Shelve Your Rants

Yesterday, I had a bad customer experience. Instead of the declared maximum of 55 minutes, my food took over 90 minutes to arrive. There was no way to contact the driver. The restaurant didn’t pick up the phone. Two customer service agents did…nothing. In fact, one of them casually canceled my order just before the food arrived. Miraculously, it showed up anyway. Free meal after all, I guess?

I don’t know why I got so worked up about it. I wasn’t all that hungry. There was no need to call and chat and pull all these levers to try and salvage the situation. I could have just waited, or cancelled, or made some food at home. But maybe I wanted to get worked up about something. Maybe I just felt like shouting. That’s the problem with anger: You rarely know whether it’s warranted, and even if it is, it is almost never productive.

As a writer, it is especially tempting to turn each perceived slight into a long rant lamenting an entire industry. I’ve recently noticed a huge drop in quality for the experience of flying. I have a 1,400-word piece sitting in my drafts folder, ready to go — but I think I’ll just hold on to it. Besides riling up other people, is it really going to change anything? Will it reach that 1 in 1,000 airline execs who’d really take it to heart?

Writers publishing a constant stream of doomer pieces often tell themselves they’re bringing attention to important issues. Actually, they just stir up thousands of people’s emotions, and they usually profit off the outrage. The issue itself almost always remains. Like anger itself, ranting in public is rarely productive.

In private? Have at it. Write that hot letter. Type that angry Slack message. Just pause for a moment before you hit send. Chances are, you’ll realize some words are better left unsaid.

Releasing your pain is important, but it is much better to scream into, or at, your pillow than in someone else’s ear. As with your memories of bad customer experiences, most of the time, the best thing you can do with your rants is shelve them.