On the other hand, there is my sister. It has taken years and years of beatings and slapdowns for her to finally accept the fact that there are mean people in the world. She gets hijacked by friends and family alike because her first instinct is to trust their motives and actions. I used to go out of my mind when we owned a business together because salesmen could walk in and she would get sucked into their spiel. The next thing I knew we were listening to long drawn out sales pitches until I'd finally had enough and made them go away. She is the best of us in the world and even though I know it is dangerous, I'd like to be more like her in this regard.
I consider myself to be a fairly positive / optimistic person and all of a sudden this morning it occurred to me that this dichotomy is why there are such interesting comments about my books.
I get crushed by the negative reviews that show up. They suck the life out of me and no matter what anyone says to me, I internalize them until they actually stop me from writing. It's as if there are people who believe I should never write another word because what I've put out there is so awful. Consequently, I'm under strict orders to go nowhere near my reviews. As long as I'm obedient, the joy returns to my writing.
It was hard to realize that when I began writing the Bellingwood series I had the most fun I'd ever had in my life ... doing anything! I'd finally found it ... you know ... that thing that completes you. Then, the reviews came in and all of that was replaced with a feeling that I had no business intruding on these people's lives with my words. What was I thinking?
I can talk a little bit about this now, because I'm way on the other side of it. As long as I don't pay attention to the 'haters' (who are gonna hate), I am back to having more fun than anyone deserves to have. (Please don't let this part of the blogpost become your focus.)
There is something about optimists and pessimists though, and the difference in their worldviews that is triggered by my books. Originally I set out to write something fun and show the world how much I loved the folks in rural Iowa. All of a sudden, people were saying terrible things about my characters and the story itself (comments about my writing ... well, damn ... those hurt, but okay).
The women who befriend the main character, Polly, were looked at with suspicion and derision. I wrote them as women who extended themselves to others and easily made friends, building relationships and friendships. The sweet stories that are told in the books drew extremely negative reactions - people said they couldn't believe that this was even possible.
Then it occurred to me that I could probably identify those who believed there were horrors behind every tree and those who believed the best about people based on how they reacted to my stories. If someone lives with a pessimistic world view and believes the worst about people, they will hate what I write and call every action into question. They don't see hope easily and for them, joy comes with a price. Their first reaction is to criticize and to assert themselves as an authority so they don't get stuck in situations they can't handle.
On the other hand (and thankfully these people are more numerous than you can believe), there are those who have weathered pain and struggles and still believe in the goodness of others. They know what it is like to encounter genuinely friendly people because they are that type of person. It is easy to be around my readers because they like folks and will trust them first and allow others to be real and make mistakes. Judgment doesn't occur because they recognize that they've been there before themselves.
These things make me consider my own behavior. I want people to recognize me as one of those wonderful women in Bellingwood who are open and ready to bring new friends into their lives. And I want to be Polly Giller (the protagonist of the Bellingwood series), who sees the best in others, no matter what their background.
I want to trust first and learn whether or not I've made the right decision - rather than mistrust at the outset and discover that I was right all along.
See, that's the thing with negative reactions to the world. If we begin by being mistrustful, it only takes one time to justify our behavior - even if one thousand other interactions disprove us. But, if we believe that it happens only once in a thousand times, we see the world through eyes of joy and happiness and others will be more ready to respond to us with the same behavior.