Creating an Enchanted Oasis in a World Where Violence Too Often Occurs

Enchanted 1955

I had planned to share a post on symbols of enchantment today, but with the latest tragic gun violence in Colorado last night, it seemed appropriate to talk about the challenges of daring to live an enchanting life when we live in a world that is filled with injustice, tragedy, and senseless actions of the few that affect the many.

Whether we see senseless violence in the world or ongoing injustices, we can feel that creating peace and beauty for ourselves is frivolous or a way of burying our heads in the sand.

I felt a tinge of guilt for my own prosperity when I was reading Behind the beautiful forevers Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity  a book by the Pulitzer prize-winning journalist, Katherine Boo, about life in the slums of India.  She spent four years observing Annawadi, a makeshift settlement in the shadow of luxury hotels near the Mumbai airport.  As I read the book, I couldn’t help but be struck by the injustice of so much wealth juxtaposed next to such dire poverty.  For most of us, the way forward is not to all become impoverished but bring balance to our abundance and prosperity.

Yesterday, I heard a riveting radio program that talked about research that has shown that countries where income inequality is high experience increases in a large number of undesirable effects including mental illness, while countries with greater income balance experience more of the good things we all want. In my other blog, I wrote about the increasing amounts of data pointing to the societal problems caused from income inequality in America and other countries around the world.   You might be surprised to find how poorly America shows up on the income inequality scale, or maybe you wouldn’t if you have been paying attention to what has been happening in this country during the last 30 years.

We are living in a time when the questions for all of us include:

  1. How do we keep our heart and mind open to the injustices and tragedies in the world, at the same time that we allow ourselves to experience and create enchantment in our own lives?
  2. Can we use positive thinking and prayers to change the inequities in the world around us?
  3. Is there a change we feel called to make in our own lifestyle?
  4. How can we improve lives for ourselves and help others when we live in less than ideal cultures and social systems?
  5. Can we do something to change the inequalities in our own world?

When I hear or read about a tragic event like the shooting in Colorado, I choose to focus not only on the causes of the senseless violence, but on the outpouring of the kindness of strangers to those who have been hurt.  There is so much goodness in the world, and we need to remember that too.

The enchanted symbols that I’ll return to discussing tomorrow can help us realize that our questions are the same ones that humans have struggled to answer for millennia.  Perhaps seeking a more enchanting life individually can lead to new understandings of how to create a better world for all of us.

Energy Booster for Writers

writing

writing (Photo credit: found_drama)

This is the final post in my current series of blogs about taking the brakes off of your personal energy and innate goodness.

Today, I am sharing ideas about why it matters for writers to understand our personal energy, and to be aware of the type of energy that we’re putting into our writing.

Nowadays, most of us are bombarded with information and writing that is packed with different kinds of energy.

Some communications are uplifting, funny and inspiring.  Others are angry, demeaning, fearful.  Of course, many pieces of writing are boring because the energy of emotion is not present in them at all!

Your writing has an energy to it that often reflects the kind of day that you’re having.  This doesn’t mean you should only write when your energy is “good”. Sometimes, the “negative” energy is just what a story needs to create drama and interest.  So, it’s not necessary that your energy becomes all sunshine and roses.  However, it’s helpful to track your energy over the course of time to notice how the type of energy you are experiencing and creating affects your writing.

south to north view of chicagoland area

south to north view of chicagoland area (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Energy Boosters for Writers worksheet is something I’m putting together for my 7 Elixirs class for Writers that I’ll going to be offering this fall in the Chicago area.  It’s based on the writing coaching work that I’ve done in the last few years.

I’ve noticed that finishing projects often requires that we manage our energy for the toughest part of writing which is when we are refining our work.  This is the time when we throw out good and sometimes great ideas for the sake of a story or grant application or marketing brochure or memoir.

This worksheet may not make complete sense, because it’s out of context to the rest of the course that I’ll be giving.  Yet, I’m sharing it anyway because it’s rather self-explanatory, and shows you a different way of managing your time and energy in conjunction with your writing.

Energy Booster for Writers Worksheet

Hope you’ve enjoyed this series of blogs!  Tomorrow, we’ll be back to some literary musings.

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Course Corrections in the Stories We Write

Yesterday I wrote about the elixirs of a good life that I’m teaching my sons, this year, which are

  1. Blossoming – finding the ability to evolve, and in some sense be reborn every day to the gift of a new day
  2. Cooling – knowing when to cool down and calm our passions and energies
  3. Warming – realizing when we have become too cool and need to warm up
  4. Attracting –  allowing experiences, people and gifts to come to us simply by being ourself
  5. Purifying – letting go
  6. Giving – sharing our life energy, talents and gifts
  7. Receiving – acknowledging all of the good that is coming into our lives from all around us

When it comes to living a good life we want our children and ourselves to master these energetic processes that allow us to make course corrections to our lives.

However, these “elixirs” have a different value when we look at stories we develop as writers.  More than likely your story will include characters who do not make these kind of course corrections, or when they do, something unexpected happens.

Robert McKee, author of Story describes this idea in another way:

The substance of a story is the gap that splits open between what a human being expects to happen when he takes an action and what really does happen; the rift between expectation and result, probability and necessity.

Essentially, we like to read stories where our characters fail to make the right course corrections, because all of us at one time or another know this experience of expecting a certain outcome from our actions and receiving something very different.  There are times in life when we don’t know how to proceed and seeing characters struggling with problems that are similar or worse than our own can be therapeutic and sometimes life changing.

Once again quoting McKee:

The source of all art is the human psyche’s primal, pre-linguistic need for the resolution of stress and discord through beauty and harmony, for the use of creativity to revive a life deadened by routine, for a link to reality through our instinctive, sensory feel for the truth.  Like music and dance, painting and sculpture, poetry and song, story is first, last and always the experience of aesthetic emotion — the simultaneous encounter of thought and feeling . . . Life on its own without art to shape it, leaves you in confusion and chaos, but aesthetic emotion harmonizes what you feel to give you a heightened awareness and a sureness of your place in reality.  In short, a story well told gives you the very thing you cannot get from life: meaningful emotional experience.   In life, experiences become meaningful with reflection in time.  In art, they are meaningful now, at the instant they happen.

That means if we are writing “true” stories, they will necessarily have characters that do not blossom immediately.  Our characters will lose their cool  in ways that hurt them or they won’t show warmth when they know they should.  The characters in our stories may attract the attention or love they desire, but generally there will be obstacles to their desires.  Often a strong plot relies on at least one character resisting letting go of something or someone.   Sometimes this will work out well, at other times it will be tragic. Memorable characters like a Scrooge that doesn’t know how to give or receive love make a story work.

What are the  failed course corrections  that make your main character memorable? Like I’ve written before in this blog, it is often our failure to achieve our desires or live our best life that make us best qualified to write great stories.

Tomorrow, I’d write about how I disagree with Mckee’s when he says it’s only possible to find meaning in our lives retrospectively.  In fact, finding meaning in the moment is one of the best ways to manage our energy, and keep up our writer’s spirit.

What do you think?  Have you ever thought about the course corrections that your characters are making in your stories? Do you agree with McKee’s ideas about story?  His book  Story, Substance, Structure, Style, and The Principles of Screenwriting is a great book for all writers.  I’m not a screenwriter, but I love the way his ideas help me to expand my concept of what it means to write stories.