The other night Shaun and I imbibed some alcohol and I declared that to not have a who-gives-a-swear-word attitude is to be compliant.
This made Shaun really happy.
I said it because I was talking about authors and politics and being afraid to say what you think because you are afraid of backlash. I’ve been listening to a lot of entrepreneurs and marketers who all preach putting your authentic self out there so that your group of supporters are supporting the real you, not some fake, shadow version that’s trying to appeal to everyone.
Shaun said “Google authors who struggled and said, ‘F-it, did a 360, and found success.”
This was hard to do, actually. There was no nice search results for that. But one thing it brought up was the infamous book called, “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*&k.”
“Chances are you know somebody in your life who, at one time or another, did not give a f- and went on to accomplish amazing feats. Perhaps there was a time in your life where you simply did not give a f- and excelled to some extraordinary heights. I know for myself, quitting my day job in finance after only six weeks and telling my boss that I was going to start selling dating advice online ranks pretty high up there in my own “didn’t give a f-” hall of fame. Same with deciding to sell most of my possessions and move to South America. F-s given? None. Just went and did it.”
There’s a lot of stupid minutiae that we go around giving too many f’s about daily, isn’t there? And that? It drains are energy for the things that are important to care about.
Manson goes on and says, “Indeed, the ability to reserve our f-s for only the most f-worthy of situations would surely make life a hell of a lot easier. Failure would be less terrifying. Rejection less painful. Unpleasant necessities more pleasant and the unsavory s-word sandwiches a little bit more savory. I mean, if we could only give a few less f-s, or a few more consciously-directed f-s, then life would feel pretty f-ing easy.”
There are a lot of super famous authors who struggled for a bit before hitting success. Toni Morrison. Stephen King. Raymond Chandler. Margaret Atwood. Frank McCourt. Madeleine L’Engle, a much lauded children’s book author, almost stopped writing after getting a rejection on her fortieth birthday.
She is quoted as saying, “I had to write … If I never had another book published, and it was very clear to me that this was a real possibility, I still had to go on writing,” she claimed.
Her book, A Wrinkle in Time was rejected twenty-six times and then was a smash hit, winning the John Newbury Medal.
She stopped giving a f about it being a waste of time, feeling guilty that she wasn’t financially contributing, and did it.
Or think of someone who isn’t a writer-writer. Jay-Z tried to get a record deal from everyone in 1995. No company would sign him. He didn’t let their lack of vision or support define him. No. Instead, he didn’t give a f- about what they said and made his own record company. Then the same thing happened as he tried to make a distribution deal. He also allegedly stabbed someone at a record release party, so that might be taking the not giving a f a little too far, but seriously? The guy has done so much and become such an influence.
Still though, no stabbing.
So, how about you? What’s holding you back? What are you wasting your energy on?
Writing Tip of the Pod
What would you write if you did not give a f- about whatever is holding you back?
Dog Tip for Life
Embrace who you are and don’t give a f- about what other dogs think of you. They don’t know your story. You get to be you.
The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song? It’s “Night Owl” by Broke For Free.
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Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness on the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast and our new LOVING THE STRANGE podcast.
Thanks so much for being one of the 257,000 downloads if you’ve given us a listen!
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When my super cool daughter Em, was in sixth or seventh grade she was in the newspaper for doing this logrolling day with Timber Tina at the Great Maine Lumberjack Show.
This place is where she studied logrolling all summer and is where she battled seven boys, trying to knock them off logs by fancy footwork and all that. Timber Tina (she was on Survivorfor one show and then went back for a reunion show, too and is amaze-balls)is a professional world-class lumber jill. The log rolling day was in honor of her son Charlie, this absolutely amazing guy who died that same summer. He was really young, still in his teens.
The picture was hilarious because of the boys in the background staring after she’s knocked off one of their own.
That night the issue came out, Em plopped on her bed, nuzzled under the covers and said, “I can’t believe I’m in the paper.”
I smiled. “It’s great. You should be proud.”
She hugged her stuffed kitty (appropriately named Kitty Kitty) to her chest. “I bet I’m the only cheerleading logroller.”
“At least in Ellsworth, Maine,” I added. “And don’t forget you’re also a stunt girl.”
She as named Stunt Girl at a Stunt Camp in California. It’s this big stunt camp honor. The stunt camp was all about jumping off buildings and stuff. All of this mattered because when people looked at Em, they didn’t think Brave Girl or Logrolling Girl or Stunt Girl. They tended to think Smart Girl, Brilliant Girl, Very Polite Girl, Artistic Girl, Pretty Girl.
“Aren’t you going to tell me I defy stereotypes?” she asked that night, holding out her arms for a hug.
I hugged her back. “You already know.”
Why This Matters And Isn’t Just A Braggy Mom Post
And as I remember all this, thanks to some pretty good written records, I’m sort of struck by how brave Em has always been to defy the expectations of what people think small, brainy, artistic girls are going to be doing. She was a cheerleader and a log roller. She jumped off buildings. She got into Harvard and Dartmouth all on her own. No mommys and daddys buying buildings here folks. She was a field artillery officer in the Army. She studied Krav Maga in Israel, volunteered in Costa Rica, studied film for a tiny bit in high school in New York all by herself. All these random things. How cool is that?
It’s pretty damn cool.
Somehow Em usually never lets other people’s expectations define her.
I wish that we could all be that brave, that we could have the opportunity and empowerment to be that brave, that we could all become who we want to become, define ourselves instead of others or society defining us. How shiny the world would be then, wouldn’t it?
