We’re all such islands, such perfectly unique snowflakes, that sometimes we forget we are all just snow. When we deal with problems, they’re ours alone, without having an equivalent in the world – doesn’t matter if through problem is actually painfully common.
We’re such islands, such painfully self-absorbed creatures. How did we even reach such heights as a species?
Sometimes we forget to even imagine that a problem we are facing may not be exclusive to us, we get so amazed to find another lost soul.
Being a writer always gives you undue omniscience. We play God when we write, in a manner usually associated with puppetry. There exists a new world on the pages of your notebook, which you are free to destroy or build as you please.
This makes is hard sometimes, to write without revealing your powers to the reader and your characters – making the action story a lifeless narrative, whose movements of plot appear to be lived through and then simply recounted.
Did it ever happen to you? Have you ever found yourself narrating the action, rather than making it happen before the eyes of the reader? I remember myself spelling out descriptions and assumptions for my character, without him having a way to have known that in the first place.”He walked into a derelict house that belonged to the late fireman and had secret passages all around the second floor. There have been a series of murders in that house over the past month and the building was finally due for demolition.”
Now, there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with the paragraph, but you can see how it prefaced the upcoming discovery of the interior by my character. It gave the building background, but at the cost of action in the novel. Rather than narrating the past to us and simply putting us in front of the fact, why not arrange past actions of the character in a way that he learns about all this? Make your reader feel the importance of the description.
I feel a big example of such style is Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. The slowly devolving world is described through the characters. Dagny Taggard, one of the leading faces, experiences everything through her time in the book. We see her feelings, the effects on her friends and competitors. True, Rand made full use of her set-up to illustrate her ideas, but without putting herself in. That takes a master.
Did you ever have some points in time where you just cling? Cling onto life, onto the moment, onto the person? Cling onto the facts that made you the person you could still face in the mirror?
These drastic changes always make us reassess our balance in the system and hold on, lest we lose our footing. There’s a built-in aversion to change and a desire for constancy, which becomes a soothing predictability. And that’s good. It’s a nice strategy from a survival and procreation point of view. More likely to live and send your blood down another generation.
In the general statistic of change-evasive people, why do some come up that break the whole idea? The adventurers, the base jumpers, the courageous lion whisperers – how (and why?) do they ignore the voices in their muscles? What makes it easier for them to ignore calls of self-preservation and survival that held species together for this long?
There’s a longing for the adrenaline rush, some say. I’m inclined to think, along with others, that this is what separates us from the animals. It’s a creative streak, a leap of will into the abyss of the unknown. The winners of these adventures are the ones who get noticed anyway, it’s far from a successful action from the point of view of a hobbyist, since the names of the perished seldom get recorded. Unless it’s a particularly funny death, of course. We’ve a nature of the cautious people and the extremely lucky people.
After I’d left work in order to prepare for my university entrance exams, time took a different quality in my life. After the daily late returns from my workplace, I had neither energy nor wish to do anything but sit at the computer in a daze, shifting through websites to make the time pass faster.
Leaving my job wad a good decision, otherwise I would not have studied more than six times a week. Being home daily gave me the greatest commodity I could use – time.
Apart from studying, I picked up a big hobby of mine; reading. Helped by what were some of the best discount sales of my memory, I came home with lots of valuable books.
What I realised over time was that I was fairly ignorant about the classics. Up to this time my bookshelf wad dominated by Terry Pratchett and art books, with a poor assortment of other genres – Bridget Jones’ Diary, Bicentennial Man, Never Have Your Dog Stuffed. What lacked were books of age, ones which had already proven themselves as wonderful.
My friend introduced me to Atlas Shrugged, it started rolling from there. Over a period of three months I’ve read books by Solzhenitsyn, Arthur Clarke, H. G. Wells. More are waiting to be read, including a big collection of Margaret Atwood discounted novels. History, too.
I’m on a road to self-improvement.
