Monday, December 17, 2007

You Can't Please All the People All the Time (However Hard You May Try)

Your scribe was reminded of this old truth the other day, when after a delightful concert of Christmas music he was accosted by a woman who accused him of being "mean-spirited" and "destructive". Ouch! What had he done to incur such opprobrium?

Turns out she didn't like some of the things he'd said in a recent blog. Ignoring the positives, she zeroed right in on what she perceived as the negatives, and with a fixed smile on her face that seemed to say "I hate your guts" lambasted your scribe up and down and sideways. "I'm sorry you took it that way," he said, when he was allowed to get a word in edgewise; "my purpose is not to tear down but to build up, and to try to make things better in this Town." She seemed not to hear a word your scribe said, but merely continued on with her screed.

Well, dear reader, your scribe has never pretended to want to try to please everybody, and this woman represents the reason why: it simply can't be done. No one knows this better than the AuthorBabe, who gets scads of hate mail from various of the village idiots every time she writes her bi-monthly op-ed piece for the Local Rag. She handles it all with grace and aplomb, trying first to apply logic to the situation, and when that fails (as it generally does when one is dealing with the village idiots), politely picking up her marbles and going off to play elsewhere. (At least the AuthorBabe has a full quota of marbles, unlike the VIs.)

The same point has been made in some of the posts on writing that your scribe has read recently. You may have written the best book currently unpublished in the Western world, but until you find an agent and a publisher who recognize your brilliance, you have to spend a lot of time and energy bringing your work to their attention. Perseverance is the key, your scribe believes; a healthy dose of optimism also helps.

But back to the woman who took umbrage. Your scribe has written many unkind words about the former First Selectman, the former chiefs of police, and various others who by their words and deeds have shown themselves to have strayed from the path of righteousness and/or common sense. But the fact remains that everything he has said is true, or at the very least is protected opinion. If he calls a former chief of police a liar and a perjurer, then you can take it to the bank that said excresence has indeed lied and perjured himself. If he tells the tale of how Lincoln Steffens got the Representative Town Meeting to agree that Greenwich is as corrupt a town as any in the country, you can check out the facts for yourself.

The problem, dear reader, is that this woman, like so many other people in this Town, wants to pretend that this is Disneyland and everything is fairy-tale perfect. Well, it just ain't so; and in fact Greenwich is actually a good deal worse than most other municipalities of its size. Probably has something to do with the fact that too many people around here have more money than is good for them, and it leads to the attitude known as "Greenwich entitlement" which allows them to sneer at the "little people", cheat on their taxes, ignore red lights and stop signs, and consume conspicuously enough to give Al Gore a heart attack.

Therefore, dear reader, your scribe will continue on as before, attempting to please no one but himself in what he writes. If the godly applaud him, so much the better; and if the ungodly gnash their teeth and mutter curses, well, at least he knows he's on the right track. "Greenwich Gossip" is not a puff piece, gentle reader; it attempts to present the unvarnished truth about our Town, good and bad alike. Let's all be clear on this score.

"I hope no one reads your malicious blog," said the unhappy woman as her parting shot. Your scribe did not bother to tell her it was too late for that, nor to try again to correct her misperceptions of his motives. Not only can you not please everybody all the time - sometimes you can't even reach them.


Blogger Sarah Darer Littman said...

Yeah, 10,181 and counting - so in your FACE, beeatch!

The AuthorBabe does, indeed, know all about hate mail. She'll probably get a whole bunch more after the column she wrote last night.

But hey, if I pissed them off enough to write hate mail,it means that a) they're reading my column and b)I've stimulated debate.

Ok, I'm using the term "debate" EXTREMELY loosely here. More like I've stimulated some right -wing wacko to let loose at me with a litany of Fox News talking points (Bill O'Reilly Lite) with no intention of having any approaching a civilized discourse.

But on the rare occasion that I actually manage to have a civilized exchange of ideas with a reader who disagrees with me, I feel like my hard work "ain't been in vain for nothin'"

December 18, 2007 9:51 AM  
Blogger Bill Clark said...

Yay for the AuthorBabe!! I can't wait to read your next column!!

December 18, 2007 10:04 AM  
Blogger Vicki said...

You're so right, but then isn't that why we have Freedom of Speech???

Besides, does this woman not understand there are very faithful readers of this blog. People who love your accounts of day to day life as well as many other words of wisdom.

She should re-read the blog since it was not done in malice at all. But then some people are very narrow minded and can never see the rose but only the thorn.

You keep writing and we'll keep reading. :D

December 18, 2007 4:11 PM  
Blogger Bill Clark said...

some people are very narrow minded and can never see the rose but only the thorn

Nice phrase, Vicki! And thanks for your support!

December 19, 2007 9:57 AM  
Blogger Jacqueline Barbour said...

Bravo, Bill!

Of course, when it comes to writing fiction (and probably lots of other things), you can't please everyone but the people you can't please aren't necessarily Village Idiots. I state this unequivocally as a Not-Village Idiot (at least, I'm pretty sure I'm not!) who did not like the first Harry Potter book enough to get past the first chapter, and who is therefore reasonably sure that even UniversallyAcclaimedLit'rature(TM) will not appeal to everyone, even semi-smartish, reasonable people like me :).

