The Way You Say…

Izin study 2If you’ve ever had to take bad news from one person to another, you probably appreciate the saying “Don’t shoot the messenger.” This saying means, don’t get angry at the person delivering the news, get angry at the person who originally caused the problem.

I work as a writing consultant at a community college, and let me tell ya, part of me wants “don’t shoot the messenger” tattooed on my face. There is nothing worse than having to tell a student they have totally and completely missed the requirements for the assignment. “I didn’t write the assignment, your teacher did” is my unspoken defense. Sometimes the student knows that, and sometimes…. well, let’s just say I’m not their favorite person. Understandably. (Heck, instructors get the same thing sometimes; it’s not like they wrote the standards for education.)

But as a consultant, my job is to present this horrible, depressing, overwhelming news as nicely and positively as possible. “Wow! You have a lot of content here, and I can tell you did a lot of work! If we tweak your tone/style/approach/topic, I think we can make it match what your instructor is asking for even MORE.” Hands-down, the biggest part of my job is making writing less scary for students, and I can’t do that unless I’m an adept messenger for the academy, the instructor, and writing itself. I have literally been trained to deliver bad news in the best way possible.

In my creative writing and in my comics, I have a similar job. I have to get my message (my ideas, my feelings, my beliefs) across in the most appealing, engaging way I can. I chose my presentation, which means I choose my messenger. It’s like buying flowers for a friend. In order to ensure a pleasant floral experience, you’ll want to chose a good florist. Someone who isn’t going to deliver wilted, dead flowers in a cheap pot. You want a florist who knows how to create an arrangement, delivers healthy flowers, and it wouldn’t hurt if they were actually polite people.

But here’s the thing: in writing and drawing, I’m the sender AND the florist. My skills will determine how my message is delivered, what kind of vase it’s in. I’m the sender and my medium (comics, prose, music, acting, WHATEVS) is my messenger.

Which means I can’t say, “don’t shoot the messenger” anymore because I am the messenger. And the sender. And to a certain, I am also the audience. And critic. There are a crap-ton of roles you have to be aware of when you’re trying to share stuff with other people, and it’s freakin’ hard to balance.

What roles are the hardest? What are the easiest? Why don’t I have an endless supply of coffee?

(BONUS: Here’s an article by Peter Bregman titled “Why You Should Take the Blame“. He talks about how much you’ll learn when you just accept that some stuff is your fault. Bitter medicine to swallow, but good medicine nonetheless!)

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