Breathing Room for Writing

Are you a writer?  You know that it is often said that writing consistently is key.  This is something I wholeheartedly agree with, and if you have followed my blog for any length of time, you’ll know that.  Do you know what else is okay, perhaps even helpful?  Taking a break once in a while.

Writing may not be physically taxing, but it does take quite a bit of mental energy.  Sometimes we simply need to take a break.  This might be for a day or two, or even just a few hours.  Whatever the case may be, do not feel guilty for not clacking away at your keyboard if your brain is fried.

It must be stated that writers should write.  If you are a hobbyist and do not wish to write more than once in a while that is fine.  If you are professional or wish to become a professional than regular writing is a must.

Breaking out as a writer is extremely difficult, riddled with competition at every corner.  If you aren’t willing to put in the work, someone else will, and subsequently they will earn the success.  With that said, I’ve found that writing just for the sake of writing is good to a point, but one must know when to put down the manuscript.

There have been multiple times when I know anything, I write in that moment will ultimately get deleted.  For some people, this is part of their writing process.  Some people need to write crap in order to produce beauty.  For me, this is aggravating the writing process.  I need the occasional breaks, and if you’re like me, then know it is okay to step away for a bit.  Yes, there are millions of other people trying to do the same thing as you, but at the end of the day if you don’t do what it takes to produce quality content it won’t matter.  Besides, not all writers are your competition.

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The Thing About Assumptions…

We are all guilty of it.  Most of the time we are unaware of the snap judgements we make about people and our settings.  While judgement has an often-negative connotation, most judgements are benign such as which clothes we wear, and the best way to start our day.  Others however, are more impactful and can deeply harm our relationships with others.  We all know assumptions, especially negative ones, are not healthy, yet we continue to make judgements based on nothing more than our presumptions.

One of the main themes in Crystal Moon is that we should always be careful what sort of conclusions we come to, especially in marriage.  It is a part of human nature to assume the worst, especially if there is an argument or a relationship hasn’t been going well.  Sometimes there are other factors such as a bad mood, alcohol, or simply an inability to empathize with another person.

Usually, the more negative assumptions we have about a person, the more wrong we are.  There are of course exceptions, toxic people do exist and they are more common than we would like to believe.  Everyone that has gone to school knows that first hand, and perhaps when we become adults we are on guard against such toxicity.  It is easier to assume the worst and be on the defensive then it is to be vulnerable, especially opening ourselves to someone who will betray that trust in the future.

Most of the time negative assumptions do nothing more than get us into trouble, especially if we lash out first before discussing them.  I have come to believe that people are more emotional than rational, especially when they are fired up.  When we are upset and believe another person has wronged us, in that moment we want to fight, and more importantly win.

This is the sort of mess the main characters find themselves in.  Both the husband and wife come to conclusions about one another, and instead of discussing their fears and concerns, the real issue at hand continues to spiral out of control.  When this happens in fiction it creates plot, but in real life it can cause irreparable damage.  When we are accused of doing or feeling something, we aren’t guilty of, we feel angry, that there had been an injustice done upon us. May we learn from characters in fiction and be better than that, remembering how it feels to be on the receiving end of untrue assumptions.

Presidential Frustrations

It’s that time again in America.  A time for debates, anger, hatred, spite, and failure to listen.  A time of entitlement, squabbling and a cult-like zeal.  The presidential election is upon us.  I know, technically that doesn’t happen until the end of next year, but that doesn’t matter because things start years before the actual event.

People will traverse the mean streets of Twitter and boldly proclaim what everyone else is,yet pat themselves on the back for “taking a stance.”  Arguments erupt between family and friends, sometimes severing relationships forever simply due to a difference in perspective.  If “my team” does or says something wrong, we look the other way but if “they” do it then we are appalled and metaphorically lynch the candidate or family member in the process.

We don’t listen but instead prefer to talk at everyone around us, and believe in our core that if our side loses it will be the end, despite the fact that this has been said by nearly every generation since the country’s inception.  Those who disagree are labeled as evil instead of simply seeing the world differently or perhaps being uninformed.

Negative labels are thrown about in order to shut down the other side and enable some to not think.  Some crave for less freedom and call out to those running for president to make them feel safe in exchange for their liberty.  Abhorrent ideas are celebrated just because of a “team” a politician ascribes to while good ideas cannot be acknowledged by some.

