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Tag: love

What Do You Know About That?: The Myth of Writing What You Know

If writers only write what they know, the world, and their writing, will be very boring spaces. Well, with a few exceptions.

Like many writers, I had a series of “careers” and a diverse education before I figured out a way to write for a living. I’ve described before how I do other things than just writing: editing, formatting, and other tasks, most of them relating to publishing. They all have one thing in common: writing about them is boring except to other writers.

So as an author, what do you write about? I mean, they say write what you know, but in many ways what I know sucks. There are only so many stories of fast food workers, Fed Ex delivery drivers, and ski bums that people can stand, right?

When we say “write what you know” we don’t mean your job, past occupations, and the criminal activities you may or may not have participated in in college. That is what research is for, and if you are not a writer you will often find them to be quite knowledgeable on several topics if you engage them in conversation.

This is because we, as writers, write what we get to know. We research, study, and become unqualified experts on any number of topics to make our stories richer. Therefore, from time to time, we get it wrong in our stories. Many of us are not police officers, doctors, lawyers, or other professions we write about. We’ve just researched them.

But there are things we can write about that we do know, and that is what we mean when we say “write what you know.”

Fear

If anyone is familiar with fear, it is a writer, regardless of how sheltered the rest of their life might have been. For the most part, though, writers have endured fear in many areas of their lives.

Every time you sit down to look at a blank page, whether it is to write an article or blog post or to start that next story or novel, a writer experiences fear: fear that the words won’t come this time, or that someone will discover how poorly we write, or worse that no one will read our work at all.

This fear is something we can put into our stories and our characters. When they are afraid, we can describe it accurately, show it to our readers. To do so, we must be open and allow our own fear to show through.

This is tough: it means we are making ourselves vulnerable. It means that in every moment of fear in our work, our readers catch a glimpse of what is inside us, and that makes for great fiction.


Blue October, Fear [Explicit]

Love

If there is one thing artists do an astonishing job at, it is love. We also tend to love imperfectly, because we are flawed, and our attention is often drawn to things it should not be. It’s hard to walk through the day and not be distracted by something that is the next story idea, even just an odd creative spark.

However, when we love, we love with everything we are and are loyal to a fault. Sometimes that love is misunderstood because our loyalties are so divided. We are loyal to our craft and our stories, often even our characters. It does not mean we don’t have enough love for others too, it just means we struggle with the balance between the real world and the fantasy we live in.

Writers are often broken and dark, and our writing is where the darkness goes so we do not spread it to those around us. When we are not writing and creating, we are dangerous, hurtful people, the gods forgive us. When we create and channel that darkness, we love with a fierce passion, and take our place among the gods.

Can we write of this struggle to love? Of course we can, because every story is a love story, whether it is in the romance genre or not. Every story has love of something woven into it. To be effective, though, we must show this love to our readers: the pain of it, the struggle, and the triumph.

Darkness

Speaking of the darkness we release through our writing, we must understand that to make it effective, we must not fear showing it to our readers. This is the thing we know so well, yet is difficult to write about. It reveals something inside us we don’t always want the world to see.


I don’t care what genre you write in, there is at some point darkness in your story. The moment the love interests part in a fight over some silly little thing, the moment the husband dies and the woman has to move on, or the moment the murder kills or the monster appears.

The monster is us. Those that are most real contain elements of our darkest secrets, our hidden flaws, the secret desire to destroy that lives within us, shrouded in the shadows of our hearts.

We must provide this darkness a place to play, to live in the light so that we do not harm those around us.

Triumph

Our victories sometimes are small. That one publishing credit. The one book or article acceptance. The one moment when we feel validated as a writer. The time when our child is actually kind or shares a story of their own. The time when we actually do get the girl (or guy), the one who understands us to our very soul and supports us.

These are the triumphs we know. These are the feelings, the emotions, the joy we can infuse into our stories the moment our hero slays the dragon, gets the bad guy, gets the girl, or finally overcomes that one issue in his life.

