The Culture Of Whine

children in AfricaAbout ten years ago, I finally heard myself the way my mother must have all those years ago. I was a whiner. Sadly, as an adult, I turned into a complainer. Pretty much everything I talked about ended up pointing to some imperfection, some reason for dissatisfaction.

At first I blamed my habit of complaining on the way God made me—I have this love for analysis, so I’m constantly tearing things apart mentally and looking at what works and what doesn’t. Except . . . why wasn’t I talking about the “what works” part as much as I was the “what doesn’t” part?

Now that I hear myself, guess what? I hear the whine in our culture. It’s as if all of us are being trained in the art of complaint.

Botswana1987Kidsrainv2Take the weather, for instance. This is the most innocuous topic in our conversational arsenal, and yet much of what we say about the weather is complaint: it’s sooooo hot, or rainy, or muggy, or dry, or windy, or unseasonal, or unchanging.

Our TV talent competitions reinforce this idea—the food prepared by this home cook or that one is undercooked or lacking a good sear on the bottom or not seasoned quite right. The dance competitions or singing competitions aren’t any different. After all, there can be only one winner, so something has to be wrong with all the other contestants.

Advertisements are the best source of this whine training. Nothing is quite right, which is why we consumers MUST buy their product.

In sports, the refs or umpires always get the calls wrong, or so you’d think by the way the players and coaches react. And fans! Who take their cues from the players and coaches, by the way. Some athletes (here’s looking at you, LeBron James) act as if the refs should call a foul every time they miss a shot. It doesn’t matter how many times you push off, the first time someone pushes off against you, you’re complaining to the ref.

SAINTE_RITA_CONGOWe’re a judgmental society. Politicians can never be right—if they compromise, they’re wafflers and if they stand by their convictions, they’re obstructionists.

The only time we’re happy is when things go our way—which lasts about fifteen minutes. We have to wait too long in line at the grocery store. The music is too loud at church. The traffic is too bad, pretty much any time of the day. The post office loses our mail. Stamps cost too much. Facebook makes changes apparently on a whim. Phone calls to the bank or the DMV or to the Internet provider rarely connect you with an actual person, and if you insist on talking to some one alive and breathing, the wait is too long.

Mokolo South AfricaThe price of gas is too high. The food at the restaurant is too cold, the coffee too bitter.

We are so rarely happy with the goods and services we receive.

In contrast, children in Botswana, the Congo, South Africa, who have so much less than we do, seem happy to have their picture taken. Their smiles put me to shame, and I think, I wish I’d never whine again.

Published in: on June 19, 2015 at 5:43 pm  Comments (2)  
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Writers I Read

Some writers have a knack for making me read their work. There’s one science fiction writer, for example, who’s blog I follow. Understand, I’m not a fan of science fiction, but I read this author’s blog, word for word. I don’t skim.

Others I want to read. I’ll follow someone’s blog because I read a post once that I thought was interesting, or because I like their novel, or we had a meaningful exchange of ideas on Facebook or in the comments section of another blog. I respect them. I just don’t always find myself reading what they write.

Others, I skim. I know the experts tell us to do it, and they do–adding bold font or bullet points. But that allows me to skim, encourages me to skim, so I skim. And nothing in what I’m skimming compels me to go back and read more carefully.

So what is it that those writers have whose posts grab me and hold me even when they’re writing about a movie I don’t want to see, will never see, or about microbes in the human gut, or about growing up in Kansas, or whatever it might be?

Of course there are those post with content in which I’m interested. It might be writing or fantasy or a significant spiritual truth. It might be a topic I like discussing, like creation or politics or sports. Content driven articles, I understand.

What I don’t understand is that intangible. I’ve stopped reading articles about speculative fiction or the publishing industry or God–topics I love to read about and discuss–all because … well, I lost interest. I’ve subscribed to blogs by famous writers because I thought it would help me stay current with my genre–only to find that I have no idea with that person is saying on a day-to-day basis.

On the other hand, I’ve received newsletters by novelists whose books I’ve never read, and yet I devour the articles down to the last word. Why?

I’d love to know because I’d love to replicate those writers’ ability … although, as I write that, I wonder, can ability be replicated? Probably not, but technique might be learned.

One thing some of those writers have is humor. Notice, I didn’t say, a sense of humor. I have a sense of humor. In fact I love to laugh. Love, love, love to laugh. I just don’t use humor much in my writing. I admire authors who do. Andrew Peterson, Matt Mikalatos, Jonathan Robers–I love their books and appreciate their use of humor. I just haven’t got a clue how to use it in my own writing.

A time or two I tried to use humor here on my blog–a little exaggeration, perhaps, a bit of irony or sarcasm. As I recall, those posts have inevitably garnered criticism because someone didn’t recognize the humor. I don’t blame them. Unless you can see the twinkle in my eye or the upturned eyebrow or the suppressed smile, how do you know I meant those lines to be funny?

Writers that write humor can do it. I, on the other hand, am at a loss.

Humor isn’t the only thing that makes writing interesting. When Brandilyn Collins used to blog, I often said she could write the phone book, and I’d find it interesting. I never did quite figure how why, though. She often told stories, and told them well, so perhaps that was her secret ingredient.

Maybe there isn’t one way, either. Some writers are engaging because their content is controversial (Mike Duran), some because they bring a quality of professionalism and expertise, some because they are entertaining.

And the borin ones in which I lose interest? I’m still trying to figure that out. 😉

You can help. Tell me what makes you read a blog post from start to finish or what makes you start to skim or to stop altogether. After all, with all your input, these posts here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction are bound to get a whole lot better!!

Published in: on August 30, 2012 at 6:06 pm  Comments (10)  
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