This is just a small taste, a summary of what transpires every couple years in America.  When the election finally does happen half the country cries and wails, declaring the end is nigh.  Elections are important, but we must maintain perspective.  Presidents should not be idolized or looked to so solve all our problems.  They shouldn’t be expected to promise us the world, and if they do it would be wise to place them under further scrutiny.

We must remember that being truly American is about liberty, not comfort.  Liberty always comes at a price, just like free will.  Your good actions have good consequences, the same goes for your bad ones, that doesn’t mean that that choice should be stripped away.  Presidential candidates and Presidents alike have developed a fandom which is often toxic and brutal, replete with confirmation bias and lack of empathy further contributing to the divide in the nation.  We often act as sycophants while forgetting these people have power in the first place because they sought it.

We cannot control how other people think or react, but we can control ourselves.  If you are an American or live in a western democracy, I implore you to take more time to understand those with differing views.  You don’t have to like the ideas, you don’t have to agree, but civil discussion goes further than shouting and labeling does.  Words like “racist” should be used sparingly and wisely, not flippantly.

Also, let us remember that these are human beings we are interacting with, this reminder especially pertains to the internet.  Most people who disagree aren’t evil.  That isn’t me saying truth is relative but acknowledging that the human experience is.  Often times we believe things in spite of truth due to emotions, upbringing, etc.

My hope is that no matter how small the group is, some will try to use logic and empathy over emotions in this upcoming election.  My hope is that more families will not divide, no more friendships will be lost due to each voting their conscience.  More importantly, instead of getting sanctimonious, we should all reexamine our own beliefs and why we hold them so dear.  Only when our convictions are tested by fire can they stand.

Male Emotions

It is a cliché that boys are told they cannot cry. Yes, it is less socially acceptable for men and boys to weep hysterically in public than it is for the opposite sex.  In recent years there has been more of a push to let boys cry and to not shame us males for having feelings.  Generally, this is a great thing.  Men have emotions too, even though we may not always show it.  However, it seems that this movement tends to swing the complete opposite direction and validate all tears no matter the context.

I have a son who is rather emotional.  His primary reaction is to cry.  As one could imagine he is also pretty sensitive.  On a general level sensitivity is a good quality because it allows people to be more empathetic.  My boy feels and feels deeply and that isn’t something my wife and I want to discourage, in fact we want it to remain a constant in his life.

As with all areas in life, being emotional has its goods and bads.  My son may be an empathetic person (at least for his age) but he also tends to give up and cry rather than persist through a problem.  My wife and I never tell him “boys don’t cry!” Or “stop crying!” But we do try to instill in him that there is a time and a place to cry.  This brings me to the main point, crying like laughing has a proper context.  As parents it is our job to mold our children and teach them when it is appropriate to cry and when it’s better to work through a problem rather than becoming an emotional puddle.  This of course goes hand-in-hand with the child’s age.

There is a problem when we tell boys they shouldn’t cry, there is also a problem when we validate all tears.  Anymore it seems that the later has become the norm.  That isn’t okay either.  Life is about balance, and our emotions are no exception.  I may be a stereotypical man in that I don’t cry much and can’t relate to those whose tears come easy for them, nevertheless I still see value in it.  My son is one who has shown me both the value of crying for some, as well as the struggles emotional folks struggle with.  I tend to approach things logically and my son processes things emotionally first then logically, similarly to my wife.

Again, this doesn’t mean our emotions should be allowed to go unrestrained.  Even adults have issue with this, if you don’t believe me scroll through a Twitter for five minutes.  Emotions are good, but as with everything there should be limitations.  Not all men express themselves through tears.  It’s refreshing western culture has learned to embrace man tears but need to take care not to go too far with that encouragement.

The Courtesy of Friendship

What do you expect from your friends?  That may sound like a silly or strange question.  I would expect most would answer this question with expectations of respect, love, mutual interest, humor, and a willingness to make you a priority when applicable.  In return most people would say they would expect themselves to do the same.

Recently, I learned about some friends who moved without letting us know.  Now, my wife and I were not besties with these people, but we were close enough to have shared some personal things and include them as a part of our inner circle.

I know I wasn’t “owed” a goodbye or to be informed these folks were moving far away, resulting in us not likely seeing them in person again, but I felt it was a courtesy they could have extended.  I can’t say I’m mad at this couple, but I am disappointed.  After all, how hard is it to write a simple one-sentence text to say goodbye?  I mean if someone is going to be called a friend, is that really too much to ask?  To compound the issue, I didn’t even know they moved until a couple months had passed.  Again, is it unfair to ask for some way of letting me and my wife know?

