Writing: Life Lessons From 2016

Writing, tweeting and generally posting anything into the public domain is a sure fire way to stress yourself out, though it is thoroughly rewarding. 2016 has been a wonderful year in truth: it has helped refine my career ambitions, seen a number of gains on my part and provided me with a number of fantastic opportunities to better myself. From the chance to contribute to the delightful “seasons” books by Melissa Harrison; to the Living North Awards and my first magazine articles. It has also, however, been incredibly frustrating. Due, in no small part, to my own naivety and, at times, stupidity. I make no excuses, I am still learning, though, I have taken a lesson or two from 2016. Lessons I hope to carry over into 2017, and far beyond that.

Holding an opinion, regardless of the motivations behind it, means that there are always going to be people who disagree, and a great many people who simply do not like you. Often, for simply holding a view that differs substantially from their own. This is fine, providing, of course, you do not rise to counterproductive disputes and remove credibility through rather silly bickering. These people are entitled to their opinion, and sometimes, trying to change that is impossible. You cannot appease everyone, so there is little point in trying such. Being honest is far more important than being liked.

That said, fear of the repercussions associated with holding a view can often lead you to think twice about voicing such, which is folly. You should not be afraid to poke your head above the parapet once in a while, if, of course, you believe wholly in your cause. Even if your views amount to little other than scorn and woefully busy message box. When doing so, and taking a view, it is, however, important to ensure that you broadcast such with clarity. So that your motivations become clear, and you leave little room for speculation (and misinterpretation) on behalf of those who, as mentioned above, do not like you. Or others boasting disguised motives. Do not inadvertently provide others with ammunition and, for the love of god, explain things in detail as opposed to being overly vague. Too many times this year have my words landed me in trouble due to this.

When expressing a view, in text or online, be aware that others will attempt to twist things for their own ends. On occasion, turning a reasonable (if a little naive) article or post into something supportive of their own cause – this is a lesson I must learn, fast, but ultimately comes down to a tendency to take people at face value, as opposed to thinking critically with regards to their motivations. I must also shake the tendency to allow said opinions to be influenced by the sob stories of others, or, indeed, the views of those I perceive to be my betters – whether due to title or experience. Stop being so impressionable, James.

With this in mind, it is important to think objectively at all times, and not to be influenced by mass opinion. Even if taking an alternate path renders you unpopular in the long run. You should not be afraid to take a different opinion, providing you present such in a reasoned manner, and certainly should not be afraid to take the middle-ground once in a while. Especially when you understand both sides of an argument. Though in the eyes of some, this is often worse than picking a side – do not let that phase you. Although, changing your stance, from time to time, is not actually a bad thing. Standing by your guns is all well and good, at times, though pointless when presented with new information. Life is a learning curve and opinions do change.

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