“Don’t Be a Know-It-All” and Other Lessons in Writing

“Sisteeeeeeeeeeeerrrr (or insert any name of said sibling), you’re so dumb!” (Insert a painful eye roll and laborious sigh, expressing the disgust at the effort of mustering the words to convey the ignorance of the addressee.)

“BROTHER! You are SO. MEAN. You are ALWAYS so MEAN. The only things you ever say are MEAN.”

Anyone who has ever witnessed siblings fight before knows the dripping animosity that comes with such an altercation. There’s something strange about it all. They’re not strangers. They’re not enemies. Truth be told, they love each other, even when they don’t like each other.

Maybe that’s why it’s so cringe-worthy to witness such a scene. Had the brother been a bit more winsome, perhaps the sister would have been blessed by a bit of wisdom. Had the sister been a bit more patient, she might have been able to share some knowledge of her own. I daresay that pride has a lot to do with a situation like this: neither one is willing to admit they might have something to learn.

Dear writing brothers and sisters, maybe we can learn something from this.

Have you ever been the brother? You know. You’re older, wiser, and you have all the answers. There’s no denying it. So you’ll write about your sister to utterly embarrass her. You’re not actually trying to convince her of anything. If you were, you would be kinder in your approach. No. She doesn’t even need to read it for all you care. If she did, she probably wouldn’t get it anyway. So instead you just talk about her so none of your friends take her seriously. Never mind that some kind and truthful words might actually help her. That’s not what this is all about.

Have you ever been the sister? You are so. sick. and. tired. of your brother and his arrogance. He thinks he’s right? Ha! Clearly, he can’t see the log stuck in his eye. If he really were so wise, he’d be way more loving. So instead of listening to any of his advice, you plug your ears and holler la-la-la-la with words of your own in retort.

It hurts, my brothers and sisters. It hurts to read the bickering back and forth, especially because no one is listening. What’s the point of all the energy poured into a piece of writing that doesn’t truly make real change? If only your own buddies are listening, what does it matter?

Brothers and sisters, we have so much to learn from each other. Some of us can learn tact. Some of us can learn patience. Some of us can learn truth. Some of us can learn love. I contend that these are all so intimately linked that’s it’s nearly impossible to have one without the others.

I almost labeled this blog post “Know Your Audience.” But aside from the fact that I’ve used that title before, I think audience has a lot to do with this kind of topic. If you’re truly writing to your brother, write to him, not about him. If you’re honestly trying to help your sister, write to her, not about her. When we truly write to each other, it challenges us to get to know each other better. And the cyclical growth is great for your writing and for those who read it.

Here ends another lesson I’ve learned in my search for writing advice. I hope it has been a help.