Raven's Pen

Writing, Reading, and Ruminating

Category: Writing (Page 1 of 3)

Autumn and… Plotting?

Hey everyone!

Welcome to autumn!

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The end of the year seems to be sneaking up on me. Midterms just ended, the NaNo forms have come back to life (helllooo, procrastination of valuable sorts!), the weather is alternating between summer-hot and cold autumn winds, and I am waffling between stories to focus on for November.

Around the NaNo world, October is often thought of as Prep-tober, or whatever conbination of preparation and October you wish to create. As you may have gathered, I have a tendency to be a pantser and, as such, October has never been defined by copious amounts of preparation. Although I greatly enjoy leaping into a story without much more than a vague inkling of where it may go, my lack of a plot often forces me to fumble halfway through the month.

The idea of plotting has always felt unbearably tedious, but, since I am currently struggling to balance 15 credit hours and a meager 300 word daily minimum goal for my own material, it is beginning to feel more important. I have found that some pantsed stories move forward without prompting, but most require time to stop and think along the way. Since getting enough sleep in November already seems like an impossibility, I want to be able to reach my NaNo goal as effectively as possible. Although I am certain that whatever plans I attempt to make this month will change  during the writing process, I hope to start NaNo with a few threads of a plot… Just as soon as I choose a story to focus on.

Since there are dozens– hundreds– of ways to plot, I intend to mix methods. At the moment, my suggested method looks like this:

  • Using Flashcards: identify the main characters (1 card for each) and list their names, approximate age, origin, general role in the story, desire, and anything else that is important.
    • Consider how the characters might change over the course of the story.
  • In my notebook or word document:
    • Identify possible story themes.
    • Consider geography and start world-building.
    • Write down as many major plot points as possible. (Firstly: identify the plot!)

I will keep you updated as best as I can.

‘Till next time…

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Musings: Authenticity

Five, four, three, two, one… let’s visit the emporium.

Are you ready for disjointed ramblings?

Great! Hop on!

We, as humans, wear dozens of masks… I think it is easy to become inundated with the theory that we must please everyone. We are swept up and wrapped in yards of fabric to take the appearances of whoever we believe we are supposed to be. Often, there seems to be a voice lingering over our shoulders, shouting: this is what you need to be. This is what you need to do. No, not there! Look here! Look at how great this fellow is! Look at what they have created– what sort of fool are you? Try to fit in!

Fitting in, in my opinion, can be a very dangerous pursuit. It is easy to discount our own capabilities in an attempt to conform to the various guidelines that we believe we must follow in order to achieve– to achieve what?

Let’s slip backwards for a moment… perhaps one of the most recognized Greek words is arete (αρετη)– probably originating from agathos (αγαθος), ‘good.’ Roughly translated, it means ‘striving for excellence in all pursuits,’ whether mental or physical. Arete is largely an umbrella term, exactly what its definition is depends on present context, for example: according to the ancient greeks, there was a certain sort of arete relegated to women (they were, in most respects, extremely sexist), a different sort assigned to warriors, another assigned to civilians and so on. For the purposes of this rant discussion, I would like to regard arete as a general concept with the loose, aforementioned definition of ‘striving for excellence.’*

There importance of theories such as arete should not be understated; after all,, doing your best is the most important action a human can take. However, I think that the concept of universal excellence can be a problem… let’s look at “well-roundedness.” If you have been involved in any sort of discussion about education, you have probably heard about “keeping all of the doors open” and “offering the best that can be given in order to ensure that all students have equal opportunities in all fields.”

Equal opportunities are extremely important, but that is not today’s topic… I thick the “all fields” and “all doors” parts can be a problem in regard to art and passion. This whole idea of “well-roundedness” seems to emphasize spending equal time on all subjects. Now, while many passionate and creative people throughout history have been proficient in, if not masters of, many things (in fact, it is difficult for me to think of someone who was, or is, not), there is usually one thing that draws us more than the rest– it is this one thing that seeps into us. So it must.

Let us say that we follow this thing as ‘our own’… we defend ourselves against doubt, and we try to stave off fear (even when met with little success).

