Why I Don’t Write Negative Posts On This Blog

During his podcast interview with filmmaker Casey Neistat last week, Tim Ferriss said: “I was talking to Po Bronson, a writer I admire, and I asked him what he does when he feels blocked, and he said, ‘Write about what angers you. Write about what makes you upset.’”

And I had a couple thoughts: 1) I have no ideas for my blog next week, and 2) writing about what makes me upset would be wonderfully easy.

There are all kinds of writers out there, from ones like Po Bronson who has earned the right to put the words “New York Times Bestselling Author” in front of his name, to people who spend tons of their time writing for the internet and hoping people will read what they write (like me). And although Po Bronson does not write about things in a specifically negative way, Tim Ferriss’s highlighting of that quote made me think back on what I’ve been putting out there, both on this blog and on social media, and where it all comes from.

This blog will turn five years old in a few months, and I have produced a post every single week of those almost five years with only three rules:
1) Try to be relatable. Don’t write about yourself for the sake of writing about yourself, because nobody but your mom will be interested in reading that.
2) Don’t be negative
3) If you’re going to make fun of someone, you have to make fun of “us,” not “them.” The person in the mirror has to be one of your targets or you’re just being a dick.

I made up rule #2 and rule #3 because I never for sure knew what I wanted this blog to do, but I definitely didn’t want it to be something that came up in people’s social media feeds and made them angry. I wanted to make something that made people laugh, or think, or feel something besides disagreement with each other, because there’s enough of that out there now. I’ve tried to always abide by those three rules, and have rarely slipped.

We live in an era in which anyone can be a media creator, whether it’s tweets, vlogs, blogs, Instagram photos, or Facebook statuses. If you want to find something you disagree with, you can probably find it in less than 90 seconds of internet browsing. And you can either voice your disagreement with it with it, or ignore it.

Jeannette Rankin, the first woman elected to the United States Congress, famously said, “You can no more win a war than you can win an earthquake,” and I think it’s the same for arguing with other people: no one wins. All you succeed in is turning up the volume on your own opinion. Remember the time you spent an hour explaining to your uncle the extensive list of reasons all his political beliefs were wrong, and afterward, he changed his mind and started thinking exactly like you?

Here’s a metaphorical map of every argument ever, whether it’s about football, politics, religion, or breaches of traffic etiquette:

Person #1: fuck you
Person #2: no, fuck you

Person #1: Fuck You!
Person #2: No, Fuck You!

Person #1: FUCK YOU!
Person #2: No, FUCK YOU!

Person #1: I’m out of here.
Person #2: Me too.

Person #1: Person #2 is an idiot.
Person #2: Person #1 is an idiot.

I’ve found that if you put negative things out there, people are more likely to disagree with them. Positive things, for the most part, people either embrace (if you’re lucky), or ignore because they’re indifferent to them. I don’t know why this is. I wouldn’t consider myself a “cat person,” but if I see Wendy’s Facebook post about how much she loves cats, it’s easier for me to click “like” than it is for me to type a comment about why I prefer dogs to cats or how I had a cat scratch me really badly once when I was a kid or toxoplasmosis or something—you know what, Wendy, I’m glad you’re happy. Like. Scroll down.

Anger, of course, is not a bad thing. I’d like to think Po Bronson’s advice to “write about what makes you upset” is similar to to Henry Rollins’ idea of “the importance of being angry,” which he describes by saying, “Where I come from, I use my anger to go out and get shit done.” The key is directing that anger to make something that the world needs more of, instead of just producing more anger.

-Brendan

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14 Comments

  • Amen Brendan. All this negative shit just sucks the life out of me. I’d rather be happy, see other people doing cool things that make me happy for them, and do cool things may self to make me happy.

  • Right on Brendan. I think that this is actually a great point for the much broader conversation as well about the way that we choose to exist in this world. Getting angry can, at times, be an essential catalyst to motivating necessary actions that lead to positive change- but we cannot approach, or in my opinion even imagine, real solutions if we are busy being negative and focusing only on the things that piss us off. I recently wrote about a similar thing, which was motivated by a month-long challenge I gave to myself to get outside everyday in October and explore the beautiful places in my backyard. At the same time I was taking a little extra time to stop and photograph, collectively, all the garbage that I packed out. Throughout the month I definitely experienced a lot of inspiring moments (my backyard is in southern Chile, so breathtaking places sit at every turn), but also a ton of frustrating and overwhelming moments that really pissed me off when it came to seeing so much trash and wasteful consumption practices of locals and society in general. I definitely realized if I was going to motivate people rather than discourage them, I couldn’t just complain and judge. At the end of the day, if we want to have a positive impact on ourselves, our relationships, and in this world, we need to approach things with a positive mindset, which requires letting go of the anger. I always appreciate your posts and the positive, thoughtful approach you tend to take, even if the topic of a post might have been motivated by something that originally bothered you.

  • You dropped this knowledge on me while I was laying out my bed roll on a flatbed trailer somewhere in southern UT and it has stuck with me ever since. I never got a chance to thank you for that. So… Thanks, hombre. See you soon.

  • Thank you for you dedication to being a consistent voice of positivity!! I always look forward to your posts and other creations and have never been disappointed.

  • Putting out content that makes people feel good is going to keep them coming back. I think that’s partly why your blog is entertaining.

    One thing to consider is the difference between writing and publishing. I’ve found that writing about negative things allows me to work out vague thoughts into concrete principles. Then sometimes those ideas can then be framed into positive content for publishing…sometimes not.

    If something gets you super heated, that’s probably an indication that it’s important to you.

    As an example their are always politicians trying to sell off wilderness and parks. You can write about how politicians are bad or you can use that negative idea to fuel your positive writing designed to inspire people to spend more time in those parks. Same purpose, different framing.

  • I’m not much into motivational quotes or whatever, but today Robin Sharma dropped a good one “less news, more books…” Reading Bill Finnegan now, Barry Blanchard, next…

  • Unfortunately, anger sells. That’s why it works so well in politics.

    Fortunately, so do positive messages, when told right. I suppose that’s why I read this every week, and why I bought your book!

    Keep it up, dude.

  • My (social) media invovement is nearly zero. Rule #2 is one of the big reasons I take a few minutes on Thursdays to read your blog. There’s enough egocentric, false humility, BS out there that I rather read your writing and feel good about my five minute vacation.

  • So, does your Mom still like the blog even though it’s not just about you? Now to the point, liked and agree with the post. Negativity feeds off itself. New, anonymous forms of human interaction allow anyone to be crude, rude, outrageous (so they think, can’t remember the last time I was outraged.) and unkind. When the expected response comes they are validated. Sometimes it’s hard not to get sucked in. I only validate what I consider to be kind and positive. The rest don’t exist for me and that’s positive!

  • I’ve been reading this blog for 3 plus years, and have to say I’ve never been disappointed. Thank you!

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