It’s All In How You Frame The Issue

IMG_0858 (480x640) - CopyI’m currently having a lot of deep thoughts, which means that my mind is unfocused and skittering back and forth between very disparate ideas and trying to connect them.

(I don’t actually sit down and tell myself, “Let’s have deep thoughts today.”  I just sometimes get into these modes where my mind is trying to capture something that isn’t quite clear yet and it runs me around in circles until whatever it is solidifies.  Drives me nuts.)

Anyway, I think one that finally managed to resolve itself is this idea that how we frame our experiences impacts how we view them.

Seems simple enough, right?  But it’s amazingly challenging to change your frame.

An example.  I have my own business.  My primary client is someone I worked for as an employee.  Because I started out as an employee of my client, I don’t actually view them the way I should.  I get annoyed when I don’t hear from them and when they don’t have work for me.  But I’m the person trying to sell them something.  I should be trying to deliver value to them not waiting for them to deliver work to me.

But because of the way I’ve framed the situation in my mind, I get annoyed when I don’t hear from them.  I need to shift gears and actually view the business I run as a business.  If I were to do so, then my client would just be one of many business prospects who might or might not need my services at any point in time.

It’s a matter of reframing the same set of interactions.

The whole second novel I wrote wrestles with this issue as well.  The main character’s struggle is all driven by how the character has framed a relationship.  Viewed one way, the relationship is an incredibly positive experience.  Viewed another way, it’s a negative that needs to be removed.  The character spends three hundred pages trying to resolve that conflict.  View the relationship positively and keep it or continue to view it negatively and end it.

This happens in every area of our lives.

Think about anything you do.

Who do you compare yourself to?  Do you look upward and ask why am I not that far yet?  Or look downward and see how far ahead of others you already are?

Are you grateful for a full-time job and benefits at a good salary?  Or resentful that Joe in the cubicle next to you just got a performance award for doing nothing special?

(I used to when I was working full-time occasionally pull up the Labor Department’s annual income distribution graphs for my area.  Because it was easy to get caught up in my little world and what the people in my immediate sphere were probably earning and forget that compared to a very high percentage of the people living near me that I was doing damned well.)

For me, with this blog, do I feel proud that I have 150 or so followers or do I feel pathetic because a friend’s sister had 250,000 unique visitors in her first year?  With my writing, do I feel pleased because a few of my stories are getting nice personals or bummed because I see others talking about how every story they’ve ever written has been published?

(Keeping in mind, too, my choice to only submit to pro markets and that other person’s willingness to sub semi-pro or token.  This reminder being an example of how I reframe that information to make it more palatable to me.)

The tricky thing when you enter a new area is figuring out what comparisons matter for what you want to achieve.  This blog has been invaluable in helping me sort through writing-related issues and keep up with various other blogs/forums.  So, without any followers I’d be happy with what I’ve done here.

(I won’t lie.  If I had no followers after close to 400 posts and over a year of blogging, I’d feel like shit.  But I’d still have done something useful for me.  Assuming I had continued with absolutely no positive responses of any sort.)

So, how should one view blog readership?

If blog followers drive readership of your fiction writing (and I’m not sure yet whether that’s true), then the number of followers matter.

If being able to interact with a handful of followers who provide guidance, insight, or support is what matters, then it isn’t the total number of followers that matter, it’s the level of their engagement.  Five actively involved followers would have more value than a hundred who never engage.

Who knows what the actual answer is?  Some of my favorite authors have almost no online presence.  Others seem to realize a clear benefit from it.  Which is the right answer?

I don’t know enough about any of this to know what deserves value and what doesn’t.  I don’t know how to frame the situation.  So, my default is to a popularity frame.  More followers = better.

(Of course, I treat this blog much like I did high school and just do my own damned thing and hope a few people like me.  It was not a winning strategy in high school, but I did like the people who befriended me, so then again, maybe it was?  Which mattered more?  Number of friends?  Quality of friendships?  Who knows.  All about how you frame it and what your goal is.)

Anyway.  I’m pretty convinced that if I could just change the way I view things, that I could change my entire experience of anything.  I suspect it isn’t all that easy, though.  The frames we default to are very deeply buried and have been reinforced by many years of living and cultural expectations.

Changing your frame isn’t a one-day process.  It has to be a conscious decision.

(And now I go back to deep thinking, because the reason this came up is I suspect I’m in the midst of trying to change my frame on a number of issues…)


About M. H. Lee

M.H. Lee is a speculative fiction writer currently residing in Colorado whose stories are sometimes dark, sometimes funny, sometimes darkly funny, but hopefully always thought-provoking and entertaining.
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