We, undoubtedly, rely on passion: it should not minimized or ignored for a single moment. And yet, it is easy to turn out attention toward the little voices screaming inside of our heads rather than our own certainty. (D0 I sound like enough of a touchy-feely, topic-jumping help manual yet? Bear with me.) Art without passion can be art-ish, but it is not Art with a capital A. It does not have any substance, it does not breathe or slyly deposit thoughts inside of onlooker’s minds, it does not exist as an entire world– it is flat, like a line that someone draw down the edge of a notebook because they were board, but not because it was needed.

The art that lives inside of our passion is our own (or, at least, I would like to think so). And yet, it is easy to turn out attention toward the little voices screaming inside of our heads rather than our own certainty– societies views are bound to conflict with the art that is ours. Maybe there are a few who can look down the table of contents in a writing manual and check off every box with a “yup, I got that; it’s prefect for my book,” however, I am inclined to believe that such people are a rarity.

Will you forgive another leap?

Lately, I have been trying to read fiction as a writing-person as well as a regular-ol-reader. Recently, my extremely unknowable attempts to analyze the things that catch my attention, I have found that I often dislike the very things that I am certain I “should” like. While this cannot be an entirely bad thing, it is sometimes slightly jarring– especially when you look to your own writing and start picking at it.

Here, we come back to the beginning… fitting in: when we pay too much attention to the things that we are certain ‘should be;’ including the analyzed notes from whatever book we last read, it is easy to kill the passion in our thing (anyone up for making this a technical term?). We become worried about fitting in and so we end up killing our precious art-with-a-capital-A. Its dead weight hangs around our necks.

So, how do we avoid killing our precious thing? My current suggestion is this: we must become so close to our own thing that we will not analyze our work so closely that we are determined to “fix it,” and inadvertently suffocate it in the process. Easier said than done, right?

Certainly, we need to pay attention to whatever feelings we have that something is not quite right, as well as whatever advice we receive, but I think we must be selective. Everyone has their own opinion after all. We simply cannot please everyone without some ogre potion, but we can strive for our own, personal, version of arete.

 

*It must be noted that other cultures retain their own versions of arete; usually ‘excellence’ is a one piece of a social or moral code of ideals (for example: consider the Japanese Bushido code).

There is a thorough description of arete here.

Flash Fiction: “49”

June, 12, 2016.

Remembered, always and forever.

 49

Ashes fall from the sky—only, it is rain cold enough to match heartache.

Gold: the color of a tie around a young man’s neck

Blue: a shade of eyes staring upward.

Red: the color of blood pouring across a glitter-speckled floor.

The world could be sleeping- listless in a haze caused by deafening noise.

They could be sleeping, fallen across legs and arms, a cacophony of a thousand words for silence.

How could anyone be so still?

A cell phone rings somewhere underneath a fallen coat, splattered by spilled drinks and tinted with crimson, barely dry. A hole mars the sleeve; an almost perfect circle ripped at the edge.

The world is shouting, but ringing phones deafen cries. Batteries have not lost their voice- the empty songs that used to remind laughing hands of a perfect sunset or a first love blend together.

Are you safe?

When are you coming home?

How could anyone explain that the answer is never?

Flowers line the sidewalk in front of a theatre, candles burn with wax dripping in rivulets immortalized, rainbows decorate the sides of buildings, but they do not bring back the dead.

Mourners cry. Some say that each life lost was just another death, but 49 are not just one. 49 is the number of a small plane, it is a birthday party or a gathering of friends spanning two houses.

49.

It is too great a number—people killed for their love.

Tipping, one by one.

Hands clutch cracking chests; streaks line the floor now.

Maybe, just maybe, if eyes beg enough, memories will thicken into lifelines for the dead.

Foreheads disappear underneath thick bags, backs bending underneath their weight.

These flowers may be trampled tomorrow; bleeding onto tear stained sidewalks. Whispering: human lives are just as fragile as sheets of ice created by wind.

The living link arms to last against the storm, knees clenched underneath swaying bodies.

Life: an act of rebellion.

 

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All rights reserved.

It’s Almost Time!

*takes a deep breath*

Ahhhhhhh!

Do you hear the clock ticking? The piano lid closing? The sound of pens cracking? Cottage gates opening?

It’s time, my friends.

NaNoWriMo is here. (Did I mention that I am participating again? Surprise!)

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You know what that means, my friends.

It’s time to morn a lack of preparedness, finish the last of the preparations that can be foreseen, and wonder where the plot I thought I was starting to understand went.

Did I mention that I am one of the crazy people who starts at midnight? I attempt to hit the first keystroke exactly as the clock hits twelve. Who needs sleep anyway?

Is anyone prepared for NaNo?

I am definitively not… this will be my forth year of camps, but it is almost as nerve-wracking as it was the first time. Since I doubt that I am not the only one (I hope?) who is entirely unprepared, here is the list of a few things that I often find helpful to getting words on the page. Some of these pertain more closely to waking up in the middle of the night to write, but pajamas are justifiable anytime of the day:

  • Be prepared to take notes. Empty flashcards are lifesavers. Truly. I use them to keep track of characters and scribble down random plot points or pieces of dialogue. They are also the perfect size for miniature paper airplanes.
  • Find your soundtrack. Music is a great tool to help get into a character’s head: what would they listen to? What fits their emotional state? What is the soundtrack of your novel? Of course, some people prefer silence, and that is a soundtrack of its own.
  • Don’t feel like you need to know everything about your story. Whether you are a hardcore plotter or a fire-drill style pantser, it is probable that you do not know everything about your story (if anything at all). Be willing to explore along the way. Sometimes unexpected plots will jump out of you and change your manuscript for the better; let yourself consider every possible option.
  • Have something to drink nearby. Whether it be coffee, tea, hot chocolate, or even spiced cider; just think of the procrastination potential. While something so simple may seem strange, it is sometimes surprising what you can come up with while taking a sip of something delicious. Besides, who has time to get up for a cup of water when pounding at a keyboard?
  • Find a cosy space– or surround yourself with as much coziness as possible. Another clique, but one that I follow every single year. Fuzzy socks? Check. Pajamas? Check. A sweater (or cloak)? Absolutely.

Now… I would stick around, but the minutes are ticking. I’m off to make a cup of tea and negotiate with characters before the clock strikes midnight.

Good luck to everyone rushing into their manuscripts tonight!

Productivity Can be Smaller than You Think

Take #69… no, #74.

I mentioned that I added another rough manuscript to my stack, yes? Finishing a draft usually sends me jumping between projects in a ‘what-do-I-work-on-now’ fog for a few days; it’s like standing in the middle of the sahara at night with your feet sunken in shadow from the lack of a moon. It maybe comfortable for a few hours, but, eventually, anxiety sets in.

Typically, that anxiety is a spiral of unfocused work interspersed with questions about whether or not I am actually getting anything done. It is hard to step back and evaluate our accomplishments. When we do pause and look around, it is often difficult to understand exactly what we are looking at–especially considering the state of the *ahem* world at the moment.

Let’s face it: an extraordinary number of things are happening right now, and a lot of them are processed with intense emotions. I know, I know, how dare I bring politics into this. The point is this: it is easy to be unsettled.

Unsettled-ness can often bring thoughts of ‘oh, what is the point.’ It is difficult to be optimistic when the world is rumbling in our ears; and, often, our perceptions of productivity rely on optimism. Our moods drastically affect the way that we see the world. Which is why the proper side of the bed should be marked in red paint, “put your feet here when you wake.”

(To those who are unsettled, I say: take a breath. Yes, sign your petitions, send your emails- read the news if you must- but, please, do not forget to breathe. No matter what sort of chaos surrounds you, please remember to do something for yourself– even if it is small.

Bake a batch of cookies. Knit the next row of your scarf. Walk around your desk a few times. Now, let the state of the world fade for a moment. Let’s talk about you, and me, and all of the other people out there who are trying to do creative work.)

Productivity is an incredibly important word, but I think it is one that is often skewed. When you are in school, productivity is finishing your homework (perhaps, if you are very organized, you complete it before the due date), but creative work is often not defined by a teacher’s deadlines; it is not something that you do at the last moment because you must. Yes, some people apply the same principles to both, but- unless you have an extremely engaged publisher peeking over your shoulder- creative work is entirely dependent on you.

