Real Life Villains

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Photo credit: JD Hancock via Foter.com / CC BY

You really don’t know what you don’t know until you know it. Wrap your mind around that sentence.

I’ve been on an emotional roller coaster ride. I’m not exaggerating when I say that the past five months have been the most challenging work situation I’ve ever had. I’m not going to go into specifics, nor would anyone really care to hear them. Let’s just keep it simple and say that I found myself in a job that is ill-suited to my skill set and personality. On top of that, I have an antagonist mixed into the situation. I can’t just quit (financial reasons) and finding another job has also been a challenge.

I’ve been trying to take a step back and look at things from a different perspective. Turns out, trying to see things my adversary’s way was helpful, but not nearly as helpful as an outsider’s fresh look on things.

There’s a nice piece of advice for fiction writers that has always helped me with my stories. It is this: Everyone is the hero of their own story. For writers, this means that your villain should not be evil for the sake of being evil. He or she won’t see themselves as the villain, even while committing evil acts. In fact, he or she may feel justified by what they do.

Everyone is the hero of their own story. This phrase can also be used in the real world. Think of your biggest adversary. From your perspective, they are bad people who only wish to make your life more difficult or to stand as an obstacle to your goals and dreams. It’s easy to paint them as awful human beings.

My adversary’s actions often made me an emotional mess. I was angry, frustrated, sad, and hopeless. And then suddenly, I saw the circumstances beyond us both. I saw what this adversary was going through. This wasn’t a walk in the park for either of us. And when I have better focus on the whole of it, I realize that my adversary has it worse.

Now, I’m full of pity instead of anger. It was like a switch went off and my anger was replaced with compassion.

It’s so hard to see beyond ourselves in the heat of emotion. When you’re caught up in the storm, it’s hard to know whether you’re in a hurricane or a tornado. So zoom out. And you might find that your tornado is nothing compared to that giant hurricane along someone else’s shore. This is all easier said than done. I was cemented in place by my own negativity. It took me five months to finally see beyond myself in this storm.

A friend let me in on some information that changed my perspective entirely. It doesn’t fix my immediate problems. But I feel strong. Less weathered. I feel like the lucky one in this.

When emotions spin out of control, it’s easy to burn the bridge without considering the real consequences. So don’t use your adversary as an excuse to act out. Don’t let yourself become the villain. Take a step back. Realize that you can be the hero. But just because you’re the hero doesn’t mean that they are the villain. Even when they might act it out well.

All of us have been the villain at some point or another. Once you realize that, you can move beyond it. You can have better perspective. And perhaps you can be merciful to those who have wronged you. Even if they don’t deserve it.

In the end, it’s a wonderful twist of fate that we don’t get exactly what we deserve. Grace is a mysterious gift. And we could all use more of it in our lives.

Now that I know what I know, I find myself more merciful than vengeful. Life is a crazy ride indeed.

 

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Pride and Patience

Twelve years. I’m not sure I should admit this out loud. It has been twelve years since I started writing my current book series. And I’m still working on it.

Most professionals would tell me to drop it and start fresh with a new story. If it isn’t right yet, it may never be. I beg to differ (and this is not perfectionism speaking). I could start fresh with a new story, but that’s really what I’ve done through all my drafts. Each time I started, it was a new story. And since I’ve been persistent, it has matured along the way.

Soon, I’ll start a query letter for a book agent and then move on to my next book while I wait. I’m finally ready to see if it can fly. And if not, nothing was lost because I fine-tuned my craft. Those twelve years were my Master of Fine Arts without the tuition fees. My next book will come along faster. I’m sure of that.

We live in a culture that severely lacks this kind of patience. Yes, I know, sometimes you just need to throw in the towel and move on. But sometimes, you need to stick with it. It takes a bit of wisdom and perspective to know which path to take.

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I have been forced am learning to be patient. I’ve waited for change for years now. I’d like to go in a new direction, both in career and location. I want to settle into a new house soon. But I’ve been unable to do those things. And it’s been so frustrating.

I’m beginning to see the not-so-harsh reality. I’ve learned from my stay here. I’m stronger in myself and have more confidence in my skills. I can handle more than I used to. I needed to go through all of these challenges to become who I am now. And that takes time. And sometimes time tries your patience.

Just when I’m on the brink of giving up, someone always throws me a bone. When I met my now-husband, I’d given up on the idea of marriage. I was ready to travel the world and let the wind blow me where it would–just not into a man’s arms. Today, I’m happy I took a chance and let him in.

I was who I needed to be at the time we met. A few years earlier, we wouldn’t have liked each other. Both of us agree on that. Time can mold us into better people if we let it.

I have new hope for my future. I just need to set aside my pride and realize that this is just one job. One place on a map. One stage in my life. Better will come. I just have to be patient.

Photo credit: WasabiDoobie / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Finding Meaning in Writing

Sometimes it seems like being a writer isn’t really a big deal. Especially because I write fiction. How does that help anyone? Is it even something that matters?

Sometimes we need a story to understand a concept or to put a different spin on a topic. Fiction can challenge your beliefs and leave you torn as you consider how you would act in that situation. It can help you see something you didn’t see before. It can even spur you to take action.

I think about the parables Jesus told and I’m reminded that creating fictional stories can be important. A story that has meaning behind it resonates and sticks with the readers. If Jesus used stories to help people understand, then being a storyteller can be a noble task if it’s used in a positive way.

I am reading The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho. It’s a simple story with a deeper meaning. I’ve read it before, but I don’t think I was mentally ready to accept what it had to say. I had teenager syndrome where I didn’t think it could teach me anything. Now, I’m finding it very meaningful, especially because of where I’m at in my life today.

In the past year or two, I’ve become an avid reader. At first, it was really to escape reality. To have an adventure in the midst of my boring life. I’m a bit of an adrenaline junkie. But I read, not just to escape, but to understand.

I understand myself more than many people do. College gave me time to sort through some issues, and my travels have opened my eyes to the good and bad that lives inside me. It sounds some simple when I put it that way. So conquered. But that beast does rise up and go for my throat from time to time. Conquering our demons is not something that only happens once. It always comes back for more. That’s the nature of the beast.

Stories can help me make more sense of myself, but lately, I think they are helping me understand the forces at work outside of me as well.

Stories can help you understand someone else’ motives. As a writer, I need to know the motives of my characters. So as a reader, I search for those motives in the author’s characters. I need those motives to believe in what the story has to tell me. No one acts in a malicious way without having an underlying reason, even if it has nothing to do with the person they are attacking. If you think of it that way, it’s easier to forgive someone for mistreating you.

In the end, I’m grateful to be a writer. There’s something amazing about sharing my heart with people through what I write. It almost feels dangerous putting yourself out there and exposing yourself to possible criticism. And sometimes you do get hurt. But you are always rewarded your for the risk in some way.

Here’s to more writing risks!