I’ve been an overachieving, grade-grubbing, voraciously-reading student all my life, age 5 onward. My parents were super cheap and frugal about everything – we’d cut off mold from bread and eat the rest of the loaf, that type of thing. But the one thing that there was no budget cap on was books. If I wanted to read something, they’d buy it for me, and this was on top of twice-a-week trips to the public library, and once-a-week trips to the school library. Before there were iPhones I’d read cereal boxes at breakfast because my mind was so hungry for words.
At school I listened to my teachers (walking talking books!), and perhaps I listened to them to a fault – I didn’t question them enough, I wanted to please them. But I developed critical thinking anyway, so no worries.
One thing I never understood was rating teachers, like a sitcom. “That teacher didn’t ‘connect’ with me” or “that professor is so boring.” These statements felt oddly scandalous, sacrilegious, rebellious. I was there to learn, they didn’t need to entertain me, to seduce me to learn.
Studying Hillary Clinton’s resume, I felt she was ready to lead this country. And I also related to her, emotionally, though that was besides the point. I didn’t understand why people complained that she didn’t connect to them. She was there, you could have connected to her. Opened your heart, or literally picked up the phone or dashed an email off to her campaign.
It’s weird that I have this robotic “I’ll eat the medicine without the sugar” past, and yet now I am a writer in the entertainment industry and my entire job is to connect emotionally. I am torn between, it’s her job and it is NOT her job to connect emotionally. It is my job and it’s not my job to connect emotionally. You’re doing all the right things, you’re giving it your all, and then you’re told you’re not connecting emotionally. At what point is that your fault, and at what point is it the fault of the nation for not being better?
Her “inability” to connect emotionally seems like something people just say because they want to put the blame on someone, it doesn’t seem like the real reason. And the “inability“ speaks more to the unfair environment around her than her actual lack of humanity, kindness, emotion, and courage in putting herself out there.
I worry about connecting emotionally, especially these days. How do I connect with people in Red States who voted for Trump? What could I do better, how do I arrange my words, what do I reveal about myself in order to get through. Yet, when it comes to these posts, I suspend that worry and just write. If I worried about connecting emotionally every time I created something – especially if I worried about connecting emotionally with an audience that already has it against me – it would stifle my creativity and I wouldn’t put anything out there at all.
I’m trying to ask myself instead, “Is this the fullest expression of myself?” instead of, “Will this connect emotionally with my audience?” I tell my mentees (many who are recovering people-pleasers like myself) that when reviewing their work to ask themselves, “Do I like it?” instead of “Will so-and-so like it?” Tell yourself it’s your job (and your superpower) to connect emotionally. Click To Tweet
Writers, filmmakers, songwriters, comic book writers, storytellers – my FRIENDS – we can reach people. We can make people feel. We’re good at it. It’s our job and it’s not our job. On days when you need motivation to share your work, tell yourself it’s your job (and your superpower) to connect emotionally, so we don’t let racism and sexism win. On days when you feel overwhelmed, tell yourself it’s not your job to connect emotionally, and just write.
It’s Day 7, one week since Election Day – doesn’t it feel like a lifetime?