How do you structure the day? Where are you going to put your attention? You must find your own time and choose how to use it. Time management is an extensive topic that I will attempt to ruminate upon in a separate post but, for now, let’s focus on the aforementioned word.

First of all: How do you define productivity? Currently, I think of it as getting things done. A productive day is one where I have focused on topics that I know will propel me toward the future. It must be noted that that does not necessarily mean that I have accomplished everything on my list, or completely avoided procrastination. Nor is this a perfect definition of productivity, but I think that it is a broad umbrella: we are here to complete the lists sitting in our minds, are we not?

Productivity, I think, must be based off of persistence. Continue on, keep working, no matter how hard it is. Even if you are only able to work in small chunks, you are still moving forward. I urge you to acknowledge the small accomplishments that you make, and warn you not to beat yourself up when your day does not go as planned; especially if the state of the world (let’s shorten it to SOTW in the future, shall we?) is distracting you.

Persistence creates. And so, perhaps, persistence is a much better word than productivity. Let’s be persistent without fear. It is easier said than done… but goblins can be slain and dragons can become best friends.

I believe more posts about persistence are in the future. ‘Till then, a happy late St. Patrick’s day!

Stepping Back (and “Artist Dates”)

How time passes my friends!

And, my oh my, do I have a lot that I want to talk about with you.

I had planned to post about productivity this week (what does it mean, how do we persist etc.), but I am going to interject for a brief moment and hopefully share the planned post within the next few days– it is worth noting that I wrote myself into a bit of a corner and now I must find a way to form a coherent train of thought.

Let’s jump to it, shall we?

First, will you forgive my use of a short complaint as the introduction? Do you remember those spinning teacup/pot rides at carnivals? They feel like a good illustration for the last week, or two, of my life. I have been relatively unproductive; I have a tendency to jump between projects with a few hundred words here and a few more there without entirely focusing. Frankly, it is frustrating.

Regarding many of the conversations that have spread throughout the household since the beginning of the year, I suspect that I am not the only one. Focus is often a hard thing to catch; you lay your tuna-sandwhich traps out and build gingerbread houses, maybe you become desperate enough that you decide to dress up like a saguaro cactus, or hide in the henhouse with a rusted shovel.

In my experience, a lack of focus can create whirlpools of feeling like you will never be able to work again; the small successes that arise can often feel irrelevant or ‘not good enough.’ Of course, that is preposterous, but sometimes it is hard to remind yourself of such things.

It is not easy to pull oneself out of disparaging thoughts, but it is certainly not impossible: yesterday, my parents reminded me of the importance of stepping back and giving yourself a break. I know that it sounds contradictory to success, but everyone needs time to think.

As mentioned by my parents: in The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron talks about having an “artist date” every week; essentially, it is a block of time that is set aside to meander or do something that will help you to recharge. It could consist of reading for an entire afternoon, going on a walk somewhere that you do not typically visit; maybe you prefer to meander through library shelves, or spend hours testing pens in a small shop tucked against the sidewalk.

Despite its contradictory nature, sometimes stepping back is the way to get more things done. It is easy to become wrapped up in our doubts and fears, but they only lead us deeper. I think there is a common misconception that we must always be busy, that sitting still is often not a viable use of time, but wondering always is. Taking time to review your surroundings and goals is always important.

Stepping back from your work is a way to gain prospective: we become wrapped around certain facets of our lives so closely that we forget what truly matters, and we forget to find ways to inspire ourselves every week. Cars run out of gas, and so do we… Of course, I, at least, will not assume that prospective is an easy thing to discover. We have to chase it; and, sometimes, that means we must let go of our worries about rushing forward.

How long you should step back for is, I think, entirely based off of the way that you function. My amateur advice is this: start with a short duration of time. Let one day slide; do not worry about how much you are accomplishing until you wake the next morning. When the sun rises, begin with some sort of tradition; find something to help you settle: choose a favorite piece of music, make a cup of something hot, or wear your favorite sweater.

