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Take Bill and Ted's advice: Be Excellent To Each Other

A subtle, okay, not so subtle reminder of that having manners shouldn't be forgotten in online spaces😂

By Dana StewartPublished 26 days ago 6 min read
Top Story - September 2023
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When I first stumbled upon Vocal I was like a fat kid in an all you can eat candy shop, located in a bad part of town that nobody feels safe going to after dark. You know what I mean, your profile picture looks like you’ve had your fair share of free candy. Amiright? LOL.

Did that sentence take you by surprise? Was it complimentary? No, not at all. It’s passive aggressive at best, insulting and inferior, but it means well. Perhaps that’s implied. In the flux of trying to make a daily word count it does more harm than good.

Let me start again, an example of what I’d consider a better start, anyway.

When I first stumbled upon Vocal, I was like a kid in a candy shop. So many creative people in one place, one small triangle on the web but it felt so big, so freeing. I didn’t have a big creative circle and the people that I did lean on were tired (although they wouldn’t admit it) of hearing about my ‘ideas’ and short fiction.

I was happy to find a platform, kind of a home base in the minor leagues. Creators, rejoice! That short story living on a thumb drive is homeless no more. That poem you wrote about the bigotry of third grade politics – post it here. This was where we could hang our hat, snuggle up on the sofa while we sip a cup of warm cocoa, and settle in for the night with a good read. Someone, another writer had shared their soul. A place where we're most likely reading the work of a budding novelist. What a cool opportunity. To have a chance to read someone before they write their own runaway hit like Eat Pray Love (don’t knock it – Liz Gilbert hit a home run) and even better, a couple years later, a place to converse with those literary geniuses in training through comments.

I remember the first thing I read on Vocal. It was a fiction piece, for the Little Black Book challenge. It was good. My piece turned out just okay. The budding novelist in me warmed to the flow of euphoria that there was a place to share the rough drafts and bad ideas. Cause if we are being real, not everything we think of to create is a masterpiece. Not at first. But the potential, well, the potential is there for you and for me. Dolling out the duds is part of the process. There’s no way around it. You’ve got to suck like a vacuum before you mop up.

It’s cleaning 1-0-1.


Here we can do just that. Experiment. Explore. Create. Interact with the next big thing in the publishing world. And hey, it might be you and it might even be me.

If we do the work. Pour ourselves into a piece we can be passionate about, feel the characters we’ve created so much that they come alive and begin to write the story all by themselves.

I knew that Vocal was a special place when I read my first article.

That has not changed. But other things have.

Back then there was no commenting allowed. Just hang your work out there in the deep space of the void and hope for a heart.

And let me tell you, those hearts (for me at least) were hard to win for a good long while.

In the bliss of creating, some of us have forgotten what we’re doing here. Why we are really here.

That answer should be to hone our craft among likeminded individuals. And support people doing the same thing. Cause I still get a tingle of apprehension before I publish something. Perhaps that’s a good thing to have – an ego that is humble. And kind. Don’t we all crack our knuckles, take a deep breath when we finally hit that Submit for Review button?

I know I do.

This is where things can get dicey. Backlash is real. I’ve seen it. You probably have as well.

It starts innocent enough, I think. Maybe not in every case, but a comment has rubbed me raw a time or two. I have puffed my chest in response, because while I might be hard to anger, I too have limits. And bullshit -harmful, ego defying comments will not be ignored. I’m not suggesting that you don’t stand up for yourself.

What I am saying is that if Vocal is a place for writers, we should honor the words. Of compliments, of unsolicited critiques, of slamming another’s success because the green eyes monster has a piece of us.

I’m not saying that Vocal is fair. It's a big platform and it's growing more every day. Of course there are going to be some hiccups along the way. From what I've seen, Vocal does make a considerable effort to make things better whenever they can. They listen to creators. The judges can't count (hey - we might as well laugh) but even then they tried to make things right. You won't find that at Facebook, or Google. Vocal really tries. Some of us may think they don't care and that things aren't fair, like how Top Stories make the front page, but life isn't fair. Like I said in a recent comment, where I’m from fair is what you take a pig to.

