What a week. As a result of personal struggles and a list of deadlines longer than my forearm I felt the need to take a week off from blogging. But now that I’m back I have something I want to talk about. A realization that recently popped into my mind.
As a writer, I’m constantly crafting the struggles of characters. I ask myself how their struggles will eventually shape who they become? I use my characters struggles to help develop their being, to force them to grow and change. In order to do so, I look at the big picture. I consider plot and look to connect my characters to their worlds through some identifiable struggle. I feel compassion for them. I offer them tools in order to overcome said struggle or, at least, to find a sense of harmony. And yet I do not offer myself these same tools. When I consider my struggles I experience a kind of tunnel vision, the result of obsessive and detrimental loop thinking. I often forget the big picture and rarely consider how my feelings will contribute to my own character growth.
It’s been a difficult week. I admit, stress had gotten the better part of me. My body felt shaky as a result of shot nerves and I felt exhausted, emotionally depleted and numb (and that list of deadlines is definitely not helping.) But I am a solution and goal driven individual. This is good and bad. It’s bad in that I suffer from a kind of performance addiction that causes me to feel perpetually terrified of “failure” but good in that it encourages me to seek solutions to my problems. So, goal-oriented Emma set off on a Sunday night adventure to the only place in the world that has remained 100% capable of “cheering me up” or “calming me down.” That place is Chapters. If I’m having a particularly bad day I’ll likely end up at Chapters, sitting on a carpet somewhere hunkered over a book and because I am goal-oriented, if I’ve arrived at Chapters with the aim of “feeling better” I may end up in the self-help and general wellness section. I definitely did last night and came home with yet another stack of books to offer my bookshelf (or rather, floor… because my bookshelf is full.)
Although the book I’m about to describe did not make it onto my stack of happy/helpful new purchases, it nevertheless inspired the realization described above. The book discussed the vital importance of storytelling and sought to reveal how various characters have been depicted in famous folk tales. I skimmed over the book briefly and felt no need to read about basic plot structures, but as I slid the book back onto the shelf I got to thinking. How is it that I sometimes feel more compassion for my characters than I do for myself? What can I learn from what I’ve attempted to teach characters I’ve created? To be honest, I could probably learn a lot. The old “you should take your own advice” comment is highly applicable to this situation.
This said, because characters are infused with emotion, what we read can severely impact our outlooks or current moods. This weekend, being in the headspace that I was, was probably not the best weekend to be reading Birdie, by Tracey Lindberg. While the novel is fantastic, its description as a “darkly comic and moving novel about the universal experience of recovering from tragedy” is certainly accurate. What did I read instead? How to be a Canadian by Will and Ian Ferguson had me in tears from laughing so hard. Only one other author has managed to make me cry and laugh out loud and that author is a favourite of mine. Bill Bryson. I highly recommend any of his books.
So I suppose this is a step towards learning to be compassionate. Realizing and admitting that maybe I needed some “light-heartedness” in my life and taking the steps to cast a little more brightness. I needed to laugh. Probably needed to cry too. So thank you, Will and Ian Ferguson.
When I started this blog, I picked the tagline “on books, writing, tea and late night anxiety” because these elements, at least in my own life, are constantly at play with one another. But now I’m beginning to take a closer look at how these elements interact. How does what I read impact my anxious moods? What can I learn from characters I’ve created or characters created by various authors? I am approaching, and I apologize for the cliche, the next chapter of my life and I will attempt to navigate these new pages with the same patience and compassion I have shown my characters. For now, however, that list of deadlines is calling my name so I thank you for reading and wish everyone a wonderful Monday.