Be Your Own Hero

 “Sometimes I look at my life and…”

Someone said that to me once with their voice trailing off to somewhere I couldn’t follow.

It was such a great opening, an intriguing start to a very human confession whose nature promised the delivery of some deep truths and authentic connection which I both sought.

I was left to fill in the blanks myself with my interlocutor’s sudden silence accompanied with a swift wave of the hand.

I still think about it from time to time, the writer in me can’t help it.

Statements like this resonate for a long time in my psyche.

It amazes me how sometimes the absence of words can speak louder than all the words in the world.

It’s a hard fact to accept as a writer.

I want to put words on everything, from the mundane to the extraordinary. On universal feelings and ones you wouldn’t know you had before reading about them.

I can’t.

I tried imagining what the speaker meant to say.

Everything I came up with felt flat.

I then thought of what I could say.

“Sometimes I look at my life and…”

I’m at a loss for words.

Plain and simple.

Not because there’s nothing to say, quite the contrary.

But because there’s so much.

Looking at my own life as if I was the hero of a story, I realized that if I want to ever be able to fill those blanks for other people I should start with my own.

Of course there is power in what is left unsaid but you can’t deny that most of us crave to hear or read stories that show the universality of human experiences.

I think if we can find those kinds of stories in our own life and tell them well enough to satisfy that craving, we can then really call ourselves a writer.

If you wish to capture deep truths and have an authentic connection with your readers, you have to start by connecting with your own truths first.

You don’t have to be a memoirist but if you can’t write about the little and big things in your life in a way that makes you feel empathy for who you were, who you are and who you will be, how could you do it for any character?

I say “Be your own hero”.

Writers out there, what do you think of auto fiction? Is it a necessary first step to writing good relate-able characters? 

If you’re not a writer, do you “sometimes look at your life and…”? 

Let me know your thoughts on the topic in the comments. 

*Photo Credit: blinking idiot flickr Creative Commons 2.0

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The Power of Stories

I think as artists we all have days where we ask ourselves this question: “Why?”

Sitting down to write or create something, putting our stories out into the world can feel pointless.

It doesn’t matter what your medium of choice is, the fact is; being an artist of any kind doesn’t have many of the perks that a so called “real” job has.

No financial security, no status, nothing resembling a nod of approval for the important work we do.

Sometimes I do wonder. Is it important?

After all when it comes to life and death, fighting oppression and making the world a better place, a pretty children’s story or a contemporary dance piece are not part of the obvious work that we think should be done.

It’s already hard to find value in art when everything is rosy and sweet unless you’re an artist. When the world is looking bleak, like it does nowadays, even I, strict defender of the arts,  find it difficult to believe that sharing my words, my stories, a piece of my own vision is the most worthwhile thing I can do.

I’ve thought a lot about this in the wake of the recent political events that have (it seems) turned the world upside down.

Activists everywhere are waking up and people who never thought of themselves as activists are taking a stand.

Where does that leave artists?

Some say that art can be a tool in bringing social and political change.

If you have ever looked for a justification to do your art when more important things are happening, you probably gladly took this one.

I know I did and I am now.

If I’m being honest I didn’t quite truly believe it until today.

You could say I had an epiphany.

Where did it come from?

It came from asking this question: So what if I’m sitting down writing a story I believe the world doesn’t need?

We are already being bombarded by stories everyday. Stories that we don’t get to choose.

Everyday I read on SnapChat stories about some celebrity’s vacations or sudden acne flareup.

I read on Facebook stuff about an airport officer getting shot and a 2 year old singing perfectly a famous country singer’s song.

One can avoid reading the news you could say. That’s true. But it’s not just about story lines on social media or in the papers.

It goes deeper than that.

The power of stories is at work right now in your life and in your children’s life whether you like it or not.

Whether you realize it or not.

It’s also at work in our neighbor’s life, in our friends, in our enemies, in elected officials. Everyone.

What do I mean?

First, the obvious; what we do, what happened to us, that’s a story. You can’t say that has no power. The past impacts us all in ways we wish it didn’t sometimes. Conversely what you’re doing right now impacts you future, even though you might not want it to.

Secondly, the less obvious but perhaps a lot more powerful; the stories we pick up here and there, the one your grandpa might have told you when you went fishing with him or that time you got caught telling a really good lie. The stories big and small that we use to create. The stories that created us.

The stories that tell us what is important at all in this life.

Being an artist may come without a status but it does come with great power.

If you’re ever in doubt, please:

Never underestimate the power of a really good story.

Especially your own.

 

*Photo Credit: Eric flickr Creative Commons 2.02.0

5 Things Writers Do When They Have a Bad Day

We all have bad days. I think it has something to do with being born human. Or just living on this planet.

Then there’s good days that turn into bad days.

I have a lot of those as a writer. I may wake up feeling fine and at peace with myself but as soon as I sit down and start to write, it happens. My joyous disposition turns sour when I take a long hard look at my words on the page or their lack there of.

Bad writing days have a way of becoming just plain old bad days.

Writers, can you relate?

 As I was having one of those days recently where the muse just wouldn’t pay me a visit, I thought to myself “Shouldn’t I have a some kind of back up plan?”

I didn’t so I devised one.

Here is my 5 steps formula to make things better:

By the way these tips might help you even if you’re not a writer. (at least I hope so, ha!) 

1- Write something. 

While you may not be able to get your words down for a specific project doesn’t mean all hope is lost. Try working on some fiction if you’re stuck on an academic paper or an article.

Stuck on a story? Write an article on the mating rituals of bonobos if you want to. (I won’t judge)

The point is, give your mind something different to tackle.

If nothing works, journaling about your feelings is always a good option.

2- Don’t write

I have an uncanny liking for contradictions. What can I say?

In all seriousness, sometimes the best antidote to solving a writing problem is rest. The perfect word you’ve been looking for all day? It will probably come to you after that nap you’re avoiding taking.

3- Go to the library

This one is an no-brainer. If there is one thing all writers like, it’s most definitely books.

Being surrounded by thousands of them is always inspiring for me.

Choose a good novel or two and read. Time spent reading is never lost.

A change of scenery plus a good read is sometimes all it takes to get back on track. If not it’s at least a solid start.

4-Watch TV shows

If your mind is tired from all those pesky words, a good story packed full of suspense TV show or movie is a good option.

A story is a story no matter what form it takes.

Your brain will get some rest but your imagination will likely be sparked.

5-Draw, paint, sculpt, do scrap-booking…

I don’t know about you but as a writer I sometimes feel like I’ve pigeon-holed myself into one art form.

The truth is my creativity should be explored in other ways.

Even if it’s just 30 minutes coloring in one of those trendy adult coloring books, at least it’s something new.

Stimulating your brain with a hands-on activity is a sure way to quiet your thoughts. Especially that nagging writing critic living in your mind.

And if it doesn’t work, well you’ll have a nice piece of art to hang on your wall that you can look at next time you’re having a bout of writer’s block.

Bonus tip: Drinking excessive amounts of tea curled up in bed with your cat is always a good idea.

There you have it; all my tips and tricks to make a bad writing day, an at least tolerable day.

What do you do when the muse fails to visit you?

If you’re not a writer, how do you manage bad days?

I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments.

*Photo Credit: barbara w flickr Creative Commons 2.0

NBO or Die

When I was little, I used to envy those that knew how to read. I wanted to know what the billboards we passed on the street said, what those letters on the paper and milk carton meant.

I was sad that there was a world outside of myself that I couldn’t be a part of. Then one day I learned to read. I don’t remember the exact moment it clicked in my head. I just know that suddenly those letters that were senseless the day before, somehow came together and offered me what I always wanted.

The day my brain formed those connections that made it possible for me to understand written language changed my life.

From that point on I read everything I could find. I even read the parenting books my mom kept on her bedside table.

The simplicity of children’s books bore me really fast.

I wanted every new book to be an adventure in a territory I didn’t have yet access to.

I was lucky, I could get any book that my eyes laid on at the library.

I liked reading the titles and judging the covers before taking anything.

Except for that one day.

I felt uninspired and left it to fate. I closed my eyes and ran my finger on the back of all the spines of the novels on the shelf. Until I landed on one that would be “the one”.

If you have read “Summer Sisters” by Judy Blume, you already know that this is “the one” I’m referring to.

Odds are you don’t. (Even though she’s a known author, her books for children are more commonly read).

The story is about the life long friendship of two young women. It is a somewhat typical coming of age novel but it was the first in its genre that I ever read.

I was 9 years old.

I may not have been in the best position to agree to it but I made the pact with my favorite heroines.

NBO or die.

Never be ordinary.

An ordinary life is worse than death.

I wouldn’t say I’ve broken the pact. I don’t think I’m ordinary.

However I don’t think ordinary exists at all.

This is something I’ve learned for myself by revisiting the book over and over again.

The reason I was so keen on believing anything the characters said, felt and did was their humanity, full of its uniqueness that made them as real to me as anyone I could met on the street or at school.

Fictional entities, no matter how their stories play out, are a reflection of us and they’re never boring.

So why would we be?

Picking up this novel truly changed my life. I saw for the first time how we never truly know those closest to us, including our very own self.

I firmly believe there is a hidden story inside all of us.

This is why I decided to become a writer. To dig beneath the surface of my own life and others around me. To find what is there at the roots of our humanity.

Because that will never be ordinary.

What book(s) has inspired you or helped shaped your life?

Let me know in the comments!

 

*Photo Credit: Fah Rojvithee flickr Creative Commons 2.0