My New Rule

I’m posting this here for my own benefit. You are free to take, leave, or modify this rule as you see fit, but this is how I want to live.

The proper response to a book or short story* is not a blog post about the injustice of the book or story’s existence or why it is just so WRONG WRONG WRONG, but to write another book or story addressing the very issues bothering you.

If it’s a story that makes you angry then write a story fueled by that anger. If you think the author glossed over important details, then by all means create something that widens the scope or changes the perspective. If the story reduces the argument to simplistic terms, then write a story that forces the work back to address a wider spectrum.

Don’t write an angry blog post. Don’t leave a comment. Don’t rattle a saber because you like the way it sounds. Don’t put a chip on your shoulder just to have one there.

Yes. It may be difficult to place that story. It may run counter to prevailing tastes or whatever clique happens to be dictating what’s in fashion these days. Don’t let this stop you. Write the story anyway. Write it with that passion that your words need to be said. Write it like you would that blog post.

But write the story. Articulate your position in prose. And if you decide to post the story online, then make it your blog post.

The best reaction to a thing you disagree with is not a defensive reaction but to create another, better, thing. Explore the initial position, attack it, subvert it, twist it to your own ends, but make something new.

Let the emotion fuel better work, not add to the online noise.

* I’m keeping it limited to fiction because it takes a lot of time and money to make a movie/TV show, and if it’s a comment online that’s making you angry, well, take a deep breath, take a step back, maybe see if you need to clean out the hair-trap in your shower, walk the dog, do the dishes, go to a different webpage, because it’s an online comment and all you need to shoot one of those into the ether is a lizard brain and a twitchy finger hovering near the return key.

Make something new.

Make something better.

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9 responses to “My New Rule”

  1. ljl says :

    So, “act upon your reaction” would in short what you are saying? 🙂

    • Justin says :

      I’m lousy at making aphorisms but if I had to make one it might sound like the classic, “Don’t react. Act.”

  2. J. Spinazzola says :

    Love this post, Justin. What the world needs, whether in fiction or politics or whatever, is not facile complaints, but creative alternatives. Got an issue with something? Show us the alternative. As you’ve done here.

    • Justin says :

      Thanks, Jeff, though I doubt this would make good political strategy. Exposing WRONG as loudly as possible is often justified, necessary, and the only recourse one has when the power structure is imbalanced.
      May I live up to my own words.

  3. Amy Sundberg says :

    Yes! I love this idea. It can be a real motivator, plus it limits the amount of negativity being spewed into the world.

    • Justin says :

      Trust me, I love negativity! 🙂 But I’d rather have creative focused negativity than vague background noise negativity. Let the negativity be your inspiration.

  4. J. Spinazzola says :

    Short of a true moral wrong, and much in life falls in the gray, I’d say your idea is the preferred approach for its ability to foster creativity and, as Amy pointed out, to reduce artless negativity.

  5. J. Spinazzola says :

    Otherwise the shouting matches tend to become ends to themselves, only preserving power imbalances. But that’s enough political drift. We have a hard enough time agreeing on fiction, and I think we’re finally making progress.

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