Creative writing is a wonderful thing, for many reasons. Not least of those is how it tends to shake our sense of complacency.
I’ve written about complacency on my other blog, my faith-based blog. It’s a serious problem and a sin that I, in particular, tend to fall into. So I try to be sensitive to it and to act against it.
Even though I often fail ,and don’t challenge myself to grow or to leave my comfort zone as often as I should, I have found that writing does, in its way, draw me out of my circle of complacency. It does that in a lot of ways:
1. MY WEAKNESSES DEFINITELY SHOW UP IN MY CHARACTERS.
I have a tendency to share flaws, problems, and weaknesses with my characters. And that forces me to recognize and confront them in my own life.
I am particularly noticing this as I prepare the second novel of my trilogy, “The Magic Council,” for its second edition. That book is fairly different from the others I’ve written. It has less action and is more of a coming of age story, a bildungsroman. There is a lot of psychological depth to the tale, which is what I love about it.
It’s really striking me as I tighten up the novel how the things that get my characters into trouble–the tendencies they have toward stubbornness, to comparing themselves to others, to self-centeredness, and yes, to complacency itself–are things I also struggle with from time to time.
This is uncomfortable, but it’s a call to action. A call to make changes and to adjust how I respond to life’s challenges, complications, and uncertainties.
I RECOGNIZE HOW MUCH I DON’T KNOW AND DON’T SEE, AND HOW MUCH I ASSUME THAT I HONESTLY HAVE NO IDEA ABOUT
It is a very humbling experience, to get a manuscript back with notes from a beta reader or to read a review. It’s incredible to see how things I took for granted, and so didn’t bother to explain, confuse someone else. Or how something I thought was complex was actually detailed well enough to be understandable.
It is crazy to see how other people notice things, or wonder about things, that never in a million years would have caught my attention.
It is shocking to see how readers connect with characters I never thought people would particularly like, or criticize a character for an action or a judgment I didn’t have a problem with.
Getting a manuscript back is a shocking reminder of how we all go through life with our own set of blinders: making assumptions and judgments about others and their lives from information that is far more limited than we realize or admit.
I REMEMBER HOW FRAGILE LIFE REALLY IS, AND HOW NOTHING IS ASSURED ME.
First of all, there’s that horrible experience of losing an hour’s, or a day’s, or a week’s worth of work due to a computer malfunction. I think that happens to all of us at some point, and it’s AWFUL. But it’s a lesson, if nothing else!
That’s not really what I mean by writing being a lesson in the fragility and beauty of life, though.
One thing about writing epic fantasy…. Lots of bad stuff happens. Life isn’t in a very good or secure place for my characters throughout much of the stories.
It’s a reminder not to take things like health, economic security, physical comfort, even life itself for granted. It’s a reminder that life isn’t about security and comfort. It’s a reminder to be grateful for and humbled by how blessed I truly am, no matter how tough things might seem at any given moment.
And that is a wonderful thing. Because it’s SO easy to focus on life’s challenges, on life’s problems, on what is going “wrong.”
G.K. Chesterton, one of my favorite writers, once said that, “An adventure is only inconvenience rightly considered. Inconvenience is adventure wrongly considered.” And he is so, so right…. For some reason, writing and reading fiction reminds me of that fact.
My fiction challenges me to see life, even on rather humdrum days, as a bit of an adventure. On tough, frustrating days, as a LOT of an adventure. And personally, I think that is beautiful.
Victoria Grefer is the author the Herezoth trilogy, which begins with “The Crimson League” and has new editions coming out this Fall. She also has a writer’s handbook out, titled “Writing for You: A Novelist’s Guide to the Craft of Fiction.”
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