I haven’t been doing a very good job of living up to my resolutions lately, so I decided to take a boot-camp approach to my attitude, to kick myself back into line. It’s time for another Pollyanna Week.
Pollyanna, you’ll recall, played the “Glad Game,” where she tried to find something to be glad about in everything that happened.
In this spirit, for Pollyanna Week, I abstain…that is, I try to abstain…from all complaints, negative comments, criticisms, and nagging.
The first time I observed Pollyanna Week, I discovered that this is a lot easier than it sounds. I put on my orange reminder bracelet this morning to help myself remember to stick to the positive.
I woke up at 6:45 a.m., and by 7:40 a.m., I’d already broken Pollyanna Week.
The Big Girl and I were discussing Harry Potter (one of our favorite topics) during the walk to school.
“I hope Book Seven is incredibly long,” I said. “I hope it’s a thousand pages long.”
“J. K. Rowling said in an interview that it won’t be as long as Order of the Phoenix, and that was more than 800 pages long,” said the Big Girl.
“People complained that Order of the Phoenix was too long!” I answered. “And people had the stupidest reason—that the book was too heavy for their kids to carry around. That’s the dumbest objection imaginable.”
Oops! Too late, I remembered the orange bracelet on my wrist. Why speak so harshly and dismissively? Who needs that? Why not just talk about my love for Harry Potter?
On the other hand, I have decided that there is a proper place for complaining. I saw a friend who is about to move, and we groused about the pain of moving. To have been utterly upbeat would have annoyed her; I commiserated to show my appreciation for the hassles she was dealing with.
The spirit of Pollyanna Week, I decided, can be maintained by keeping a light tone, joking about annoyances, emphasizing the positive, and not dwelling on an irritating topic too long.
Even so, I didn’t do a good job of complaining with a Pollyanna spirit. It turns out that it’s just as hard to gripe mindfully as it is to abstain from griping altogether.
I can tell that I need this exercise. It shouldn’t be this hard to be cheery.
As a writer, I’m always thinking about why certain books succeed and other books don’t — so I was fascinated by an article I read yesterday in the New York Times Magazine. In Is Justin Timberlake a Product of Cumulative Advantage? A new theory of the hit record, Duncan Watts argues that because people gravitate toward music, books, etc. that they know that other people enjoy, the process of finding “hits” isn’t just a matter of identifying a quality product; there’s also an interactive element, “social influence” so that as something becomes slightly more popular, it tends quickly to become far more popular. People generally assume that they’ll like what other people like. Therefore, the likes and dislikes of the somewhat random group of first-responders can have a huge (and unpredictable) impact on what ultimately succeeds or fails. If this is the sort of thing you like, you’ll like this.