Seize the day and keep going, keep writing. Focus on the big goals. Let the Vocal community read your work while you get where you're going. We'll comment as best we can, on as many stories as we can. And this is where things gets sideways.

If we can give a bit more latitude in how we respond to comments, I think there will be a lot less contention. I know that stifles my creativity more than anything. The only drama that should be put on the page is in a story.

That’s where it belongs.

Maybe I have a lofty goal for humanity? Maybe not. We are writers, let’s remember that we are all human beings.

And not to overlook how we respond, what we respond to matters just as much. Commenting should not be taken for granted. A great compliment or a heartfelt statement is meaningful. Even a smiley face emoji.

What matters is that our work is getting out there. Let's try to be mindful of our encounters.

Here’s a short list of reminders of basic manners:

1) Do unto others as you would like done to you. FFS, we should have all learned that in kindergarten, but I suppose a refresher isn’t unrealistic.

2) If you don’t have something nice to say – stow it. If the writer does not specifically ask for critique, there’s no need to bring it up.

3) In commenting online, subtext is lost, sense of humors can be misinterpreted just as easily as in text messages.

4) If you try to relate to a story and your comment begins ‘one time when I was in first grade…’ then you proceed to fill in every minute detail of what happened since then, STOP. What you have to say is bigger than a comment section, you need to publish a story with all that in it.

5) The complaining needs to stop. We all want Vocal to be the best place it can be, but sour grapes about another writer’s success is not going to make anyone successful.

6) Remember what’s appropriate. You know what is and what isn’t.

7) It’s not always about you. Don’t take a comment personally that you read on another’s story. Chances are, it's not about you.

8) Find comradery with your actions. You’ll get as much out of Vocal as you put into it.

9) Do the work.

10) Let others do their work. Don’t shite on their pieces if you don’t agree with their position. Use your thumbs and scroll away if you can’t engage meaningfully. Diverse ideas and opinions are necessary to a full scope periphery.

And lastly, if in doubt, take Bill and Ted's advice.

Be excellent to each other.

Party on, er - write on.

how to

About the Creator

Dana Stewart

Soup lover proudly owned by fluffy little lap dogs. Likes: sunsets, chocolate, witty replies, and good hair days. Dislikes: Mean people and flan. Hit that subscribe button.

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Comments (30)

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  • Leslie Writes9 days ago

    I agree with this sentiment 💖 you’ve put it very eloquently. I especially like the “scroll away if you don’t like it” idea. If someone is being racist/abusive/plagiarizing , then go ahead and report it to vocal team. Otherwise, just move on without commenting. “Hot takes” are so self serving. Unless someone specifically requested criticism, which is a different animal and a two way agreement.

  • Great advice and brilliant perspective. Number four is my absolute fave! Congratulations on Top Story! 🤍🤍🤍

  • I am both pleased and humbled by this. I think this is incredibly well-written and, more importantly, topical. And I'm feeling a bit ashamed that I was sucked into the recent controversy. My only concern is how helpful a community can be if a writer must do is bring attention to their own work.

  • Heather Hubler18 days ago

    Well, you had me at Bill and Ted :) I loved the original movie and they gave excellent advice. You did as well with this thoughtful piece, my friend. I hope things calm down a bit. It's been frustrating to say the least. Congrats on a well deserved Top Story!

  • Tiffany Gordon 19 days ago

    Congrats on your TOP STORY my friend!

  • Caroline Jane19 days ago

    Loving and laughing through all of this. I nearly spat my cup of tea out at: It’s cleaning 1-0-1. Legit. Could not agree with this more. Write on! Absolutely ❤️

  • Gerald Holmes19 days ago

    " where I’m from fair is what you take a pig to." I loved this line, it is so fitting. I agree with everything you said! Congrats on the Top STORY.

  • Rachel Deeming19 days ago

    Well said in so many ways. So far I've only felt the love on Vocal but I have seen strife. Someone once said one of my stories was too long and offered to give me writing advice which just made me laugh. I don't always agree with TS choices - so what? I don't comment on pieces I don't like. I do effuse about pieces I do! I agree wholeheartedly with everything you've said here, Dana. And I think material like this is fab. Well done on TS.