We must, whenever we can, balance the darkness with triumph. We must impart to our readers the one thing that keeps us going: hope.

You know more than you think as a writer. But it is the things you know in your soul that matter the most. These are the things you must write about. Write what you know. Learn what you don’t.

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Change

As many of you know, often even just as a form of therapy, I write some free-verse type poetry. It is likely crude, even offensive to true poets. But I wrote this recently. This is a holiday gift to you.

Change. It evokes in us a feeling of fear. As if in embracing it, we
will not something new gain, rather might
experience loss. We fear what we possess is scarce, and in letting
it go, moving forward
we might never recover what we left behind. We hold on fruitlessly to
poison. Grip sickness tightly to our chests, embracing day after day the
harm. Whispering to the hurt the words: “I love
you. I love you. I love you.”
While it stabs us, screaming in rage: “Die!
Do not seek to live! Die!”

Something changed in me yesterday.
Not for want of trying before. For try
I had.
For who wants to live in a storm
of jealousy, fear, anxiety, dependent upon another
for the security of one’s soul?
I surveyed those surrounding me. Enabling those
who did not love them to maneuver
their feelings, govern their actions, the unwitting
control born of fear.

Fear of loss. Fear of rejection. Fear their lover
might yell. Their soul mate might begin a conflict
over a misplaced dish, a toilet seat left up
or down.
A roll of paper around a cardboard tube, be it
towels or that meant for more private business.
Their lives were filled with anxiety, that un-medicated
might for them spell “The End” whether by their own
hand, physical or psychological consequence.
Heart attack.

So often, I thought myself above it all. Seldom swayed
by the opinion of others. Rarely dependent on their view
of me for my self-esteem. My confidence arising from the well
of belief.
Belief in myself. Belief in the ultimate logic of
the world around me. Inner peace was my desire, and yet
for some reason my search was thwarted. Instead I fought.
Fought for peace. Expecting it from conflict to rise.
Struggled against the world and those around me for possession
of my inner sanctuary.

My heart was attacked. Not by one against which I must defend, and
keep out. But one who, with gentle knock, simple affirmation, offered
an insight. The fault we see in others is so often the area in which
we fail.
Dependence. Jealousy. A sense of divine right. Anxiety. A fear of
what those around me might find lacking in me, and thus deride rather
than embrace.
Peace lay there, an offering of acceptance boxed not in indifference, often
my packaging of choice, but rather in love.
Heart attacked.

Rather seek to keep out the invasion of true
compassion and kindness, instead I shouted the order loud and without
reservation. “Open the gates!”
“Open!”
Open. The invader came, not with sword, and shield, but with a look that
compelled me to set mine aside. My companions within fled from the
power of the new presence. Fear, anxiety, dependence, and jealousy took
flight, not looking back. An embrace, both welcome and new, overtook
a place in my chest. The new invader and I became one.
Peace.

A change. Accepted, not repelled. Not brought on by yet
another source of dependence. For in holding on to that which is
so precious, surely we become dependent again. And it on us, our happiness
tied to mood.
Secured by fleeting feelings, rather than loyalty. Loyalty, not a feeling but
a commitment, one that when true leaves no room for jealousy, fear, anxiety,
or loss. For it does not selfishly say “You are mine.” Or with false selflessness
proclaim “I am yours.” Rather it says simply:
“I am I,
You are you. So we are we.”

Out fear. I used to fall to you. No more.
Out jealousy. I will no longer try to possess that which is not mine.
Out anxiety. What is worry of tomorrow but negative expectations?
Out dependence. My worth will no longer be tied to the perception of another.
As I push these out, I must in their place put something.
Loyalty.
Peace.
Love.
Independence.
Change.

 

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Fear vs. Love

It’s not some kind of revelation. The kind that people will write down in a book, start a religion around, and then totally flip so they can kill whoever they want and feel okay about it. It’s really just restating something you already know, more than likely, and if you don’t, something you should learn pretty darn quick.

