My brain is working overtime and it’s forcing me to write something. Anything. And while I’m not convinced that what you’re about to read is coherent, it feels like it needs to be said. Stories are like that, they demand an audience regardless of the writer’s intentions…
I’m having a rough day. A bunch of things happened. A few of them positive, but most not so much. We all have days where we take the wrong route and end up in a bad traffic jam. And then our late model car overheats. And then when we turn it off to let it cool down, it won’t start again. And we piss off everyone behind us. And then when we do get the car started we accidentally cut off those behind us that we told to go around.
Or is that just me?
Well, if it’s not your car, it’s your job, your family, or someone else that just plain rubs you the wrong way. And sometimes the person or thing who can make you feel better isn’t available.
So there I was having a rough day and I remembered something that made all of the bad stuff disappear: my book.
There’s something wonderful about fiction. It allows you to escape your reality and still be considered safe to wander the streets. When your life just isn’t cutting it, read a book, write a book, think up a book (I know this is starting to sound like a mixed message because my last post is all about getting out of the book and living an authentic life. But it’ll make sense, don’t worry!) Regardless of what it is, I’m convinced that books are the answer. At least they are for me. So I smiled and I thought about the chapter I’m about to write.
I love where this book is going. And for once, I’m not trying to blow through it to get to a certain point that I’ve been waiting for. Every chapter is the chapter I’ve been waiting for. I love Eliza’s journey and I’m excited for her to experience it, even though at times it may be painful for her. Pain is a part of life’s journey– even the happiest of lives– and it’s an important aspect of being human. We all experience pain and heartache. And at the end of the day, we all learn something from our experiences.
In talking with a close friend and fellow writer the other night I said something and then thought, “That’s pretty profound.” Yeah, sometimes I’m a little impressed with myself. We were talking about disappointment and expectations. In a supportive move I said, “I’m a firm believer that the harder we have to work, the farther we must come to achieve our dreams, and the more difficult our journey is, the sweeter the ending will be.”
Nobody gets everything they want exactly when and how they want it. Our life takes a route we didn’t expect, and there’s nothing we can do about it. But what we can do is change our perspective. We can turn our pain or disappointment into something useful.
Look at the characters you love and think about the journeys that matter the most to you. This topic makes me think of Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games. [SPOILER WARNING!!!] Katniss Everdeen’s journey stayed with me because she lost so much in the process. Sure, she got the boy (the right boy), and she helped put an end to the Capitol’s heinous reign. But she lost so much. I cried through every book, sometimes to the point of hysteria. My heart broke and it took my breath away. I couldn’t believe that Katniss could keep going when all was lost.
And that is what makes a really good book. The writer who can guess the ending is in disbelief. Collins framed the trilogy in a very intelligent way that made me wonder if she would even live through the journey. And I typically assume the main character is going to live. Otherwise, it’s a pretty crappy story, in my book. Err– mind. And while Katniss did lose who I would consider to be the most important person in her world, she found a way to go on, eventually. That is strength. And in time her world shifted and she healed as much as anyone in her position can. And the most important person in her world shifted, and he was okay. And then I was okay.
And this wasn’t supposed to be a The Hunger Games post, but the heart steers the mind where it wants. Le sigh. This post isn’t specifically about Katniss, nor is it about my bad day. This post is about falling in love.
Falling in love is scary and painful. It’s natural and terrifying all at the same time. It makes you happy and scared and scared to be happy. And now I’m just being wordy. But that’s how love is. It doesn’t always, or even usually, make sense. It defies logic and challenges reason. And your heart doesn’t care if you fell in love with a boy or a book or even a cupcake. It’s not rational and it’s often not welcome. But love takes root and that’s when you’re screwed. Because you can’t stop it.
This is where I am with my book. I’m about a quarter of the way through my book and I’m finally head over heels in love with this story. You know it’s true love when you fight for it and work with it until it’s finally working for you. And you do it because you want it just that much. I care about Eliza like she’s my child. I want the best for her. Just like I’m sure Suzanne Collins feels about Katniss. Characters sneak inside your heart and you fall in love with them. And that’s when you relentlessly fight for them and fight for their story.
However, unlike my child, I am willing to put Eliza through hell. And I’m willing to bring her to the edge, let her fall off, and then let her figure out a way to fly. One day, if anyone ever reads this, they’ll understand that analogy. I don’t do awful things to my characters because I enjoy seeing them suffer. I let them experience the full effects of their world. I give each character the choice to pursue their goals, or to not pursue them. Sometimes they waffle, but their hearts usually set them straight. Because the story is never just about a single character. The story is always about every character. And that’s how the world works.
When your car breaks down and you’re angering everyone around you, keep in mind that the story of your life isn’t just about you. You may be the main character but you have an entire supporting cast who gets to make the choice to play a part in your life story. And everybody has rough days. Everybody has a sad story to tell. Everybody is a character in one way or another. The only question is whether they’re a Katniss, a Peeta, or a Primrose. I just hope that nobody I love is a Primrose.
I feel like this post is pure babble, and yet I feel like there is value in it as well. I’m not the first person to have a rough day and I won’t be the last. And instead of letting my frustration and sorrow consume me, I’m going to channel it into telling Eliza’s story. I laugh and chew my nails because of how many writers are drunks. Will that be in my future? Hm. Let’s hope my writing can always support my drinking habit, how’s that? We spend much of our time purposefully dragging ourselves through an emotional roller coaster all in the name of telling THE story. And we fall in love, we scream, we cry, and we never, not ever, give up. Because we know that Babe Ruth was a genius and he spoke the truth and he was a damn fine ball player.
When it’s a rough day, or even a good day, sink into a book. Whether you’re reading it or writing it, just sink in and don’t come up for air until you can breathe clearly again. Use your emotions and don’t let them use you. Control them and let them empower your story. Because the best stories are filled with love and grief and purpose which cannot be manufactured. You must experience life in order to write about it and that’s how the best stories are told– from the heart.