pays the bills and keeps a roof over my head, not to mention bringing me hours of pleasure and a TON of great associates. STILL, there really ARE times when I dislike it immensely.

I know, I know...just two weeks ago, my blog post was a postive--and maybe even preachy--declaration of my glowing feelings of responsibility and the rich reards that have blessed my life from writing.

But, that was then, before last week when The Beehive newspaper hit mailboxes and drop sites across Arizona. For those who may not know, I'm the editor of the Beehive, a newspaper that targets the Latter-day Saint community in Arizona and is published five times a year. In my position as editor, I followed Marsha Ward's excellent lead, as she had been the previous editor and, as a Beehive writer, I learned much from Marsha.

Since late 1998, when I took the reins as editor, I have written literally hundreds of articles for the Beehive and have read and edited many more that have been written by our pool of skilled writers. I've also written articles for other publications, including Mormon Times, Meridian Magazine and the Gilbert Independent newspaper. The vast majority of the time--read: more than 99.999999 percent of the time, I have loved writing for these other publications. Particularly where the Beehive is concerned, it gives me wonderful opportunities to hear about great things the Saints in Arizona are doing. I love writing articles about authors, musicians, artists and playwrights and others who are using their skills and talents to spread light and truth. I enjoy the interviews and hearing people's testimonies and stories about decades of unselfish service and sacrifice. This work helps me keep my writing and editing skills sharp and Iove being paid to do something I really do like doing.

Or, used to really like doing, I mean. That all came to a momentary screeching halt this past week when I came home to find a quite critical and obviously angry letter in my email inbox...and then another. These Beehive readers vehemently disagreed with one of the stories that ran in a recent issue. It was not even one of the stories I had written, but the criticism and anymosity were directed at me and "my" paper. In the few minutes it took to read the emails and to process things a little, my emotions ran the gamut from stunned to ashamed, from hurt to humiliated, and then to embarrassment and regret. It was devastating to read someone's harsh view of me and to see my character and credibility questioned right there in black and white. I felt physically ill for a few minutes; to think that these people really felt I would blatantly try to hurt someone else--or even condone it as an editor--was a real blow. My 12 years of confidence-building writing seemed to be shot down with just a few letters of opposition. I understood that these readers were angry at what the story may do to someone else, but they had little regard for what their cutting words were doing to me. And, they were doing it all based on incomplete facts and without a view of the entire picture.

So, I did what many writers would have done--I used words as weapons in return. Well, not really. Not how I would have liked to, anyway. I did vent in some pretty pointed emails, but I didn't send them back to the disgruntled readers. Instead, I sent them to the Beehive business manager and publishers and we passed several emails back and forth discussing how to handle the situation.

Yep. By that point, I was sort of hating writing. I can only compare it to the feeling I had when I ran over a small kitten in my driveway. I felt horrible. I would have given anything for it not to have happened, but it was, pure and simple, an accident. In both cases, it really wasn't anyone's fault and there was no way I could take it back. I couldn't restore life to that kitten, nor could I change what had already been printed and distributed. Slowly, though, as it had after the kitten incident, a measure of peace began to distil. I felt real compassion--and true empathy--for those who felt they had been wronged by the words of that story. And, with that, came another profound reminder --I saw again the reality of the fact that words really do have power! Words can be used to damage reputations, tear apart relationships and create caverns of misunderstanding. Indeed, as it has been said, words are more powerful than the sword. Yet, just as surely as they can destroy, words can inspire and enlighten, they can build and bless.

I suppose I don't really hate writing at all. The thing I hate is that I don't always get my writing just like I want it. I don't always pick the right word, or I fail to say some words like "thank you" often enough.

I'm thinking that the answer is twofold: Just get back in there and write more...and love more!

10 comments:

  1. Considering you wrote the bulk of the stories in this edition, I didn't have to scour many articles to try and find what offended those readers. Or rather, what supposedly might have offended them. And I really tried. If it was apparent, then I must be very desensitized to whatever it was and I wasn't fazed by "it." I thought your newspaper covered a broad range of topics and was well written. I know you don’t need me to tell you not to take it personally, but I know how words hurt, and I would be a hypocrite if I told you otherwise. But I also know that there are a few people (readers) who feel when they disagree with anything, even with something as simple as a quote, that they must let you know about it instead of just setting the paper down and going on to something else. These are the people who have the ulcer growing in their gut.

    You do a good job, Cecily. Let it go.

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  2. I think this happens at some point to everyone! I spent a year as a guest columnist for our local paper. It was during a time when some pharmacists were refusing to fill prescriptions for birth control in the South (I live in Texas). It reminded me of when a pharmacist refused to give me more than a week's worth of arthritis medicine at a time because I could possibly begin hoarding it and use it to perform abortions. So, he basically called me (in front of my 4 children) a closet abortionist! I asked him what it would take to get a month's worth, and he said a note from my doctor, and I told him a prescription WAS a note from my doctor. Anyway, I wrote the column, it was somewhat snarky, so the publishers sent it to the New York Times wire...got hate mail all the way from Florida! But they screened it for anthrax before it got to me, so it was OK.

    Hang in there, it'll be funny someday!

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  3. We get this at our trade publication Cecily. Just hang in there. My dad's fav expression applies this too shall pass away.

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  4. Big hug to you Cecily! I agree with the earlier comments. The way you felt (feel) shows how much you care. You are a phenomenal woman. Don't forget how much we all love you!

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  5. I think it's such a sad commentary that people so often jump to the conclusion that what someone says or has written is intended to hurt. I'd rather think more of someone than they deserve than less. Sorry for your sucky week.

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  6. Wow! I, too, didn't find any offensive articles, but that's my opinion, and nobody wrote about me. :-)

    So sorry you got this deluge of mean-spirited emails. I guess they could cancel their subscriptions to try to hurt you. After all, they pay how much to get this excellent newspaper?

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  7. Yikes. That is so sad. I hate to hear about stuff like that happening, it makes me sick to my stomach too, especially as a writer. I too, found nothing offenseive or out of line articles, so hopefully you will be able to just let it go. You are a great writer and woman.

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  8. It's amazing how many ways there are to misconstrue something that is based in fact. Based on assumptions, people take it places it was never meant to go. And we live in a culture of critique where the cleverly worded slam is a source of amusement, regardless of whether it's truthful or hurtful. Before we moved seven months ago from a place where we had lived for 33 years, I wrote a letter to the editor including the top ten activities we would remember that seemed to consume most people there; it was written simply as a way of reviewing our experience and waxing nostalgic to mark the occasion of our departure. I recognized people who had been kind to us and noted the people and activities we would miss. It was light-hearted, humorous, tongue in cheek, but tone sometimes doesn't translate well on the written page (or in cyberspace, and I have angry comments on my blog on another topic to prove it...). One of the comments to my letter to the editor was, "well, don't let the door hit you on the way out" – deliberately mean-spirited, and not the way I wanted to leave that town after 33 years. My consolation is that I moved to a place where I have been accepted immediately and feel more at home here than I did in the previous place. (Thank You, Lord)

    And by the way, regarding writing, attributed to Robert Louis Stevenson: "I hate to write, but I love to have written." My sentiments exactly.

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  9. Thank you ALL for your comments. I love that last quote, Pam. I read two things today that made this all seem sort of minor (and even made me laugh about it already!) One was an article about a mayor of a small Kentucky town who actually punched an editor in the face for printing something he didn't like. The other was great advice for all of us about dealing with reporters, I suppose! (Watch what you complain about!)It went like this: A journalist friend just told me a story that we can all learn from. While working on an article about spas, a spa owner invited her to have a complimentary massage, pedicure or whatever she wanted. The writer declined, politely. The owner emailed the magazine's editor, slamming the journalist for not accepting the free service and suggesting he reassign the story. The editor responded it was magazine policy for writers not to accept free services. But since the owner was so offended, he would happily remove that spa from the feature story - and all future stories in the magazine. The lesson? Think hard before complaining about a writer or producer.

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  10. I went and read all the articles by you. I could only see one thing someone could have objected to; but it was made by a person interviewed and a reader could tell he didn't mean anything mean by it. I could not see anything that anyone would object to let alone have hate mail about. There was nothing controversial. Everything was very much to highlight and honor the people the articles were about. If there was a misquote or mistake it is obvious it was innocent. Some people are determined to be offended no matter how much you try to please.

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