Don’t Tell Me

There are a couple of things I hear/read periodically that I find absolutely infuriating. These are false statements that pretend to be encouraging but that actually undercut a writer’s confidence and motivation.

1. If you want it badly enough, you can achieve it.

Not true. You can want something, you can try every possible avenue, and still not achieve it.

2. If you’re talented enough, you’ll rise to the top.

Again, not necessarily true. You can be very good at what you do, but there are other factors. Networking and connections play a big part in success. So does grit. There are many smart, capable people who fail, not for lack of desire so much as lack of motivation. Or even lack of support, since, despite our individualist society, few people are able to make it on their own. And even brilliant people don’t know everything, so sometimes it’s know-how that the person needs.

3. Don’t worry, you’ll get there.

You can’t promise that. Unless you have a specific ability to help the person in question—you have connections, knowledge, etc.—don’t say this. I realize it’s meant to be reassuring, but we already have a culture that falsely believes that only good things and people succeed, that the way to judge something’s or someone’s worth is to see if they (a) make money, (b) become famous. Since we all can point to plenty of terrible rich and famous people, you can see this is a flat-out fallacy. We can point to bad books and movies that somehow still get published and made, which again proves that not everything that rises is cream.

Am I bitter? Sometimes. I don’t think there’s any harm in being honest and admitting that. It can be difficult to keep going when the road seems to be one dead end after another. And so many people say the above things to me, which, while I understand the good intentions, I’d really rather have the help and support rather than hollow words.