How do you see the world? Is it the Land of Milk and Honey or The Hunger Games? Is the glass half empty or half full? Is our human existence hilarious, serene, tragic or full of hope? Do you sort, filter, organize and understand everything around you primarily through feelings, family, cost versus benefit, politics, law, sin and salvation, astrology or whether things add to, or subtract from, the chances of the San Jose Sharks winning the Stanley Cup?
You and I live in the same world and yet we don’t. It’s different for each of us. The quality of my days begins with whether my kid’s school bus is late and the intensity of my morning coffee. The purpose of my days is determined by competing deadlines at work. My days achieve meaning when what I read transports me or if what I write is clear. My measure of self-satisfaction is whether I strike a balance and get through it all with aplomb.
What about you? What, for you, makes a day good or bad? Is it whether things go well at work? Is it whether you eat right and hit the gym? Are days good when you connect with friends or bad when you accidentally take a call from your doctor instead of letting it go to voicemail? Does a Lenny Kravitz tune lift you up? Does the news from Lebanon drag you down? Do you look forward to a good sleep or fear that you’ll lie awake?
What gives you a sense of purpose? Facebook and Twitter? Your inbox? Your kids? Your kitchen? Your manuscript? Your mind? Your prayers? Your mission, whatever it is, and if you sell a lot of muffins at your bake sale? Winning her over? Getting rid of him for good? Finding out the truth? Surrendering to what is?
How do you judge yourself in a given day? With a morning mirror check? By whether you’re on time, in charge, ready and empowered? According to what you get done? By how well you meet your own standards of behavior? Whether you stick to your guns or stand up for your principles? By how well you stay humble, flow, and show compassion for others? Whether you make someone laugh?
What matters more than the details of our days is the disparity in how we experience them. That’s what’s interesting. That’s what’s engaging. That’s what we talk about. To the degree that we’re in accord about our experiences we feel satisfied and safe. When we assert the differences in our days, though, we waken each other and enthrall.
This is important in writing fiction because it reminds us that capturing the world as it is only accomplishes a little. Creating sympathetic characters with whom we can identify is fine but only takes us so far. [Read more…]