The point of this story isn’t to throw shade on these people or for me to feel sorry for myself, but instead to reflect on how should we expect friends to behave?  From my anecdotal perspective, it would seem that more often than not, folks are self-absorbed and aloof to their friends.  Sadly, we are all guilty of this to some degree.  It makes me reflect on myself and I have to analyze whether I’m the sort of friend I would want to have.

Part of being human means to come short in all areas.  We can be good in many areas, but perfection is unattainable for our species.  Therefore, none of us are beyond improvement.  With that said, there is understanding we aren’t perfect, and being downright rude.  Simply up and leaving is an example of the later.  Again, this isn’t to disparage these people, but instead a call for all of us to do better.  We all need to spend more time thinking outside of ourselves and our little worlds and think about other’s and how they feel.

What do you think?  Have you shared similar observations that people tend to be self-absorbed?  Let me know your thoughts!

A Time and a Place to Judge

No one wants to be judged.  There are few absolute statements that are true, and that is one of them.  It is our nature to want to be seen and heard as people, not viewed through the lens of our mistakes or differences.  We all know mistakes and bad things are a part of the human experience.  There is a difference though between judging a person in a condemning way, and noticing a destructive behavior and mentioning it to that person. As much as we don’t like to be judged, people also don’t like seeing their loved ones commit to destructive behaviors.

Ever notice that those who complain about certain behaviors in others are often guilty of it themselves?  I can certainly raise my hand for that one.  After all, this post is directed at me as much as anyone.  The same thing applies to “Don’t judge me!” How many times have we spouted that or complained about judging someone when we are judging others in the same breath.

To compound this issue, constructive criticism of behavioral choices are often confused with judging.  You think I’m posting too much political stuff on social media? Judging. You think I shouldn’t smoke as I drive with my kids in the back seat of the car? Judging.

You think I should let go of the past because I’m letting bitterness poison my life? Judging. None of these examples are truly judging if the other person said it in gentleness and kindness, with your best interest at heart. To judge someone is no calling out destructive, immature, or unbecoming behavior. Judging someone is to condemn them, to see them as defined by their behavior and that behavior makes them less than you are, or at worst worthy of Hell.

Anymore, it seems that people cannot take criticism without blowing it off as “you are just judging me!” Certainly, people can be judgmental over the examples I listed above, and context must always be considered. The issue I take is that most people are all too ready to assume intent or get defensive when we can all learn something. If a loved one mentions we should maybe try a different approach, it isn’t necessarily a judgement, it might just be what we need to hear.

Do You Need Approval?

Writing isn’t something that everyone understands.  From the outside looking in it appears easy and low-key.  If you are a writer, you know that it is challenging work.  Writing a book includes research, time writing the thing, multiple revisions, and stressing over single words or phrases in order to get them just right.

Outside of the writing community, there is a prevailing opinion that it isn’t a “real” job.  Writers aren’t really working according to these folks.  This opinion is far more common than I realized before I put myself out there as an author.  If you chose to be a writer, or anything unconventional to be honest, people will criticize and doubt the legitimacy of what you do.

Not everyone is going to support you in your dreams.  Heck, maybe no one will.  On top of being a writer, I’m a stay-at-home father.  With that came assumptions that I just mooch off my wife and I’m a loser, and the irony is that single-moms have been the most judgmental toward me in my experience.  Never mind that’s not how my wife and I planned our situation or what’s best for our family.  To these folks, the fact that my wife doesn’t have to worry about cooking, cleaning, or any chores doesn’t matter.  Many seem to have the idea in their heads that I sit around and watch TV and play videogames all day or something.

That’s just it, if you are a writer people are going to make all sorts of assumptions about you, especially if it’s your main profession.  The thing is, you don’t need anyone’s approval.  If you are called to be a writer, you know it and cannot explain it to someone else.  You don’t need to justify yourself to anyone, including family (unless you’re married because then it’s a team decision).

Do your thing, follow your passions.  It isn’t easy being a writer and it will take years to earn success, but if that’s what you’re built for keep doing it. The same applies to all callings as well.  Do not let people get inside your head.  It’s easy to say, but difficult to actually do.  When people around you question the legitimacy of what you do, it is easy to do it yourself.  We want approval, we want support, but the truth is we may not get it.  All that means is that you must work harder to achieve your dream and stay focused on the goal.

