Saturday, December 19, 2009

"If I have the time ..."

I've gotten this three times in the last month.

"Oh, I was skimming your story, and I was wondering if it'd be a waste of time for me to read."

"Oh, I was skimming your story, and I'll read it maybe someday when I have the time."

"Oh, I read your story (all 300 pages of it) and I'll leave one review on it, when you come out with a new chapter, if I have the time."

Read those statements above, and turn to somebody, face-to-face, and say that to them about something important to them.

"I'll watch your first ballet recital, if I have the time."

"I'll buy you a Christmas present, if I have the time."

"I'd come to dinner, but the game's on. I don't have time for family time."

The sad thing is: people do say that now, all the time, don't they?

They're talking on their cell phone while they're "with" you.

They're working on their computer while they're "talking" with you.

They're ... I don't know ... they're making excuses to cop out of plans with you, because, frankly, the TV's more important to them than you are.

What ever happened to respect? What ever happened to treating people as persons, not as things? Did it never happen at all before, and I was misled? Was I raised wrongly by my parents to try to give the people I'm with my attention?

So you wrote to me and said you would read and review my stories "if you had the time."

You're busy; I'm busy; we're all busy. How nice. And it IS nice that you're willing to make the effort to comment on my stories.

But "if I have the time"?

You may not have the time. You may have a family with two daughters. You may have work deadlines. You may have other friends you like more. You may have to watch an average of 8 hours of TV or 'net-slumming. You may have all of these things, and more.

But saying that to somebody? "I love you, and I'd tell you, if I had the time." "I'd do that report, boss, or professor, if I have the time." "I'll leave a review on your story, if I have the time."

The good intention is destroyed by the equivocation. If you have the time, do the good thing. If you don't have the time, don't do the good thing.

But time is prioritization, and saying "if I have the time" translates directly into "you are on my priority list, somewhere below watching TV, or whatever."

When I talk with somebody, when I talk with you, I give you my full attention. My whole time. I MAKE the time to talk with you. Out of the many readers I've had today, out of the many markings of favourites and PM and story alerts and sometimes reviews, ... and the rest of my life.

I do not "if I have the time" anybody. When I'm with you, I'm with you.

Please, don't "if I have the time" somebody. "Everybody does it" these days, because everybody treats everybody else as things, not as persons. But I've worked with people who have taken time out of their busy-busy schedules, I'm talking Captains and Admirals, who have more meeting time scheduled every day than they have hours in the day. When they do that? When somebody makes time for you, how does that feel?

Doesn't it feel nice when an authoress, like, for example, Jocelyn Torrent, replies to your reviews? (You do leave her reviews of the chapters that meant something to you, don't you? You do know how much substantive reviews mean to her, don't you?) She has more than twice the reviews in one story than I have total. And she responds to every single one. AND all her PMs. I know. So does Lion in the Land. So do I. So do more than a few others, as well.

Many, many, many do not. That is not your problem. That is their (serious) problem. Your problem is how you are treating this person you are writing to or this person in front of you right now, and you cannot justify your callousness, no matter what anybody else says or does.

"Everybody does it" is the weakest, lamest cop-out of an excuse to justify what you know to be a wrong doing. A slight. Besides: do you wish to be like "everybody"? That is a faceless "nobody" in the crowd? Or do you wish to be you, and be treated with kindness and individual attention?

As we few writers do when we respond to your review, even though it's the 283rd review for this story we've received. Even if it's the 711th.

Those of us who do this, well: we MAKE the time for you, AND we write these wonderful, in some cases, award-winning stories that have captured your attention and fired your imagination.

"But I was just saying that, I wasn't being mean, I was just explaining myself." Yes, I know you weren't being mean. I know this. But how much thought did you put into those words, because every word you say means something.

I am a person. You wrote to me, or you talked with me. Please treat me as a person. I prioritize things, not people. Please don't prioritize me below things: I don't like feeling less than a thing. I don't know anybody who does.

You may review what you've read of my story that had meaning to you (and you've read my story and nothing has moved you at all?). You may not. But please don't so blithely dismiss me or my work with "time." You read it. Perhaps all 300 pages of it (so far), so you've had time to do that, but you didn't have time to select the "review chapter" link?

Maybe not (I cannot believe that). But telling me? "I read one of your stories, but I didn't review any of the 52 chapters. Maybe I will after you do more work (because a card deck of chapters isn't enough) ... if I have the time."

Please don't do this. Please don't imply this.

Because time is all we have, and there's only a limited amount we're given, and we don't get it back, so make your time you have precious. For yourself, and for others.

Epilogue

Writing this post, I've come to the sudden realization of the following. Others have complained that MSR is taking it's sweet time, going hardly anywhere at all.

Why?

Because Rosalie is doing something that hardly anyone does. She is taking time with Bella. Instead of saying: "You are like this, so I will treat you like this" (and Rosalie does do a lot of that in MSR, I grant you), she is taking these days to find out who Bella really is ... you know? The apologia for this piece? She is finding out who Bella really is and treating her as that person, not as the person she wants Bella to be.

Now, Rosalie is very unhappy with the real Bella, the person who she is. But she does work with that person, and not (always) dismiss her out of hand.

Unlike how Edward treats Bella in the canon, perhaps?

Is this why MSR is so frustrating for so many? Is it because they wish Bella and Rosalie just to move on and treat each other as ... what? ... and ignore each other's and their own faults and failings ... and consequently ignore each other's and their own strengths and humanness?

Hm. If you're frustrated, and you want Bella and Rosalie to get on with it ("What 'it'?" I ask. And you answer: "Oh, the obvious, you dummy!" And my answer is: "What obvious?"), then I wonder. Do you treat your friends and family like this?

Do they treat you like this ... and you allow it?

It may be your best friend that you've know from first grade, but she's still a person. It may be your daughter or mother, but she's still a person.

It may be your dad, but he still needs your love.

"If I have the time ..." to treat another person as a person?

You do.

1 comment:

Kristalina said...

This was very beautiful.

I feel this way about cellphones. Honest. I refuse to take a cellphone call when I am out with anyone. It is by far my biggest pet-peeve. If I am with someone I will give them my undivided attention, even if it's a two minute walk to my car after work and we have nothing of importance to say. If I'm with you, you are my complete focus.