How Not to get Freshly Pressed: Avoid Ten-Step, Be-Happy, How-To lists

I’m a little bored with the ten-steps-to-anything-you-want lists. Ten steps to happiness. Ten steps around your stone-walling partner. Ten steps out of your personality box. Ten steps to keeping your impossible boss happy. Ten steps to being organized. Ten steps to project confidence. Ten foods to avoid. Ten foods to include. Ten steps to a thin and fit you. Ten steps to a beautiful garden. Ten steps to improving your finances. Ten steps to entrepreneurship. Ten steps to successful breastfeeding. Ten steps to making your posts stand out. Ten steps to being Freshly Pressed. On and on.

I’m new to this, so I could be wrong, but I kind of doubt that praising honest and messy writing over tidy little solutions lists will get you Freshly Pressed. It seems that despite the glut of self-help stuff out there, we still value prettily packaged up and simplistically optimistic over reality.

But sometimes some of us just want to know our lives aren’t the only ones that aren’t all neatly tied up. We want to know that others with similar experiences are managing, and we want to learn from them, but we also want to know that they sometimes don’t manage well at all. Some say this not-managing stage ought to be private, that we ought to offer the story only once resolution has been arrived at. I disagree.

Most of us derive comfort from being reminded that we’re not the only ones who live with insecurities and anxieties and sensitivities. We feel less alone when we’re reminded that others too live with pain, and that they sometimes handle them less than graciously, too. We need to present our best faces at work, and in public in general, and sometimes even with family and friends, and it’s true, nobody enjoys the Forever Victim. But nobody likes Ms. Perfect either, so what’s wrong with striking a balance?

I’m not opposed to helpful information. I’m not opposed to organized writing either. But I am opposed to the idea that the writing always most worthy of our attention is shiny, happy, and primarily informative. Sometimes gritty truth and reality are most worth reading.

Because the truth is that ten steps may or may not get us anywhere but depressed. The truth is that it’s not always black and white and simple.

We come with challenges, personalities, and limitations as varied as the jungle. We’re strong and weak, accomplished and frustrated, happy and sad, productive and lazy, generous and selfish, emotional and rational. We’re conscientious and lazy, principled and compromising, caring and self-absorbed, charming and irritating, tolerant and image-conscious. And we’re all these things for a million different reasons. 

Life does not consist of tidy little stairways, and we don’t often grow beyond the constraints of our particular personalities or find the courage or grace to achieve our goals or endure painful situations by way of ten simple steps. These things involve looking at our deepest fears and motivations and the honesty of fellow travelers. We don’t find community and comfort in being surrounded by people wearing their I’ve arrived badges.

Optimism, direction, information, yes. Picture where you want to go and who you want to be, yes. But be present in the moment too, with yourself, with those around you, with realities that may be painful.

I love to read, but not lists, and not only stories that are finished, all loose ends tied up, problems resolved. I read those who honestly and intelligently and bravely and with humour face the realities of being human, of loss and heart-break, and yes, limitations. Sometimes the waters are blue and the sky is the limit, and sometimes our wheelchairs or our ages or decisions others have made on our behalf are the limit, and sometimes no ten step plans are going to help.  And sometimes we just need to hear from others left cold by the bright-siding, just-do-it lists. 

But as much as the world of literature respects the darker realities of human experience, and despite the reality that many bloggers are actually looking not so much for answers as they are for others who might understand, who might be willing to engage in something less amenable to a numbered list, what mostly seems to float to the top in the blogosphere is the perkier, tidier, how-to stuff.

I’ll have to come up with ten steps to change this.

 

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10 thoughts on “How Not to get Freshly Pressed: Avoid Ten-Step, Be-Happy, How-To lists

  1. The reason those posts are freshly pressed is exactly as you said. They are simple to write and simpler to read. They are easy on the eyes and everyone’s mood. Just picture a tired office worker taking a break from all the numbers; do you really want to make him/her more depressed and tired? As a blogger, personally, I try not to. I want my blog to be a place where they can be informed and entertained.

    I’m not against telling the truth and revealing the sometimes gritty reality of things. Quite the contrary. What I’m against is doing it without any finesse or tact, because that is, in my opinion, irresponsible writing. That’s no different from ranting, which is something nobody benefits from. The reader becomes depressed and the writer is still unable to do anything. The problems are still there.

    It’s like Oscar Wilde said: “If you tell people the truth, make them laugh or they will kill you.”

    • I adore writers who can make me laugh. But I also adore those can make me cry with relief when they capture and empathize with my pain, and I disagree that anything less than happy and bright depresses readers. When you’re in a bad place, say you’ve just suffered a serious betrayal, the least helpful thing is ten steps to forgiveness. From what I’ve seen, life is a bit of a chaotic process that is richer for being present with reality than it is for the nearest ten steps out of the room.

  2. Sounds like we need to remember chaos theory and how it connects to real life – live with the chaos until something ‘rises to the top’ – something I use daily with my staff!!

  3. Getting Freshly Pressed Is i think a completely random thing. Some of the posts that get freshly pressed are so inane I cant believe they are there – e.g. reviews of new films – I mean go read a news site for that. But you’re right steer clear of the healthier, happier I-want-to-tell-you-how-to-live-your-life stuff (in ten easy steps)

    • True, true. Some of course are truly awesome too; I hope I wasn’t too critical. It’s just that I get tired of of the abundance of how-to out there. Thanks for taking the time to read mine little bit!

  4. I had no idea what Freshly Pressed meant until I finally googled it. Once I found out, I googled:”how to get freshly pressed wordpress” and your blog was at the top of the list. Good read.

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