A LOT OF IT COMES FROM YOUR FAMILY
In my family, my sister was the good one. Another sibling was the handsome, successful one. I was the quirky smart one. Another sibling was the angry one.
Those labels are who we were expected to be.
But the thing is that my sister? She’s smart. She’s successful.
That angry sibling? He did some amazing things before he died. Things that make him stunningly successful in my eyes.
And I’m quirky, but I’m pretty sure I’m not the smartest of us.
But those are the expectations, the roles, the labels and those scripts our family’s right for us (both good and bad) can really stick.
How Do You Defy Expectations
Think of who you want to be.
Think of what you want to try.
Think of why you haven’t yet.
If it isn’t about money and resources and you can, give whatever it is a try. Do the thing that people don’t expect you to do (Try not to go to jail though. Legal things are usually a better choice.) and see how it feels. See how you feel.
Do people expect you to be quiet? To be loud? Do they expect you to be an activist? A peace-maker? Think of how you can be the opposite of expectations if you feel like those expectations are holding you back. The first step is to imagine being what it is that YOU want to be, not what your teachers, family, friends, coworkers, employees, bosses want you to be. YOU.
Is there something you always wanted to do, to be, and people scoffed. Show them how wrong they are. Blow their minds. Blow your own mind, too.
So, this woman, Aileen Weintraub on the Huffington Post, has an article that’s headline is, “I’m a Grown Woman and I Still Sleep with a Stuffed Animal.”
“George is my deep, dark secret, and I’m sharing our story now in the time of COVID-19 because many of us are quietly struggling.”
And the article is sweet and lovely, and poor Aileen had COVID-19 and was terribly sick and was even more stressed because George, her stuffed dog has been with her for thirty years and she didn’t know if her stuffed animal would be able to go with her if she had to come to the hospital.
And she was ashamed because stuffed animals are allegedly “transitional objects.”
“I love my family, but this little hound doesn’t take up much room and he doesn’t shift the sheets. I don’t have to explain myself to him. He doesn’t ask questions and he’s always there, a personal touchstone I can depend on. George doesn’t judge. He never complains and I never have to cook for him. He never rummages through the fridge and tells me there is no food in the house. He doesn’t leave towels on the floor. He doesn’t bark while I’m on a conference call. George gets me.
“When I was quarantined for 16 days as the coronavirus ravaged my body, no one in my family could touch me. I communicated with them via text or through a closed door. But George was there. He is so quiet that it would be easy to forget him. I never do.
“George is my deep dark secret, and I’m sharing our story now in the time of COVID-19 because no matter how strong, confident or successful a person may appear, the truth is that many of us are quietly struggling. When everything seems hopeless, when it looks like we will never get out of the hellfire that is 2020, perhaps it’s OK to admit to finding softness and comfort from something as simple and familiar as an old threadbare stuffy.”
God bless this lady because if George, the stuffed animal in her bed, is her deep dark secret? What a nice life she’s had.
What Is Hyperbole?
Hyperbole is basically defined as an exaggeration that people use to emphasize an effect. It’s extravagant. It’s bullshit. It comes from the Greek word for “excess.”
I’m not sure if this ‘deep dark secret’ is hyperbole, but it sure feels like one.
And the problem with hyperbole? Is that it’s not truth. It’s inauthentic. It’s the tool of politicians and apparently op-ed writers and we’re all freaking too used to it. We don’t examine the extravagant claims of influencers, writers. Headlines and tweets and speeches and email subject lines are full of them.
In writing fiction especially, hyperbole can be a brilliant tool. Listen to this Monty Python bit about being completely not rich.
“You were lucky. We lived for three months in a brown paper bag in a septic tank. We used to have to get up at six o’clock in the morning, clean the bag, eat a crust of stale bread, go to work down mill for 14 hours a day and when we got home, our Dad would thrash us to sleep with his belt!”
Monty Python people
Writers, you can use hyperbole but don’t use it in your nonfiction. Even Aristotle was anti-hyperbole saying it was amateur and childlike and that it was the tool of bad, angry politicians.
Why is it bad?
It’s bad because it’s used to manipulate us and our emotions. It makes normal things suddenly feel over the top, excessive, the deepest and darkest of secrets or the most terrifying moments of existence. It’s when someone yells at you for your opinion or your actions and you call it an ‘attack’ in which you are in fear of your life. It’s when you’re pushing for your agenda and twisting truth so that you can be the savior or the victim and it is dangerous AF.
And it’s normal now. We’re used to seeing the exaggeration of truths becoming lies. No, that article is not going to make you instantly a best selling book writer or super fit in three fast weeks. No, that politician isn’t going to save your country. No, that person with an opinion different than yours does not deserve to die.
Hyperbole pulls us away from the truth. In the excess and exaggeration often comes an otherness, an us versus them mentality that prevents us from finding truths, middle roads, and we become so engrossed in it that we see a story about a woman’s deepest, darkest secret being about sleeping with her stuffed animal and we believe it.
We’ve got to return to truth, to discourse, to authenticity.
And we have to do it before it’s too late before that extremism is the norm, exaggeration is the defacto position for all of us, before we forget what truth even is.
WRITING TIP OF THE POD
Write truth. Write things that resonate. Hyperbole is a great tool, but it shouldn’t be your go-t0 response.
DOG TIP FOR LIFE
Don’t hyperbolize the simple stuff.
The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song? It’s “Summer Spliff” by Broke For Free.