Amidst all ugliness
be one beautiful treasure.
Amidst all ugliness
be one beautiful treasure.
Writing has taught me a lot, but the coolest thing I’ve learned since I’ve started writing (book, poetry, and the Proof blog) is the awe-inspiring power of observation. I’ve been writing even before I began actively observing others and the world around me, and I can attest that your work becomes worth reading if it portrays real life rather than if it what you think real life is.
I don’t mean that memoirs are the only awesome literature. Or that you should Hemingway your WIP.
There can still be contented endings, beautiful people, and even happy coincidences. Those things do happen in real life (though they are few and far between, and for the love of Rufus, don’t be annoying with them, please.)
This is what I mean:
There is no way I can create a character that isn’t like me if I don’t open my eyes and my heart and soak in other people. Invest in them. SEE them for all they are—a perfect swirl of chaos and beauty. Experience them, empathize with them, take their humanity and roll it around in my head for a while until I UNDERSTAND something integral, and why it’s there.
(This also applies to setting, in my opinion.)
I’ve had to do this first with me…and I didn’t always like the images I saw. (I still look inside for understanding because I just haven’t gotten to the bottom of my crazy.)
I don’t know if it’s this stage in my life or if I have writing to thank for this deep soul-diving. Probably a combination of both? But I’m so thankful because more than writing better, observing and internalizing has become imperative to living better.
It embeds in me the worth of who or what has my attention. And that breeds respect.
I imagine the soul is like a spider producing web; I press my hand into the other person’s, and they share with me a silver thread. I tie the end to my own strand…and, there. We are connected.
(Places are kinda like that, too.)
This path—writing, observing, connecting—has made me grow up…and out. I digress sometimes, but ultimately I remember the joy and find my way again.
Truth Bomb: It can hurt sometimes, what you see. Don’t let it stop you.
Are you writing real life from a point of understanding? If you’re not, shouldn’t you be? (This is rhetorical, unless you don’t want it to be.)
Have you discovered your observational superpower? Has it changed your life, too?
Hello, Graduates! Congratulations on this crazy awesome milestone and having the guts to jump blindly off this cliff of adolescence into the abyss of adulthood.
Y’all are so brave, and I mean that.
I remember not feeling brave at all when I was a high school graduate, ducking into abandoned hallways or taking the long way to my car, so I could avoid people asking me the question all graduates hear:
“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
It was always followed by a sardonic laugh, like the person who asked it created the question for the pure joy of seeing me squirm and fish for words.
Ha, haa, huhhh…
Back then, I didn’t know what I wanted my career to be. I didn’t have a lot of talents, or so I thought. I never internalized what my “dream job” would be. Truthfully, the only career options I considered was what I could do that wouldn’t kill me and provide, you know, food.
It never occurred to me to “dream big”, to “search deep”, to “care” about what I should be. The question was so monstrous, so intimidating, I decided that I just wouldn’t “be” anything. That what I would “be” inevitably would pale to whatever dream I could conjure, so I might as well not conjure one at all. Ignorance is bliss and all that.
I was not a confident teen. I was driven by fear-fear lead to procrastination-procrastination to denial. Denial that I even wanted more than what I had allowed myself.
I’ve heard a lot of people blame the world for failures, but I was the worst kind of hypocrite. The world wasn’t my problem. I was my problem. And I had convinced myself that I didn’t need to know myself, that I didn’t need to believe I could be more.
I had been telling myself “NO” long before I donned a cap and gown.
For example, I was waiting tables my senior year of high school, and met a news anchor for the local television station. When the check was delivered, she put her card in the small, black folder and asked me to contact her if I wanted an internship with her.
I was elated. My heart burst forth lighting my path with rainbow dust. The opportunity of interning with her hung before me, a colorful piñata ripe with sweet possibilities. I held the stick. All I had to do was whack the thing open.
I lived off the good feeling the offer gave me for a year before I realized I’d wasted it.
The phrase “my life will do” took the place of “I love my life” and, my young friends, “doing” might make you feel good for a moment, but long-term, you want the “loving”.
I settled on a path in college, and didn’t dare question it until my senior year, and by then, I was so close to a degree, I just sucked it up and finished it.
Why did I do this? Why was I so self-destructive?
I’m not a thousand percent sure, but I have an idea that this is part of the reason:
I was asking the wrong question.
It shouldn’t be “WHAT do you want to be when you grow up?”.
It should be “WHO do you want to be?”
To get to that answer, maybe answer a few of these questions could help.
What kind of person do you want to be, inside and out?
What characteristics do you want to embody?
How do you want to affect others?
What about you do you want others to admire?
How do you want to feel at the end of the day?
I don’t want to give you the impression that answering this question is easy. In fact, my answer two years ago is different from the answer I hold in my mind today. It’s an evolving answer as we grow, observe, learn, and change.
BUT the hard work will be worth it.
In my heart of hearts I know if I would have ventured onto this path of self-discovery, my career choice would have been chosen to complement me, rather than an obstacle to overcome. And if I would have stumbled into a career choice that didn’t match my expectations, it would have been okay because at the end of the day, I would have known who I was. I could have recognized when I was in a situation that didn’t honor WHO I wanted to be and I could have made the necessary career changes earlier.
So, WHO do you want to be? WHO do you want your future spouse to fall in love with? WHO do you want your parents or guardians to be proud of? WHO do you want to face in the mirror every morning? WHO do you want your future kids to look up to?
Find that person, BE that person, and the WHAT, WHY, WHERE, and HOW will fall into place.
Cheers, class of 2017! Don’t be afraid to show my generation up!