Settle down in your chair (or couch, or bed, or tree trunk) and start slowly. Begin with something. Do not worry about your grammar or punctuation. Let yourself babble for a moment; write something that is for your eyes; something that does not need to be perfect or appropriate. Letting yourself run free for a moment can be an excellent way to pull yourself out of the bogs and back into your work.

I am curious to hear about your own experiences: what works for you? What does not?

Until next time, my friends! (And I promise that it will be relatively soon.)

Oh, and Happy Pi Day!

General Electric animation design science ge

5 Tricks for Getting to Know Your Characters

Characters can be elusive little goblins. One of our endeavors as writing people is to track them down and figure out who they are by the tiny clues that they give us.

Sometimes those clues do not consist of much at all. I, like so many others, has repeatedly fallen into the trap of not knowing exactly who my characters are. Now, how much you know your characters is often dependent on how much you plan a story before you begin writing. I, as I believe I have mentioned, am a terrible plotter.

I come up with names, a few plot points, maybe a little bit of a personality for a few characters and ta-da, I call it ‘good enough.’ Obviously, this is not exactly conducive to knowing my characters. Usually, I learn who they are by writing. The first draft is a place to try things, it is where you figure out who you are writing about and how they feel about their world.

But, that does not mean that I am not collecting tips and short-cuts to shove up my sleeve and pull out when necessary. Today, I want to share the tricks that I have; obviously, this is an ongoing list, but why wait?

Here we go:

1#

We describe people everyday: the guy we saw at the coffee shop with a moody look on his face; the girl who sat next to us on the bus. It’s pretty common knowledge that the best characters are usually the ones with a bit of depth; a backstory that gives them something to strive for or a few fears that they avoid facing. They are the ones that seem to most human, and the most relatable.

So, I find it helpful to start with hopes and fears. Fear is often an easier thing to begin with because it is so poignant, but that might not be the case for everyone. Maybe your MC is afraid of clowns, what would they do if they see one? Or maybe their fear is much larger and more complex, maybe they hide it behind other fears and try to convince themselves that it does not exist. One of my current MCs if afraid of someone showing her exactly who she is and believing that person; it leads to a whole host of problems in her life.

Once you know something about your characters’ fears: spend some time looking at how you can use them.

While fear often pushes characters away from one thing or another, hope pulls them toward new possibilities. I think it is important to look at both and see if they balance each other and where they do not. Remember: don’t be afraid of giving your characters flaws, it only makes them stronger.

2#

This is related to the first: emotions are a gigantic part of our lives (yes, even if you try to turn them off), why shouldn’t they be for our characters as well? What are the emotions that drive your character? Love, hate, despair, kindness, revenge, loneliness?

Consider where they help and hinder your characters, and how you can use them to your benefit.

Is it time for an evil cackle yet?

3#

This is one that I may have talked about before, but I think it is worth mentioning again: if you character is stuck in a waiting room before a doctor– or dentist– appointment, what do they do? Do they pick up a magazine? If so, what kind? If not, how do they distract themselves? What are they feeling?

The questions are close to endless. While this may not help in the context of your plot, it can help you understand more about what your characters do in situations that you can relate to your own life. If a waiting room doesn’t work, you can always send them to a coffee shop or other public place… What do they order? What do they think about the people they see?

Make them see a bit of the world before you drag them through you plot. It’s only fair… and they never need to know that you call it ‘research.’

4#

Random generators can be a very good thing. While I often do not pick anything from them, they often spur me toward a few ideas worth considering.  If you are not interested in random generators, try searching for images of something that is prevalent in your character’s life– even if it is just a hunch. Photos often help to visualize a character’s appearance; a person’s clothing choices and general surroundings often reflect at least a bit of their personality– even if they purposely chose to act exactly the opposite as the way they feel.

Do not be afraid to spend time trying details on and casting them aside.

5#

Pulling off of #3, this is something that many people seem to find extremely helpful: act out conversations with your character. What are there face expressions? How do you think they use their body language when they speak? I often find myself making funny faces while writing dialogue, strangely enough, it helps me to understand what my characters are thinking and feeling.

