Last week, we were lucky enough to attend a reading by one of my husband's literary heroes. George Saunders was speaking at the Town Hall in downtown Seattle: he read a hilarious, yet poignant new story and despite my hesitance to even attend, it was definitely a touching moment as it brought me back to my writing roots.
However, I had a run-in with a person that got me thinking a lot about
different creative fields and their own subsequent "those girls." I sat
behind a woman who made it her business to speak loudly enough for
everyone within five or six rows to hear. It was obvious that the woman
was a published author, but I couldn't imagine that she was incredibly
successful due to her attitude about writing and her readers. She went
on and on about how it "ruins her day" to call into or visit book clubs,
and how that night's guest speaker's book was "meh." Her holier than
thou attitude was incredibly off-putting, to me and many around us. So
much so that we made it a point to get her name so that we could google
her later. It turns out, that this woman (who will remain nameless) is
actually the author of a very well-known and acclaimed novel on
the New York Times Best Seller list at the moment, and her book was just
optioned for a movie. For some reason, this knowledge made the entire
situation even worse to me. I can't imagine being gifted such a
marvelous opportunity to share my work with so many people who loved it,
and be bothered. I vowed to never read her book and went on with my night.
Catty story aside, we all know that there are women like this in every field. You may have met them or worked with them, and walked away with this breadth of icky knowledge of their actual attitude towards their work, fans or otherwise, and wondered, "Why am I even working this hard when someone like that has earned everything I ever wished for and doesn't even care?" There have been many hurtful situations like this in my life, and I have to admit (embarrassingly) that I fell for it every time. I had a pity party in my house drinking wine, eating spoonfuls of Nutella and sobbing about how there just is no justice in the world and how "nice guys finish last" and "oh woe is me, please pass the Merlot." Shocking outcome: this didn't get me anywhere. We don't have to take this kind of behavior in any area of our lives. We don't need to lay into these people, nor should we brown-nose them. The truth is: we should be pleasant and ignore their behavior, and focus on our own goals and dreams.
I know what you're thinking, and I'm with you! At the aforementioned reading, we ended up behind this woman in the line to get our books signed and of course I did my best to embarrass my husband by proclaiming (loudly) "Ohhh greattt! Look who we're behind!?!" She heard me. And I didn't care. But let's be honest, that was rude. And incredibly unladylike, which brings me to my point.
In terms of traditional etiquette, beautifully defined by Emily Post: "The attributes of a great lady may still be found in the rule of the four S's: Sincerity, Simplicity, Sympathy, and Serenity."
Here are the Four S's personalized to my ideals:
Sincerity: Be honest about who you are and who you AREN'T.
Simplicity: It's not that complicated--hard work, integrity, kindness.
Sympathy: Helping others won't hinder your personal brand.
Serenity: Know that what goes around comes around--in terms of the positive and the negative.
Emily Post's quote goes hand-in-hand with our previous post about "lighting others' candles." People don't forget the negative, but they don't forget the positive either. In our daily work (whatever it may be) an attitude of genuine respect and probity will move you to places that may not be where you dreamed, but will definitely be meaningful and real. We don't always have to be rays of sunshine (believe me, I feel like bottom photo of Betty Draper a lot of the time) but there is a decency that we owe ourselves and others in the pursuit of our goals, and especially after we reach them. There is nothing to regret when one acts like a "lady." Boys, just apply this in terms of the opposite. It's all the same.