By Jarred Parsons
I’m a writer at heart. It’s a form of creative expression I used a lot when I was growing up.
English was one of my best subjects at school and unlike most of my friends I could quite happily spend a few hours writing in addition to our school work.
When I was in my early teens I had as many as 10 pen pals that I’d regularly write to around Australia and across the world. 10 is a lot of pen pals. Perhaps I’m showing my age a little here but the reason I had so many pen pals was because I grew up in the days before email, facebook and the internet. Sometimes it could take weeks for an exchange of letters to occur via the postal system (especially overseas) and having more pen pals meant I had a much more regular stream of opportunities to write. I didn’t just get an opportunity to write though. I also learnt a lot about the people I was writing to and the states and countries in which they lived.
One of my pen pals was a girl called Kylie. Unfortunately Kylie had a really serious car accident and ended up in hospital for an extended period of time. Living so far away there wasn’t much I could do to help but I decided a hospital bed would be a pretty boring place to live for several months and there had to be something I could do to help. I soon realised there was one really obvious thing I could do… I could write to her more often to help keep her entertained and help kill some of the boredom. I made it my mission to write the longest letter I could. I wrote about 38 pages for the first letter I sent her in hospital. Now that’s a really long letter but it didn’t take that long and it wasn’t really that difficult because it was something I really enjoyed.
When Kylie received the letter she was still very physically drained from the accident and her injuries. She said it took her a few days to read in small bite size pieces but she got through it eventually and she really appreciated the entertainment it gave her. With so much time to kill Kylie ended up writing a letter back that was almost as long as the one I’d written and so the conversation continued back and forth regularly with long letters as she continued on her journey to recovery.
It never really occured to me that I loved writing so much until my Year 12 English exam. We had to write about one of the books we’d studied for an hour an a half. That was quite daunting but as I picked up the exam booklet and started to write the words flooded into the exam booklet. I was writing at such a pace that about half way through my exam I had to ask for a second booklet because the first one was full. Talking to a few mates afterwards I discovered that many of them struggled to fill even half of their exam booklet and all but one had not asked for a second booklet at all. They were stunned that I had filled two booklets by the end of the exam. I don’t think they really believed me at first but evidence that my hand was really sore from writing so much and still quite red from holding the pen so intensely gave it away.
Recently I’ve been thinking about writing more. The thought of starting a blog has been cycling through my mind for quite some time. A blog seems like such an obvious outlet for me. Despite the appeal to my inner writer I’ve resisted the idea. I’ve felt a great reluctance deep down… so much so that it’s kept me from taking the blogging plunge.
The biggest barrier to starting my blog has definitely been social media. People are so brutal on social media these days. There’s a disturbing tendency for people to shout down and attack other people online just because they put their thoughts or opinions out into the world. The attacks are often posted without any genuine attempt to understand the others viewpoint and more often than not without any respect for the idea that the person is actually entitled to have a different opinion. Too many get offended on the basis that it’s ok to have an opinion ‘as long as it’s the same as mine’. In all reality we live in a mostly democratic world. It’s actually ok to have a different opinion.
It discourages me to see so many words posted online that would otherwise be classified as bullying if they were said face to face. Our shallow self righteous sense of right and wrong fails to look deep enough into posts on social media. I’ve seen so many examples of posts on social media where people jump on a negativity train and start casting irrational judgments based on assumptions, bias, false perceptions and misunderstandings.
We forget the iceberg principle which suggests you’re only seeing 10% of the story and we make a judgement without seeing or understanding the other 90%. There’s more to the person posting than the 140 characters tells you. Even worse, we seem to have developed a disconnect from the impact of our words. Words can hurt people deeply if they’re not used sensitively.
I’ve really questioned whether I’m really prepared to expose myself to such unbridled criticism for the sake of a writing outlet.
The reality is there are people who will disagree. It’s inevitable. There are billions of people on our planet and our values are so varied and diverse that it’s inevitable that we will have differing opinions, thoughts and perspectives of the world we live in.
The Red Log is the result of a decision I’ve made not to let the fear of foolish words stop me from doing something I enjoy and it’s something I know will grow and inspire me and hopefully also readers of The Red Log.