The conversations that you have do not have to be related to your story. Explore and see what you find. Walk around your bedroom and mutter to yourself for heaven’s sakes. Recite a mundane conversation with your character and see where it takes you. I’m pretty sure the neighbors won’t call the police…

All right, that is it for now…

I hope that everyone is having a great week!

‘Till next time (it will be very, very soon)!

NaNoWriMo: Holy Cow, It’s Over?

Hello everyone!

You’re awesome! You know that? I’ll say it again: You’re awesome!

For all of the people who participated in NaNo or similar endeavors: No matter how many words you wrote, you are a winner! As long as you picked yourself up and accomplish something to bring you closer to your goal, you are a winner! If you had to quit in the middle but swore to try again, you are a winner! If you simply tried it out and found it wasn’t for you, don’t worry because you’re still a winner!

All right? I will stop trying to convince you now, but I mean it.

I apologize for the lack of posts in November… and the last week! I had a list of drafts that I meant to finish but– well… it was a crazy month in more ways than one. Thankfully, almost all of the craziness of over for the month. My time is mine again.*evil cackling*

Let’s talk about NaNo, shall we? I’m pleased to say that I finished with double what I expected to: 100,834 out of 50k. And… the story is only slightly more than halfway over. And this is book one of a duo (or trilogy).

Elizabelle and Avery like to talk. A lot.

Did I tell you anything about this story? No? Shame on me, my friends.

I never actually wrote a synopsis so I’m going to throw a few paragraphs out and see where it goes..

The story begins a few months after the conclusion of  String and Bone; a book that I hope to publish next year (I am currently in the last third of a rewrite). *crosses fingers*

Elizabelle, Rosaline’s sister, has become Queen Regent, Protector and Guide of Pyrensia. The Bone Collectors’ created a council to run the kingdom, and they are using Elizabelle as a public face to conserve some sort of public trust. She allows them to simply because she has her own plans.

She dreams of twisting people around her fingers like twine (and attempts to do so in almost every scene), and her worst fear is betrayal. Her compatriot, and girlfriend, is a former thief from Angra. While Elizabelle prefers to fight with words, Avery’s passion lies in blackmail interspersed with occasional fist-fights.

Avery has plans of her own, but they connect to Elizabelle’s for the most part. Both of them intend to use the Council– and everyone else they can– for their own ends. They love to give speeches, and nothing is a more joyful gist than threats.

The whole story has been prodigiously influenced by the election; which means there is a fair amount of social “stuff” mixed in. Finishing it will certainly be a challenge– hopefully of the delightful sort.

My, this moth is moving quickly! Now that life is settling again, I am sure that I will be able to post more often. And my next post will definitively have more substance than this little update. I have a few drafts waiting to be finished that I’m pretty excited about, and some additions to this blog that I am planning for the beginning of the year!

Until next time!

Pre-NaNo Panic

Whoa, whoa, whoa. What do you mean? There is still a little bit of time… well, there was, that time is going to be gone awfully fast.

The blink of an eye; a swish of a wand; the amount of time it takes to learn to make a good bread.

All right, maybe not that last one.

It’s time to panic my friends. At least, in my tiny sliver of the world.

Luckily, panic is something that we have in abundance. But let’s not get over excited. Unprepared is still slightly prepared in some ways. Right? I sure hope so.

To actually be prepared, I am going to follow the tried and true method of slowly drawing my attention closer and closer to NaNo… Actually, that sounds kind of creepy.

Let’s start with a NaNoWriMo survival kit:

  • My computer, Yuily
  • A notebook
  • Flashdrives/backup
  • Microsoft Word
  • Earbuds
  • Empty flashcards– for notes and character information.
  • Pens and at least one pencil
  • Music (Pandora and 8tracks)
  • Writing rock
  • Lots and lots of determination
  • The ability to chase after motivation
  • Magic

Non-essential, but definitively helpful:

  • Random prompt box
  • Fuzzy socks and generally comfortable clothing
  • CHOCOLATE
  • Tea, hot chocolate, and, occasionally, coffee
  • Internet (for research and– you know what– procrastination)
  • Furry friends of four legs
  • Other humans in the family to commiserate with

Things that would be beneficial, but probably won’t exist before NaNo:

  • A temporary book cover
  • A plot

I think my list gets bigger every year. (An illusion, my friends. An illusion.) Truly, only a few things are key.

