What succor, what consolation is there in truth, compared to a story? - Vida Winters, The Thirteenth Tale
I love a good story, don't you? One that stirs the imagination, transports you to far away places and holds you captive. A story where you can taste the air, feel the agony or glory, live lives that become more real to you than your own. A story that "breathes"so deeply you want it to never end.
Hence the phrase - losing yourself in a good book.
Some stories are more than just an escape from reality - especially fairy tales, which are a means of simultaneously losing and finding oneself. Far from being simply a childish diversion, they seek to illuminate as much as to entertain, offering adventure along with time-honored truths. That's why I love to read and write them.
Any teacher will tell you that we learn better when we don't know we're learning, or when we come to a realization on our own. Marketers and politicians know this, which is why our media-driven culture is slow to recognize when it is being manipulated. We like to think that our opinions are "informed", and they are...to a certain extent. But they are only informed by what we are exposed to. Just as a balanced diet requires us to eat what is good for us whether we like it or not, if one wants to be fully informed, one must allow or even compel themselves to consume a variety of information.
Here's a mouthful for you: Our "junk food" media glut is causing an epidemic of attitudinal obesity among the masses, who are overfed on empty and meaningless triviality.
Whoa. You see it in the mind-numbing banter and desperate obsessiveness on Face Book, in the fixation on celebrity, self, and this fad or that. In the glorification of "fun connectivity" over meaningful communication. No one leaves the social network banquet still hungry; instead we overuse and abuse, then regurgitate our "opinions" all over the place, not caring if we offend anyone else. We just want our say.
When we click on this post or that, we can console ourselves with the fable that what we're consuming is "food for thought", but very little actual thinking is going on. What if, instead of relying on pithy soundbites and slanted coverage, we reverted to our own in-depth analysis? What if we read more and "chatted" less? What if we looked for the REAL story instead of the media hype? What if we turned off our I-pads and Smart Phones and had an intelligent conversation with someone we disagree with, while keeping an open mind? What if we picked up an actual book? What if...?
Might not TRUTH come to light?
Sometimes you feel like you're going it alone, like no one else knows your story, is on your side, or even that the universe is conspiring against you. And then there are days like today. The morning transition of getting kids off to school went smooth as could be, with everyone working together to get out the door in a cheerful frame of mind - Check 1. Next, my neighbor called to see if I wanted to go for a walk - and it's mild and sunny! - Check 2. Then I came back to find out this had happened:
- Check 3 x Infinity! Thanks, Merrie Housdon!
Don't you just love it when the world has your back? Yeah, me too.
A Re-Defining Moment
I've always had a plan: Write books, sell books, become a bestselling author. Success is simple, right? Only it's not. Not by a long shot.
I recently met with the couple who helped me publish my last book, lovely people who are generous with their time and encouragement. My mission? Get this book launch right, after the last one fell flat. The book itself was great, but the seller (me) just didn't have her act together. This time I want to go about things differently. And to do that, I need a game plan. The first step is defining my objectives.
Money has never been my big motivator, but let's face it, I didn't pursue a writing career to lose money either. Contrary to what people may think, being a published author is not synonymous with making your living at it. I personally know LOTS of authors, and except for those who are retired, only one of them doesn't have a day job. 1) My goal is to be able to afford to make writing my day job.
I am also an artist, but one of the reasons I don't sell much art is because selling sucks the beauty out of creating. (There is a reason why "starving artist" is a well-known phrase!) I thought writing would be different, but it's not. I want readers to love my book-babies for the wonders they are, not because I've shoved them in their faces saying "read me, Read Me, READ ME!" Carnival barking has never been my style, yet I'm expected to have a platform, a hook, a pitch, an eye-catching banner, and free giveaways to make my books enticing, and then spend 90% of my time marketing them on social media. Geesh! What made folks read before that was a thing? Well...good writing, I suppose. So, my next objective is to 2) Write more and better books, building up a substantial body of quality work.
I also want to 3) Connect more with my readers. I like people. I like hearing their stories and sharing mine. I love inspiring them to use their gifts and talents, which I've always believed are given for more than just our personal enjoyment. How much more crazy-awesome would this old world be if everybody was doing what they love to do, and what they are good at? Can you imagine all of the positive energy that would create? The discoveries that would be made? Yet, how many of us can say we are truly living up to our full potential?
Maybe success is simply being able to do whatever you and I were born to do.
Let's find out. Let's be successful together this year.
Forgoing the Rant
Yesterday I wasted half a day writing a whiny letter to the editor of a popular magazine. My beef was legitimate - at least in my eyes - and venting my frustration in a well-written discourse seemed like the thing to do.............until I put it aside to read later, and came back to it with a new attitude.
Too often we spew our opinions, informed or otherwise, without regard to possible repercussions. In the last month alone, I have inadvertently offended my daughter, her college roommate, her father, my adult niece and nephew (separately), and by association, probably my sister and brother-in-law, along with who knows how many of my more liberal-minded friends - all because I thought having my say was important. Being a peace-maker at heart, let me just tell you; it wasn't.
All of the "social interaction" made possible by technology is a good thing, right? Um...not always. Seems we are more willing to type into a keyboard what we might think twice about saying in person, which is unfortunate because, without being face to face, our intentions are more easily misconstrued. I know mine were.
So, one of the new tricks this old dog is still learning when it comes to social media is to keep my mouth shut. Until we all realize that most people aren't aiming to offend us, the better course is to cry into our coffee/beer/pillow and smile for the webcam.
His Majesty, Boris the First
Meet Boris. Though I never imagined these words coming out of my mouth (or from my fingertips), Boris is my grand-cat.
While our nest is not quite empty yet, it is pet-less. Our family cat, Ashes died over a year ago. I still miss her, but I don't miss the cat hair, clawed furniture and door jams, or being awoken at an ungodly hour by meowing and whiskers up the nose. Ashes, too, officially belonged to my eldest daughter, and was always a bit standoffish to the rest of us. She only sought our attention at the most inconvenient times. Our son's dog, Fudge was less trouble, though more needy in the affection department - alas, she is no longer with us either. Both had long, comfortable lives, but missed their best friends horribly when they went off to college.
I had no intention of ever hosting another animal in our home given that at least one of my other children is mildly allergic, but it seems I am more indulgent than expected when it comes to my offspring's' "offspring" - even when they are non-human. (Also, my allergic child still loves cats, so this temporary fix fills the gap.) Boris is a little derpy, whereas both Ashes and Fudge exhibited above average intelligence. But, just as those of you with actual grandchildren often find, the grands are even more precious because you get all of the pleasure without the burden of responsibility:
No cleaning up after
Yep, it's pretty much the best having a grand-cat! Boris comes for a visit, and then he leaves. Granted, he has woken me up in the middle of the night with his shenanigans throughout this holiday vacation, but I didn't feel the least bit guilty about giving him a treat and a snuggle, and then passing him off to his mom. There are advantages to being Queen Cat-Grandmother.
(Lest you think I'm spoiling Boris as some kind of payback, here's a picture of his predecessor, Ashes. Why do wreaths make such inviting cat beds?)