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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Being Present on Social Media

You only get to live once. 

A lot of people say that. I don’t know if that is true or not but I feel like we get to exist more than once in this very life.

What I’m going to say may sound far-fetched but there’s some truth to it. Otherwise I wouldn’t be talking about it.

Right now at this very moment it’s estimated that 78% of North Americans are present on some form of social media.

It’s also estimated that 2.5 billion people are going to be on social media by 2018.

The numbers and the fact you’re reading this brings me to my exact point; there’s an us that’s breathing, having breakfast, walking down the street and then there’s the other us.

The one that gets to exist outside of the confines set by time and space. While you’re reading this, you and I are likely in a different city, different country, in a different time zone. Your physical self and mine are separated. Case in point; I don’t know what 99% of my readers look like.

I’ve been pondering on this other existence of mine for quite a while.

I was going to write “this other me” instead of other existence but I refrained.

I think that’s very telling of my relationship with social media so far. I’m probably not the only one to consider who I am in the virtual space as being somehow different than the me writing this right now on a crowded bus next to a screaming baby.

The fact that we can decide what to say, what to show and mold ourselves into a better (or totally different) version of ourselves has some people saying that social media isn’t real.

For me the issue was never about “to be or not to be” some version of myself I’d carefully craft but rather “to share or not to share”.

I’m sure most of you can relate to that.

Unless you’re a teenager with an identity crisis, the question of being present on social media is usually just that; how present should you be and  how?

I’ve been existing on social media for more than a decade and I’m still trying to answer those questions.

Some days I’m satisfied with merely existing in the physical world. It seems easier in many ways. There is no audience to contend with, I can retreat into myself as much as I want.

Then on other days, I want to share everything. Every thought and every little piece of me that I feel deserve to exist somewhere other than in my own mind.

All of us living in this generation have been given this gift; the ability to give our most authentic self an existence beyond what could have ever been possible before.

We get to connect with each other on a level that is unheard of in the history of humanity.

For the first time we can be there for each other, outside of space and time.

What you say or do can impact people you’ve never met or are not even born yet.

This used to be a privilege granted to only a few; inventors, writers, historical figures.

I realize now more than ever (with everything that’s happening in the world) that this opportunity we have to speak our truth and meet each other in our humanness without barriers is one that we shouldn’t pass up.

After all we’ve all learned that sharing is caring.

Maybe it’s time we listened.

*Picture Credit: susan flickr Creative Commons 2.0

Openness and Vulnerability

I take the same bus everyday. I pass by the same houses and street corners.

Seasons change and make the experience different.

In winter the windows get dirty and grey, there’s not much to see. Spring and summer are more interesting.

When fresh air can enter through the open windows, we get a plethora of sounds that is otherwise inaudible.

Street chatter, cars passing by, honking and music. There’s this man on the corner of the busiest street that plays the violin everyday during the warmest months. He always stands barefoot on the sidewalk.

I realized today that I missed him.

I would be sad if he wasn’t there next spring.

As a city dweller, I’m lucky.

I get to hear all sorts of music everyday.

There’s the nice older gentlemen with his guitar on the metro around 5pm. He plays Beatles songs and Christmas melodies these days.

There’s the young guy with his flute in the underground tunnel downtown.

Sometimes I wonder why they show up day in and day out.

People pay little attention to them. A handful of change, a couple of smiles and nods is all they do it for.

The kids often ask me if the musicians are poor. Why do people play in the metro?

I always tell them that audiences are hard to come by. Artists don’t want to stay home and play for themselves.

An artist creates an experience that is meant for an audience.

Without a public, readers, listeners, eyes to contemplate, our work is meaningless.

It is impossible to be an artist without a willingness to be open and vulnerable. Every piece, every performance in its very existence says to the recipient “I made this for you”, “I’m creating this experience, this present moment, for you”.

In extending this gift to others, the artist is making a statement of his willingness to reach people no matter who they are, where they are in time and in life.

It’s putting a hand out into the world and telling everyone “I am here if you need me. I am here even if you don’t know you do yet”.

I think back to the sweet sounds of violin carried by last summer’s breeze and I say thank you for providing me with something I didn’t know I needed.

Even if he’s not there on the corner next spring, I can say that the notes he played still haunt the space.

Their echo resonates in me every time I pass by, reminding me how important it is to be open and vulnerable.

Just like him.

An artist, standing barefoot, among the crowd of passersby.

*Photo Credit: Kunal Shah flickr Creative Commons 2.0

Glass Half-Full or Half-Empty?

I ate veal once in my life.

It was at this fancy restaurant that I could only afford with the help of a site like Groupon. You know the type.

I don’t remember much of that meal except that I filled myself up with the far too delicious bread rolls and butter.

I don’t remember feeling anything besides being stuffed and happy.

That’s a sad, hard truth that I like to remind myself of from time to time.

Humans, we do things that are mind-boggling.

Both good and bad.

I always wonder which way it goes however.

Is it more good than bad?

More bad than good?

Glass half-full or half-empty, it doesn’t matter.

There’s still a glass on far too many tables.

*Photo Credit: Martin Abegglen flickr Creative Commons 2.0