I got in an argument when I was a kid about whether a certain plant was poison ivy. I was certain it was a Trillium that was not yet flowering. “So rub your face in it!” was her response. I did. I was wrong. Boy was I wrong.
We all hate finding out we are wrong. We might enjoy the humiliation of someone else, especially a blow hard being proven wrong or laugh at the slap-stick that a wrong premise can lead a character to repeat over and over. We recognize it because we have all known that often uncomfortable realization.
The thing about being wrong, as Kathryn Schulz author of “Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error” points out, it feels just like being right. Until we find out we are wrong we can feel pretty good.
Then, after we realize we are wrong we might continue to act as if we are right because we think we have too much to lose by making such an admission.
On the other hand we can believe that they are so wrong we have to bring them to justice, or to the court of public opinion, or just remind them, frequently. We can even feel pleasure from this punishing of others for their stumbles. It is unfortunate because we will be wrong again too.
Being wrong is part of being human. How a character in a fiction deals with the realization and all its ramifications can drive a story but in real life, it is an opportunity for us to learn and grow as a human being, and in real life we get lots of opportunities. Lucky thing because learning to be an adult human being is what your all too human life is about. It really is.
I should have expected this. Right on time I went a bit crazy with anxiety over my writing. I know about the hard work of writing (and just about any creative endeavour)and I had the crazy idea that because I have overcome so many of my “demons” I would be able to slog through the nasty bits of finishing off my novella for possible publication. I also thought I could handle having to talk to other people about it. Instead I sunk into a black despair which I commonly call “being in the grip of the black dogs”. I think I have written about this and how it compares to grief, both of which are not really the same as sadness despite the social misuse of the term “depressed”.
Where I have fallen down and continue to fall down is not in falling down but
in trying to hide it.
I can’t write the “great novel”. I can only write my novel and be as true as I can possibly be. That includes letting it fail but doing the work anyway.
Sometimes when I am riding my bike home with my groceries I am passed on the road by someone all suited up with the latest apparel and newest bike and I think of the old lady I used to see in Ottawa. She carried her groceries in the front basket of an old bicycle. She made lunches for a local day care. I would see her everyday. She always dressed in a skirt and wore a hat or scarf and she rode very erect. She is the one I remember out of all the cyclists whizzing by me in my lifetime. I have no ego invested in the daily chores that riding my bike help me complete, I don’t compare myself to athletes or pretend to be other than who I am.
Thing number one: Find inspiring stories of creativity and post them in your blog!
This guy, does stuff in the snow that is mind-blowing! Seriously, check it out! I’m told this is why the Aliens won’t destroy the planet. This link comes to me via a professor, a doctor of English, but she has written a lot about Science Fiction, like the popular series Star Gate, and appeared on a documentary about it. I feel that this makes her tremendously qualified to make that assertion!
I am heading into the S.A.D. days of winter. That means I will post, intermittently things that I am checking out to beat my seasonal affected disorder. I don’t know if S.A.D. is recognized as a legitimate disorder but I like that the acronym spells how I feel for several weeks each year.
Doctor Who is an alien. He has known countless lives, he is oblivious to conventional human society with all its ways of distancing self from other and he passionately loves us. He continually rushes in to do what is right. He is full of doubt and pain but he nevers tires. He is the embodiment of our disolocated, unstuck in time, brave and compassionate best. He is a good fictional role model.
I watched a documentary on child soldiers last night. Our most lovely hero, Romeo Dallaire who “shook hands with the devil” has gone back to Africa to address the issue of child soldiers. He is a unique individual because he will sit close enough to reach out and hold a hand of a father who has lost his children to a militia, who has lost everything infact. Dallaire finds the thread in his own life that he can share, “I too am a father”. He makes a connection. He recognises the evil of using children as weapons and tells us, even though we don’t want to know. He knows these children. They have been abused and manipulated by thugs who want to rule with terror. Romeo Dallaire, a soldier, believes that a better world is within our grasp now. He really does. He is not advocating bigger guns but the opposite, bringing everything down to the very personal and responding appropriately, like Doctor Who, except he is real, like us.
I have been trying to write a book about the loss of innocence called “The Children’s War” for ten years (yes, I am a bit slow). I ask myself, why is science fiction the most appealing setting for me? Why so often is this the genre for us to work out so many of our own issues?
I think we make up stories about people who are who we would like to be and we feel more comfortable if what they have to deal with is not so close to home. We call them Saints or Heroes or Aliens and yet the essential truth of the best of our created characters is that they don’t require anything special, not a Tardis or a War or a God because it is their choice to do the right thing that defines them.
Remembrance day is not about making up stories about the glories of war but about recognizing the very difficult and necessary actions carried out by those who saw something needed to be done against criminals and thugs who would try to rule. It was for peace that they fought and died. That is what makes them heroes.
One of the things I have found was failure (for example: not making back the cost of having a show and even not selling a piece and perhaps having bad reviews) GETS EASIER TO TAKE. But that comes after it has to be so familiar that it is no longer the single criteria that determines if you are going to do the hard work of being an professional artist.
Nevertheless, failure is the end of some really talented fledgling careers. The hard part is building with quick silver; having the accumulated experience that the work is finally substantial enough to stand up to real scrutiny on its own merits. In the beginning of a career there is so much out there to look at that it is hard to tell what is “good’. Sometimes what gets recognition is only what is novel or trendy. It therefore does not mean that failure is the real measure of talent, only that it should be expected. Creating the work is an isolating endevour at times. Learning to take critique and listen to your own voice when it is really true comes largely from appreciating failure.
Failure is like a tuning fork for the voice of the muse. It is this blending of the possible and the impossible that gives rise to enduring art.
There is nothing in life that does not have a certain amount of failure as a necessary part of growth. Children who start early with a skill have years and years of “not getting it right” under their belts before they get to school and often as soon as they get out of school, they start learning it some more.
J.K. Rowling gives a wonderful and moving talk that touches on some of this: