SPidge Tales

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Positive Attitudes

We all know John Belushi’s samurai sandwich server, Will Ferrell and Cheri Oteri’s cheerleaders, Will Ferrell’s James Lipton, the Coneheads, the Ladies Man, the Night at the Roxbury boys, Wayne’s World, and Chris Farley’s motivational speaker Matt Foley. Some became real bad movies, some didn’t. But they were all recurring skits on Saturday Night Live. Sadly, the talent and writing have gone way down on the show, almost to the point of unwatchability. One of the few watchable current sketches is a recurring skit called Debbie Downer. Rachel Dratch plays Debbie, always ready with a depressing response to any joyous news brought by friends, followed a trombone-played “wah-wah.”

“You’re enjoying your day
Everything’s going your way
Then along comes Debbie Downer

Always there to tell you ‘bout a new disease.
A car accident or killer bees
You’ll beg her to spare you, ‘Debbie, Please!’
But you can’t stop Debbie Downer!”

We all know a Debbie Downer. We probably know many. This got me thinking…you know, in an introspective sort of way: “Am I a positive person?”

I just read a book called “Get Anyone to Do Anything,” by David Lieberman, PhD. I will discuss the book in greater detail in a later blog entry, but a key point in an early chapter on getting people to like you is the insightful comment: people like positive people. We like to be around, and we like to become friends with, positive and happy people. Which brings me back to my question: Am I a positive person?

When I am around people, playing games, having discussions, eating dinner, and everything else people do together, I am positive. I always smile and make people feel comfortable. But, when I write (which I do a lot, probably too much; most of my writing I don’t even post online), I tend to be negative and critical. I point something out, and critique or make fun of it. Why is that? Why do I turn critical when I put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard)?

I think when it comes to the written word it is natural to find conflict. Conflict drives narrative. Especially in fiction, we like to see a problem followed by either a resolution or a complete fall. The protagonist is attacked by bad guys, or is in love with the meathead’s girlfriend, or even does something himself to cause problems, and the story plays out through his quest to resolve the conflict. We close with a happy ending, a tragedy, or stuck in neutral with an option for a sequel.

Even in non-fiction, conflict drives narrative. It is much easier to write about what’s wrong with the world than to glowingly praise the pretty daisies in the backyard. It need not be this way, though. If we look hard enough, there are many things to praise. In my opening anecdote, instead of getting a jab in about the demise of SNL, I could have praised the show’s ability to keep churning out skits week after week.

Beginning now, I will make an effort to write more positively. Even though you won’t see it, I will have a smile on my face as my fingers hit the keys. I will look for the good in situations. I will compliment people as much as possible, even if I have to occasionally give backhanded compliments (example: ARod’s purple lips aren’t that big when compared to Barney the Dinosaur’s)


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