  • C. H. Richard19 days ago

    So well said my friend! This is awesome! Yes every time I hit submit I still have butterflies 🦋 . One more thing we have in common. 😊 Yes for be nice and critique when it is asked for. Well done and congratulations on a fabulous top story 👏 ❤️👏

  • Alexander McEvoy19 days ago

    Let's keep things excellent between us! This was a most bodacious article, and it deserves to pass the history final, or at least get top story! Sometimes when I log into Vocal, I get the sense that strange things are afoot at the Circle K, but I just shrug and carry on. Occasionally I remember to go back in time and bring a garbage can (references!). I wish people would follow Bill and Ted's advice in the real world as much as here, but if here is the only place I can get it then I'm content with that.

  • Kristen Balyeat19 days ago

    Yes, 100%! Love this, Dana! Well said! 👏🏽💫 Congrats on top story!

  • Babs Iverson19 days ago

    Wonderfully written and message!!! Congratulations onTop Story!!!💕❤️❤️

  • Excellent excellence 👌✨❤️ I missed this when you published it, a well deserved top story…. 🎉 I really enjoyed how conversational this felt

  • Lamar Wiggins20 days ago

    Excellent article with a ton of important information. I especially love the reminders. Congrats Dana. I do my best to be courteous to others. If I disagree with an article I simply don’t heart or comment. Not here to rain on anyones parade. like you said, It’s not always about how it made you feel. Thank you.

  • Hannah Moore20 days ago

    Most triumphant dude!


  • Alivia Varvel20 days ago

    YES! So happy to see this on the home page. Congrats ✨

  • Paul Stewart20 days ago

    It took its time, but finally - congrats on Top Story, Dana!

  • Mackenzie Davis20 days ago

    I feel simultaneously proud and humbled. Proud of you, for writing this SO eloquently, and timely, too. And humbled, because I fell into the pit of contention that happened recently. The only question I have supportive is a community, really, if everything a writer reads is positive, with no constructive feedback? But then, I've always been torn on this. Mostly, I want to feel like I can accurately gauge how my own writing is doing. Also, I have a workshop brain impulse (though I never act on it here). It's worth a discussion, though, lol! Wonderful article, and I really hope it gets TS! More people ought to read your wonderful advice, reminders, and instructions for how Vocal ACTUALLY works -- and works well. Fantastic, Dana.

  • Donna Renee20 days ago

    This! 👍 I think I’m going back into hiding if it doesn’t improve. 🫠🫣

  • Suze Kay20 days ago

    Love the message. Thanks for sharing, Dana - you’re right that we all need to carry this energy forward into the world and this platform!

  • Kendall Defoe 21 days ago

    The Little Black Book was the challenge that brought me to Vocal, and you are absolutely right, although I can never tell what people will respond to (someone just said I insulted them with the following comment: 'I rather like that'; don't ask). And yes, potential TS here (I am returning the prophecy)! ;)

  • Harmony Kent23 days ago

    Dana, this is outstanding. I especially love … ‘You’ve got to suck like a vacuum before you mop up.’! 💖 Your list at the end says it all. Though we have challenges on Vocal, I don’t see any of us as being in competition with one another but in companionship and collaboration. This deserves Top Story, and I’d love to see ALL of the community read this excellent and on-point piece. Thank you for sharing and being honest. The way you approached this is perfect. 💕🙂

  • "Diverse ideas and opinions are necessary to a full scope periphery." This is truth in a nutshell. I love being part of a creative community and "visiting " the stories here. This is so well written and true! Thank you for this!

  • Novel Allen26 days ago

    All your points are well taken and dissected. We all write great, not so great, and some downright horrible stories, but they are our stories. Yet we all have something to say, some things which can be interpreted in many different ways by many different personalities. Opinions can differ without taking the vicious route to understanding. There are so many issues to tackle, they can all be done in a peaceful way. There shall always be opinions, we have to accept that and deal accordingly. FREE WILL was given to all, we are all free to interpret an action in our own way. Respect it and state your point with poise and grace, is all that we ask. Could what is being called complaining be genuine concerns from which new ways of dealing with things be gleaned. Similar complaints may stem from a basis which needs to be dealt with. Again, from these complaints there may be genuine concerns. We just need to listen and not attack. Points taken with open mindedness.

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