No, You’re Not Perfect and that’s Okay

In a world where self-love is considered one of the greatest virtues, and self-esteem is one of the most focused on aspects of life, it can be difficult to swallow the next statement.  No, you are not perfect the way you are, and that’s okay!

It has become a meme, and a popular saying for people to say “you are perfect exactly how you are!” No, you aren’t, neither am I, your neighbor, coworker, best friend, and so on.  We are all flawed, and in a way, there is a beauty to that.  We can relate to one another, seek help from those who have struggled where we have struggled.

I understand the intent behind this saying and other’s like it.  It is to encourage positivity in hopes that we quell negative thoughts about ourselves.  That is good intention.  I’ve struggled with self-esteem in the past due to relentless bullying for ten years.  I know the damage done to the psyche when one continually beats him/her self up.  This can either be pertaining to something we’ve done or feeling self-conscious about how we look.

Here is something I learned too late in life, dwelling on ourselves and our problems doesn’t help them, in fact it makes them worse.  Whatever personality flaw you struggle with won’t improve if you are always thinking about it because that behavior is in the forefront of your mind.  Telling yourself that you are perfect won’t fix the issue either, knowing it’s there and taking small steps to improve while not dwelling on it is what will make a difference.  I know, easier said than done, but it is possible.

The other thing is if someone is confident, he/she doesn’t feel the need to tell the world how awesome they are.  That last sentence used to be well-known and accepted as true.  Now?  Not so much.  What to know how to spot someone who is insecure?  A person who either brags on the internet how wonderful they are or in person.  They are compensating.  Real self-love doesn’t come from talking about yourself, it comes from loving others and not dwelling on yourself.

The harsh reality is that no one cares how awesome you think you are.  Furthermore, most people don’t care about your appearance either.  Whether you are overweight, underweight, tall, short, super hairy like me, strangers may notice for a second or two and then forget all about you minutes later.  That’s comforting.  It puts our insecurities into perspective.

So no, you are not perfect, but you still have infinite value.  You can be loved just as you are while acknowledging you have flaws and striving every day to be a better person.  We could all learn to focus less on ourselves and more on others, and we will then find that our self-esteem issues will begin to melt away slowly.

The Unexplained: Myths Becoming Reality

Urban legends, myths, campfire stories, these are things that persisted as long as humanity existed.  With our large brains comes an impressive imagination.  Humans have the unique ability to scare ourselves into thinking something we wouldn’t normally believe in exists.  Is that the explanation?  What of the so many things that we “know” are fake yet people all around the globe have seen the otherworldly phenomenon with remarkable similarities to other witnesses.

How can things such as the rake, slenderman, and werewolves have supposed sightings and even pictures when we know such things are impossible?  After all we know the origins of slenderman and the rake, both are internet memes and creepypasta.  Their origins are fake, we know this, we know their roots.  So how is it that people claim to encounter them?

slenderman pic

It’s no secret that human memory is frail.  Some estimate that up to 90% of our memories are fiction.  Some people go so far as to completely discredit eyewitness testimony due to what science has revealed about it in recent decades.  Nevertheless, I find that to be overly simplistic.  I bore witness to my dog laying at my feet a few minutes ago, yet I cannot prove it and undoubtedly that specific instance I will have forgotten it entirely.  However, even if I get some details wrong, that doesn’t negate my experience.  This is especially true when an experience creates an emotional response, we are more likely to recall minute details.

If you are one who has never experienced anything that could be classified as paranormal or supernatural, it is easier to dismiss and scoff at such things.  So, where do we go from here?  How can something we know is an internet meme be seen by people in the real world?  Certainly, some of it is ordinary paranoia.  Stories get into people’s heads and when they are alone at night walking through the woods, suddenly those silly stories don’t seem so silly.  What if some of these people, even 1% cannot be so easily explained?  What then?  I don’t have that answer.  We can play the game of “what if” though.  What if there are spiritual entities that take on shapes of pop culture figures?  Is that possible?  Well first you have to answer whether you believe in the spiritual realm.  If the answer is affirmative, than yes it is possible.

Another scenario is that these legends while fictional are inspired by real events.  To take this train of thought even further, what if those who started these legends encountered things they couldn’t explain, but created the stories as a coping mechanism?  It’s interesting to ponder.  What’s important are your thoughts.  What do YOU think about this?

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