Sunday, June 05, 2011

And the Humility to Listen

I like having my pre-conceived notions (not to mention my biases and bigotries) challenged; I get a charge out of being surprised and then realizing it was my own hidden assumptions that are screwy, not the world.

This week, thanks to Beth Vogt, I stumbled across this interesting post about marketing as seen from a very Christian perspective:
Marketing as Good Stewardship
The thing that stood out to me is how familiar the post felt.

You see, I'm only vaguely Christian, and I feel quite justified in being in that state. I've thought about the difference between faith and religion, and I think there's merit--at least for me--in behaving like a moral atheist regardless of what I believe to be true, spiritually. Doing things because you believe they're right has more moral weight than doing them because you're told they're right (or because you're frightened.)

And that is a long-winded way of saying I get a little twitchy around someone evangelizing at me. I want to disagree, but I also loathe the necessity of a confrontation. As a result, I tend to steer clear of things that are spoken from a state of deep religious faith, and frankly, that's bigotry. I shouldn't do that. Wisdom can come at you from every direction, and you've got to have your mind open wide (and your critical thinking skills fully engaged) to catch it.

So it was really enjoyable for me to read the above post and feel the shock of the familiar--to see how similar humans beings can be even when we're operating with completely different mind-sets. The post's author notes that many religious writers disdain marketing, feeling it's not their calling, or it's un-spiritual. And oh! hey! Secular writers get snooty about marketing too, don't they? But we justify that attitude using different words.

It was neat to hear that familiar reluctance expressed using religious justifications. It really emphasized to me that this is a common human foible--we like writing, but we don't like marketing. By any means possible, we want to give ourselves permission not to do the latter.

I also enjoyed how the post's writer decided to think about the task of marketing: As he sees it, his ability to write is his gift, but his ability to do something of merit with that gift is his responsibility--part of his duty of "stewardship".

I can totally relate to that, except I'd phrase it more as Spiderman's proverb: With great power comes great responsibility. Yes, you've got talent, but if you want to do something with it, you've got a whole spaghetti-mess of duty to face, too. That includes marketing, but also the willpower to finish what you start, the courage to expose yourself to rejection, and the humility to serve the story's needs.

I think there's merit, when you're listening to someone whose mindset feels a bit alien, to try to see the ways in which you're similar, not the different, to them. At the very least, empathy is an important skill for a writer to develop simply because it allows you build a wider range of believable characters.

Author website: J. J. DeBenedictis

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