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? If so, what is in your survival kit?

Passion is What Holds Us Up

Gentlepoeples, a good morning and welcome to the show. I may have spent *some* time procrastinating by looking up forms of address. It could technically be research. Kinda. Every character needs a good greeting.

Ahem.

Time to get to a topic, eh folks?

We live our lives, however they may be, by each day– it is easy to wonder where our our sides of the world are turning. There is a great philosophy joke in Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein’s Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar:

“A seeker has heard that the wisest guru in all of India lives atop India’s highest mountain. So the seeker treks over hill and Delhi until he reaches the fabled mountain. It’s incredibly steep, and more than once he slips and falls. By the time he reaches the top, he is full of cuts and bruises, but there is the guru, sitting cross-legged in front of his cave.

“”O, wise guru,” the seeker says, “I have come to you to ask what the secret of life is.”

“”Ah, yes, the secret of life,” the guru says, “The secret of life is a teacup.”

“”A teacup? I came all the way up here to find the meaning of life, and you tell me that it’s a teacup!”

“”The guru shrugs, “So maybe it isn’t a teacup.””

The meaning of such a joke could be construed in a thousand ways, of course, but I think one is this: no one knows the meaning of life; and, therefore, a meaning must be created.

If the meaning of life must be created: it seems that passion should be a part of it-  as a source of pleasure as well as usefulness. In a previous post, I mentioned passion in conjunction with living the way that you want to live, and I would like to keep that as an underlying theme.

There seems to be a secret sort of pressure in the world– at least, in certain places among certain people– that says that everyone should be the same. The truth is the no one is the same, we are all individual people with our own beliefs and life experiences. Someone who is good at math is not necessarily a good painter, and a painter is not necessarily a good mathematician. We each have our strengths and our weaknesses; and, I think, we need to acknowledge them.

This is where passion comes in: while what someone is passionate about is not necessarily something that they are good at, it is usually something that they are willing to work for. As my dad says, ‘talent can only take you so far.’ You have to work for what you want, and you have to work passionately.

Passion can foster so much; it is, to look at things is a slightly narrow prospective, a immense driving force in the world. Just think about the invention of cars or electricity. Sure, someone might have said ‘we really need some sort of illuminating system that doesn’t rely on candles,’ but I think that it is more realistic to wonder if electricity was created because someone was passionate. They probably didn’t even know that they were creating something that would spread across the world and usher in a modernity that could not exist without it; at least, not until they took a step back and wondered what the newfangled thing that they had created could be used for.

We would not have the works of Picasso, Stephan King, Galileo, Plato, Pina Bausch, Tamara Pierce– well… you get the point.

Sure, we can work without passion; we can create things without passion, but determination is needed and what is a better conveyor of determination than passion? As well, things that are created with passion are often so much more beautiful than something created out of rote determination. Both are good of course, but… surely, passion is something that we look for.

Without passion, life would be dry.

So… how do we find passion? In my still-not-20-years-old opinion, I think finding passion is a matter of trial and error. Look around yourself and try a few things out.

Let me tell a bit of a story: I have always wanted to write stories, but the idea of writing anything longer than a page seemed crazy for many, many years; it was an ‘eventually.’ You know, the eventually where you’re not entirely serious but want to think you are. I had no idea that I would be completely swallowed by writing, I had no idea that I would have a passion for it– no matter how terrible my first drafts are. Now, I don’t just want to write, I need to write.

Enough about me though; I think the gist of this post is this: everyone has a passion for something, you just have to find it. So go out and do just that, try something for awhile (long enough to truly know if you like it or hate it– jump into the pool, don’t just stick one toe in and say ‘oh, it’s too deep.’).

And once you have found it: work. Follow your passion to the ends of the earth with fanatic determination. It might not be easy, but you just have to go for it.

Don’t give up, and, most importantly, do not let fear lock you into place.

So, my friends, a question offered to you: what do you think is the most important part of passion?

I will gladly read your responses if you wish to share!

Until next time…

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