Nearly every religion shares one common theme: there’s a battle going on in the world, good vs. evil, and it never seems to end. Looking around ourselves, we see it all the time. Race, police brutality, class warfare, all of it points to the fact there are some people who do bad, some who do good, and some who seem to have no idea what the difference might be. But I think it is simpler than that. A friend and I were talking this week, and I think the real battle is between fear and love.

fearAll that is ‘bad’ comes from fear. Sound too simple? Shame=fear of what others think. Jealousy=fear of losing something (usually that wasn’t yours to possess in the first place). Hate =fear of something different. Greed=fear of someday not having enough. Envy=fear that someone else will have something more, or better than what you have. Rage=fear your voice will not be heard unless you speak louder, harsher than those opposed to you. Ah, the list could go on. But think for just a moment about almost anything you would call bad, or your belief might classify as a sin. Is there some kind of fear at the root of it?

love4All that is ‘good’ comes from love. Kindness. Compassion. Sympathy. Empathy. Selflessness. Charity. All of these stem from love. It’s hard to fault any one of them. Living any one of this list in an extreme way would only result in the praise of almost anyone. You can name those past and present who strive to live this way. For the most part they are respected, honored, and even nearly worshipped. Except by those who fear them.

None of us are the ‘good’ guys. Here’s the shitty news: not one of us is the good guys. Not one of us is kind, compassionate, and encouraging all the time. If you think you are, ask your kids, your spouse, or if you don’t have those, a close friend. If you don’t have any of those either, this might be the reason. There are those who strive to be good, and strive to do all those right things. But there is one enemy to all of them, and it’s you.

Don’t be afraid. Want to be a better person? Kinder, gentler, and doing fewer things that are bad? Stop being afraid. Much of what you fear doesn’t even matter, or won’t five years from now.

It’s not a sermon. It’s not just for writers. It just may help you if you are down this holiday season, or if listening to the news you wonder where all the hate is coming from. There are just a lot of people out there who live in fear. Don’t be one of them.

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Tough Kindness

You’ve heard of tough love. Those times when you have to tell someone you love that they are wrong, or have messed up, or even have to have some kind of intervention.

Tough kindness is tough love’s brother. And it is just as hard to practice. Why is kindness called a religion? Because it goes against our selfish human nature, the one that demands satisfaction now, gives into anger, and doesn’t treat others the way we want to be treated, but rather responds to the way we are treated.

This week has been a week of Thanksgiving. (See my Ungrateful Ass post earlier in the week) and I also had a birthday. At this time of celebration, I also learned a couple of things about people around me. So it pains me to say that while I rejoice in what I have, and I celebrate another year above ground, I must practice some tough kindness. Here are a few things I have learned.

Give in to what the other person wants. Sometimes what people think they want is not what they want at all. Just like a child reaching for a container of poison: the kind thing for a parent to do is stop them. However, sometimes when someone is an adult, their desires overwhelm common sense. Tough kindness is simply letting them have it.

Say no to negativity. It’s not a contradiction. Negative people with negative energy often want others to engage with them in unkind activities, justifying them by the actions of others. The hardest thing to do is say no: to practice kindness despite perceived injury. The person who injured you did not make you feel a certain way, but your reaction to them produced feelings. While these feelings cannot always be helped, chasing them with unkindness almost never produces positive results.

Avoid selfish attachment. Do you know what jealousy really is? It is an expression of fear over the loss of an attachment to something or someone. True love, true friendship has no place for fear. Friendship and love are not possessions, nor are they feelings. They are commitments engaged in by another, freely. You cannot own a commitment, nor can you control its length or depth. You can only control your own commitments, and must recognize the decisions others make have more to do with their attachments than your own.

Tough kindness has a common theme. We must relinquish the desire to control others, let them have what they want, while saying no to the negativity they wish to bring into our own lives. Finally, we must avoid jealousy and selfish attachment.

These are not always the answers. But at times, practicing tough kindness is the best way to rise above the chaos around you.

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