Have you ever noticed how emotional children are? How instantaneous and deep their anger lies, how quickly it can shrivel into happiness and calm? Children, the younger they are, are true emotional roller coasters. They wear their feelings on their sleeves and do not waver when they express themselves in any way. Impress them with a story and you can see their faces light up with your detail of action and adventure, of mighty beasts and valiant knights; they live it out in their minds as your words are coming out.
Their instant reaction and dramatic reply is simply reasoned – they live in the present moment, so each action is fresh to them, it is relevant to their immediate state and is taken very seriously. A toddler gets hit with his own spade by another toddler. Action! Surprise! Shock! Pain! Indignation! They process the immediate state of things, they have no concept of tomorrow and how it might be relevant to them. They have no concept of yesterday (or whatever longterm frame of time) and thus they have no experience to recall. All they experience at that moment is a cocktail of different stimuli and it overwhelms them. Some start crying, some start replying with a spade attack of their own – all done with theatrics fit for the best actors.
We as adults have a major advantage over them – the ability to gather our past experiences, analyze them, evaluate them, draw conclusions and then act on the present moment based on all of the previous experience, extrapolating into the future about possible effects and consequences. This sort of thing is what children learn all their childhood. With every year of their lives comes important baggage of the past that they carry around with them. They learn that being hit with a spade is unpleasant, but doesn’t hurt much, that Brussels sprouts taste awful, that playing with your best friend is fun, that school can be boring, that having your boyfriend leave you is horrible, that some teachers should not be given lip to. Every one of their experiences as they grow become layered like a cake, leaving delicious top layers seep through.
This process of learning is the most important thing we have. Without it, we would re-live each moment as it were our first, traumatic and stressful. We would have no concept of so many things, like patience, endurance, goodwill. We’ll never understand that the injection will hurt, but only for a moment.
This is a call to be more patient with children, as they are doing a very important thing when they are being, well, children. Understand that they’re learning, that the thing that happened to them was just as traumatic as it was to you at that age – that they cannot comprehend its true value since they have no inner rule to compare against.
When I was being driven in the rocking boat of a car of my dad’s, I pretended that I’ve been away and was taken back home to my childhood. The carelessness of days returned to me and emptied my mind of worry and concern. It felt like a long return from a life in a different country back to the blissful ignorance of youth.
Bit by bit, I returned to the present and its concerns. The studies, the expectations; items that had a nasty way of lingering at the back of your mind.
If you were to grow up in a completely different place and in different circumstances, how much of your character would remain and how much would change? What can you consider an acquired trait from your rearing and environment, what are your genetic predispositions? Are you naturally a talker, an enthusiastic extrovert, or was that due to your exposure to many people, many cultures?
Is it right to try and blame the way you ended up broken (which is a topic very popular among the growing crowd, “I’m broken and I’m sad”) based on your circumstances? A questions I always tried to ask people – are you sure that’s how you ended up? Maybe you’re naturally like that – an introvert, a hard to open person? How much do you think would be different if circumstances had been different?
You’d never know, so why mope so much about your unhappy life and unlucky upbringing? Alright, let’s put it another way, shall we? You were broken. You are unhappy. Your character is awkward in places and you don’t like it. Your childhood made you that. Fine.
What are you going to do about it?
Are you going to mope some more? Why not go out and actually try to make the best out of the situation, get help of you require some – and for the last time, not go back to the poisonous circle of blaming your past, getting bitter about it, becoming depressed and returning to the blame. It won’t help, deal with it.
Unless it’s easier for you to blame this entity that the Past is for you, the creature you will never meet because it’s gone.
I’m not a teenager anymore; I don’t know how popular depression was since I grew up. All I know is that a lot of the bitterness goes away. You stop feeling like a teenager. It gets better. One of your biggest achievements are a growing youth becomes your ability to overcome your bitterness and turn towards the positive side of things, to discard that what made you unhappy, to “try” and “deal” and “make the best of” and “carry on to.”