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I recently signed up to become a participant at a site which encourages people to write a certain number of words every day. I am not going to "name and shame" the site, as they were not being intentionally mean-spirited. They did, however, use the old "shame as a motivator" principle, and this is an approach which I cannot abide.
I have been working hard at becoming my own boss during the past six weeks. The situation was forced on me by a lack of hours in the home care nursing field. However, during this unplanned hiatus, I realized that I no longer wish to work for other people, and I am willing to do whatever it takes to make that goal a reality.
I have been dividing my time between delivering food as an independent courier for Uber Eats, taking the necessary steps to become a rideshare driver with Uber and Lyft, and attempting to build my independent recruiting business. I would need a Venus-length day to accomplish all of my daily goals. A day on Venus is equivalent to 117 Earth days.
I do not want to let my craft fall by the wayside while I pursue my chosen trade. Thus, I need tools to help me hone in when it's time to write, as my mind can be a bit of a jumble. A word count goal or a story spark, generally both together, can help me shift from business mind to creative mind.
I don't enjoy the NaNoWriMo model of writing. When I am forced to produce a large number of words (1667 daily for a month) to meet my goal, the result tends to be garbage, and I never want to see it again. However, I fully approve of the Office of Letters and Light's encouragement of participants. There are clear winners with NaNoWriMo--a participant has to write 150,000 words during the month of November to claim prizes. However, while there are clear winners, there are no losers. If you participated, go you! Pats on the back all around.
Hence, I joined a site which features a challenge to meet a certain word goal daily over the course of a month. I felt that having such a goal in mind would motivate me to carve out time to write regardless of everything else currently demanding my time.
I ended up very quickly withdrawing my membership from the site when I saw that they have not only a wall of winners but a wall of shame.
Seeing the word "shame" literally made me sick to my stomach.
This is an extremely loaded word. Many people who have a history of abuse in their backgrounds feel ashamed constantly. Shame should never be used as a motivating factor, particularly, I feel, with creative pursuits. Creativity should be healing. It should not be yet another damaging element in a difficult life.
I wrote a letter to the site owners explaining my very strong feelings in regards to this matter. I will share this letter with you here.
Dear Site Owner,
There should be no "failures" with writing or other creative pursuits. Nobody should be "shamed" for not meeting a certain goal.
I would very strongly encourage you to change the name of the "wall of shame" to something like "Runners Up" or "Other Participants". Change it to something encouraging rather than discouraging, in other words.
During my entire life, I've felt ashamed for not being some sort of Grand Prize Winner Superstar. Most people are not Grand Prize Winner Superstars. We are simply trying to do our best.
Shame and browbeating, even done in a "humorous" fashion, can be extremely daunting to some people, particularly those with a background of psychological abuse. I learned early on from my family that I seemed to be incapable of doing anything right, and, even at 52 years old, I continue to impart this message to myself.
The word "shame" is so upsetting to me that I cannot possibly participate in a challenge which places me on a "wall of shame" for not completing it, particularly when I am unlikely to be able to. I am working massive numbers of hours a week. Being able to engage in creative pursuits should be a gift, not a punishment.
Of course, those who complete the challenge should be awarded a prize for doing so. But those who do not should not be "shamed" or called failures.
I like to support anything that encourages people to engage in creative pursuits. However, my money is limited, and I cannot support anything which shames those who do not "measure up" to an exacting standard.
I know it's only a word. But some words hurt--a lot.
I will be glad to become a member of the site again if the Wall of Shame becomes a Wall of Participation of some sort. Until then, my money is very limited right now, and, sadly, since I literally cannot participate in something where the cost of "failure" is being "shamed", I must cancel my subscription.