Reading Isn’t Believing

As a blog omnivore, I read a lot of advice, thoughts, and beliefs of other writers and artists. It’s a big world, populated by writers of every emotional and spiritual stripe (and rant).

Smart-is-when-you-believe-half-of-what-you-hearThe last two days, I’ve been reading about other people’s success stories about blogging and book promoting. (I have a tendency to read about what’s on my plate). Interesting what happens in my brain (maybe yours, too) when we read something new that we don’t agree with. The other person must be smarter. Particularly if we don’t know them. Because no matter what our experience is, surely the other person is smarter, richer, wiser, and a better all-around human being. (Inner critic alert).

I’m amazed at my own gullibility. “Content is no longer king,” says one blogger, and I gobble up his article, afraid that one of my basic truths has vanished. “The reader is king!” he proudly proclaims, “content doesn’t really matter.” Oh. And what is King Reader reading? Content. And why will King Reader read the content? Because it is interesting to King Reader. So, finish the circle, content is still king.

“If you are still doing book signings, you are over 60 and a dinosaur,” says another blogger. Her idea is that everything is virtual, and social networking is the only action that sells books.

I don’t think so. I’m pretty sure people buy books for lots of reasons, and a good reason is to meet the person who wrote it and talk to them if they are available. And that means I want to make myself available. Because people who are satisfied tell others. (Not as many as people who are unsatisfied, which is motivation enough.) But can’t I do both? The Inner Hero book had two launches (one in California and one locally in Phoenix) and is having a fun run on several people’s blogs.

Before you believe everything you read (I call this “the last person I talked to is an expert” syndrome) run it through your value-meter. I’ve been writing for a long time, and content matters. If an article is cheap starchy filler, I leave faster than a barefoot pedestrian crosses a freshly-tarred street.

imagesMy value-meter knows that meeting people face to face and hearing their stories is what made me write my book in the first place. I heard so many people say, “I’m not really good at anything” while hungering to make meaning in life,  it was impossible for me not to write the book.

Of course, I also learn a lot from reading blogs.  I’m happy to explore new ideas, and I’m a big fan of change. But change for change’s sake rarely sticks. Change is fueled by current failure, pain, or general misery.  What makes change possible is that the current plan isn’t working.

What works for someone else might not work for me. And if it doesn’t match what I know to be true from my own life, it’s probably not true for me. My life is a big circle, and I invite a lot of people in. But it doesn’t mean I have to follow them around in circles.

Quinn McDonald is a writer, life- and creativity coach whose coaching practice is based on working with deeply-held values and, well, change.

Don’t Believe Everything You Think

Phoenix has a lot of dogs. Every morning, I’m greeted by barking dogs, dogs wanting to be petted, dogs out for a run. One house that I pass has a very quiet boxer who loves a little scratching, and a chocolate lab who barks incessently. This morning, I saw a third dog. He was fat and low-slung, and the ugliest dog I’ve ever seen.

Two dogs, one pig
Two dogs, one pig

As I walked toward the fence, the boxer and the ugly dog wrestled briefly, and the chocolate lab never stopped barking. As I got closer, I noticed the ugly dog was partially bald. A really ugly dog.

And suddenly my perspective shifted and I saw, not an ugly dog, but a handsome pig. The third dog was not dog, it was either a very large pot-bellied pig, or a small regular pig. It was no longer ugly, it was no longer bald. It had bristles like a pig.

Boxer and pig
Boxer and pig

When we look at things, people, even events, we see what we want to see. We make terrible eye witnesses to life. We see what we already know. We believe what we think we see. We make up conclusions to fit what we already believe. “She didn’t say hello to me so she must be angry.” “I forgot the milk when I was at the store, I hope it’s not Alzheimer’s.”  “Everything in the yard must be a dog.” I drew all my conclusions from recent experience.  And I was wrong. Once I could see the pig for what it was, I was ready to shift persepectives and judgment, to see it as it really was.

We have a tree in the back yard. It’s about 10 feet tall, and I have no idea what it is. I was waiting for it to bloom, to give me a hint. I was walking past it yesterday, when I noticed, out of the corner of my eye, what I took to be a wasp nest. My heart fell. I’m allergic to wasps, and just yesterday, when I was repotting an orchid, a wasp had been persistently hanging around me. Now here was a big nest.

What kind of tree is it?
What kind of tree is it?

I was about five feet past the tree when I stopped. The wasp nest was not shaped like a real wasp nest. It was round. And too light-colored. I backed up and there, in the tree, hung a single grapefruit, pale yellow like a full moon.

Grapefruit, just one
Grapefruit, just one

Yesterday’s wasp’s nest was today’s grapefruit. Because I didn’t know what the tree was, I didn’t recognize the fruit, which often grows in clusters. Although I’ve seen a number of grapefruit trees in the area, I’ve never seen a lone grapefruit on the tree.

We see what we expect to see.  We create people as we expect them to be. Forcing a new perspective can change the whole story, create an entirely new meaning, a new way of understanding. Interesting thought, isn’t it?

Quinn McDonald is a writer and certified creativity coach. She teaches communications and personal journaling.