I think the HARDEST criticism to handle properly isn't what comes from the nutcases, but what comes from people whom you like and respect. But even people you like and respect may not like something you write. The question is whether you try to change it to please them or not. And that's not always an easy-to-answer question.

December 21, 2007 10:54 AM  
Blogger Bill Clark said...

Hi, Jacq!

Thanks for helping to raise the lit'ry tone of this blog thread. Yes, it can be hard to deal with the critiques of people you like and respect. I think what should happen in those cases is to be ruthlessly honest with yourself: do you agree with what they're saying, or not?

If it's a case of "Gee, I wish I'd thought of that first", then you might want to consider working the suggestion in. But if, as is more often the case, it's "OK, I see your point, but still..." then you should stick to your guns.

Is it too late to rescue my godchild Unbridled by going back to your initial draft before all the other "cooks" came along?

December 21, 2007 11:28 AM  
Blogger Jacqueline Barbour said...

I think what should happen in those cases is to be ruthlessly honest with yourself: do you agree with what they're saying, or not?

I agree in principal, but in practice, I haven't always found that question easy to answer. Or, put another way, my general tendency is often to head-smack myself, say "Of course, that's right" and then to scramble to make changes to "fix" whatever is wrong. What I've found, however, is that sometimes the fixes can snowball until the original story is no longer recognizable.

And no, the original version of Unbridled is pretty much unrecoverable. Put another way, it's probably not worth recovering. I wrote it before I had the remotest clue what I was doing!

Maybe in some distant future I will revisit it and try to remember what it was that I loved so much about the story. Until then, though, it's safe in the MMP.

December 21, 2007 12:02 PM  
Blogger Bill Clark said...

Yay for the MMP!! (With the emphasis on the magical part!)

December 21, 2007 2:31 PM  
Blogger Leigh Russell said...

Happy Christmas and Happy New Year

December 23, 2007 7:13 PM  
Blogger Erica Ridley said...

"I hope no one reads your malicious blog," said the unhappy woman as her parting shot. Your scribe did not bother to tell her it was too late for that.


Happy Holidays, Bill!!!

December 24, 2007 8:30 AM  
Blogger Bill Clark said...

Hi, Leigh!

You beat me to it! I was about to go to your blog and wish you the same.

Oh, to be in England, now that Christmas's here!

Think of your Transatlantic friend as you celebrate, and hoist a glass of Yuletide spirits for me!

December 24, 2007 9:55 AM  
Blogger Bill Clark said...


Welcome back from whatever cave you've been hiding in! (Yes, I know you've been busy with "Touched", but your presence has been much missed!)

Hope you made it home safely from the Northland - all one hears on the radio are tales of stranded travelers.

And a Merrie Christmas and Happy New Year to you!! I know that between your efforts and Lauren's, and my bumbles and stumbles and officious intermeddling, 2008 will be the year you finally break into print! YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

December 24, 2007 9:59 AM  
Blogger Julie said...

Bill....Yuletide Greetings to you and yours from across the Pond, and all the best for 2008.

December 25, 2007 9:42 AM  
Blogger Bill Clark said...

Thanks, Julie, and same to you!

Happy Boxing Day!

December 26, 2007 12:19 PM  
Blogger Julie said...

Oh to be somewhere tropical, now that Christmas's here....!(Kew Gardens glass house would do nicely...)

All the best for 2008 Bill. Merry blogging and all that.

December 31, 2007 12:06 PM  
Blogger Barrie said...

Kind of cool that your writing got to her enough to spark all those opinions She must have been reading your blog regularly. Probably still does. :) Happy New Year!

January 01, 2008 6:31 PM  
Blogger Bill Clark said...

Hi, Barrie! Thanks for stopping by!

Y'know, it's hard to tell who reads the ol' blog around here. Lots of locals just lurk, like Lawyer Ed and Choir Mom Joanne. Others, like the AuthorBabe, aren't afraid to weigh in with their comments.

Blogging is like throwing a stone into a pond and watching the ripples never know when and where they'll stop.

The sad part is the negative types, like the nutty ex-wife's even nuttier ex-lawyer, who try to spread their venom by lurking with intent. It was proably one of them who ran to the woman in question bearing their tattle-tale news. Can't be helped, I guess; but one wishes that karma would catch up with these well-poisoners sooner rather than later.

Anyhow, I was pleased to see that Google has this comment posted on its search engine:

"Greenwich Gossip" is not a puff piece, gentle reader; it attempts to present the unvarnished truth about our Town, good and bad alike. ...

So I guess the message is getting out and abroad that if you want to know what *really* goes on in good ol' Greenwich, CT, this is not a bad place to start. Even when I don't post for a couple of weeks, it seems people keep stopping by: there've been over 500 hits since this post went up.

Gee, with that kind of activity, I may never post again! (Just kidding!) :-)

January 02, 2008 10:08 AM  
Blogger Bill Clark said...

Merry blogging and all that.

Thanks, Julie, and the same to you!

January 02, 2008 10:15 AM  

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