I think I am using this platform wrong. Am I tilting at windmills by writing responses on stories looking for more discussion from the author or other commenters? Is this not a place for discussion? Are pieces of writing on here meant to be taken at face value only? If you have something to say in…
Charlotte, you asked for answers, so here goes.
Look at the typical story to which you respond — someone who writes about deeply personal issues. Think about the person who wrote the story. Why did they write it? Are they really asking for something? Who would they trust or respect?
In my opinion, the vast majority of these stories (even if they ask questions in the text) are a form of confession and anonymous group therapy.
Now think about how people might respond to the writer. Can you see a difference between the following two forms of response?
- Preaching, self-help platitudes, playing psychologist, or giving advice that you wish you had followed
- “I feel your pain because I experienced the same thing (personal story with some connection to the original post)”
Reponse type #1 is not looking for discussion; nor will people respond if they don’t feel you are empathetic.
Response type #2 is an honest attempt to make a personal connection, so, depending on the mental condition of the story’s author, you may get some responses or have a discussion.
As I wrote in an article,
…being the blogger generation, we just like to spew out whatever is on our minds, as if we were the first to think about it. Worse yet, we think the problem just started because it happened to come to our attention at that particular moment.
The person with problems had the problems before you read their article and will be dealing with their problems long after they read or ignore your response. If your goal is to change another person by telling them to wake up, or giving them “tough love,” you will fail 99.99% of the time (I won’t rule out the possibility it could work once). But it’s like the old story about teaching a pig to sing — it’s a waste of time and it annoys the pig.
You should read a lot more stories by the compassionate community of Medium: Jules, Tremaine L. Loadholt, Sherry Caris, A McEnnis, and others. You’ll see how they write, how they respond and what it means to have a discussion.
The rest of us, myself included, respond to problems we see in other people in separate stories that deal with the issues in a more general, fictional and humorous way, usually laced with a healthy amount of self-deprecating humor.
For example, I read a story by one person about self-help articles. It was a boring, angry, and oft-repeated rant with a click-bait title that I bit on. I was so mad at wasting my time (and at how many likes the story received), I started to write a sarcastic response in which I pretended to be a therapist helping the writer to work through his anger and narcissism. Fortunately, I was too tired and forgot to publish the piece.
The next morning, when I reread the story with fresh eyes, I was horrified at the idea of personally calling out the writer, when he was just one of hundreds who had done exactly the same thing. I reworked the tone, made it more general, and added my own experience where I had done the exact same thing. The result was one of my most popular pieces, one where the editor of Coffeelicious asked if I would submit the article to their publication. Here is the article. It may help you see the difference in style:
An open letter to the open letters by self-help, life-hack and tech-bro haters
A PRIMER ON NARCISSISM, ANGER AND PROJECTION
(BTW, if you want to gain traction as a writer, try submitting your original stories to one of Medium’s many publications. Just do searches for the subjects that interest you and you will probably find a publication that fits you.)
My last point is related to the bolded statement above that I made about the person who ranted, who was “just one of hundreds who had done exactly the same thing.”
This works both ways, Charlotte.
Not only did the person ranting say the same thing as hundreds of other, but my rant about him ranting has been written by many others in the past, only with greater humor and more perceptively.
In the last hundred and fifty years, we have seen breakthroughs in understanding the human existence by Freud, Jung, Adler, Maslow, and a ton of other social scientists, like my personal favorites, M.Scott Peck, Deborah Tannen, and John Gottman. It’s kind of a joke for any of us to state that we have “offbeat views and nontraditional perspectives.” They may be different from the large majority of the population, but our views are shaped by the great minds that came before us, so there is still a large group of people who share your attitudes.
It has been my experience (as well as that of Jennifer Brown, who also responded to you, and many others) if you want a discussion, you’re going to have to find your community and you need to redefine what it means to look for more discussion and get people thinking.
End of rant on ranting.