Take time to deliberate, but when the time for action has arrived, stop thinking and go in.
- Napoleon

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Introspection Time

Several times over the past few weeks I've thought about doing a post on introspection. I've even mentioned it in a couple other posts. Well, today's the day.

Let me start with a little lead in...

I woke up this morning feeling like a cross between Piglet and Eeyore. You remember Piglet? He's afraid of everything. And Eeyore is the epitome of negative. So, here I sit afraid of doing anything because I'm sure it will turn out wrong, that I'll screw up and everyone will laugh at me, or that I'll say something stupid. (Or that I already have said something stupid and now everyone is laughing at me. You get the gist.)

If you've been reading along, you know most days I'm a fairly solid, rational and secure person. So what's the deal with me today? This is where the introspection comes in.

First off, let's take a spin in the Wayback Machine. I wasn't always the person I am today. I was the type of person who wouldn't say shit if she had a mouthful. I let people walk all over me (believe it or not). I was 'a very small animal', if not in stature than at least in my own mind. Which is weird because I also did very well in leadership positions - like first chair flute and captain of the QuizBowl team (i.e. Nerd Olympics). Outside of my box, though, I was Piglet. Drop me in a room with the popular kids and I shrank against the wall quivering.

This constant living-in-fear eventually turned me into Eeyore. If anything bad was going to happen, it was going to happen to me. Murphy's Law became my code to live by. In the end, I just stopped trying to do anything, and whatever anyone else wanted to do was fine with me. If other people were making my choices, then the bad things wouldn't happen.... Umm... Right.

Fast forward... After years of work, I finally pulled myself out of the Piglet/Eeyore cycle. But even though I escaped the mindset, it's still there. It's down deep for the most part, but it's still part of me. Every day I have to watch to make sure it doesn't sneak up and engulf me. Some days I fail.

In the old days, it would overwhelm me and I'd spend days in a funk, wandering through my life feeling crappy and wondering why. Then came introspection. You see, once I learned to sit my butt down and think about where the funk was coming from--once I discovered the things I feel now often have roots in the past somewhere--these attacks of Piglet/Eeyore came less frequently and stayed a shorter period of time.

Where today's funk started isn't important. (It's personal and after locating its source, I kicked its ass.) The reason I even mention it is to highlight the importance of knowing what's driving you and why. (Which is really all introspection is about.)

And believe it or not, this can help with your writing. Digging through the unmarked boxes in your own past--opening them up and baring all the contents to the harsh light--can show you how your characters' pasts and memories affect who they are today. It can give them more depth which makes them more sympathetic, which sells books.

It can also help you overcome your fears about writing, life and everything else, making better person because of it. (For instance, I used to have a real phobia about moths - complete with heart palpatations and screaming. Once I figured out where that fear came from and why, I got the damn thing under control. I still don't like the little buggers, but I can live with them in the same room - as long as they don't touch me.)

So, I want you all to do a little exercise. Think about something that bothers you today, look into your past and figure out why it bothers you - maybe one incident that happened when you were a child. Dig deep. Chase it all the way down to its roots. (Back to the example above, my fear of moths came from when I was a kid. A moth landed on my face, startling me so I screamed and jumped - at which point, my family laughed at me. The embarassment of that night started the fear. The moth never hurt me; the laughter did.) You might feel better for it, and your characters will thank you, too.

Now, if you've done this little exercise, or experienced a similar epiphany, feel free to comment about it. If not, share some fears you have. Shared fear, like shared pain, lessens with the sharing.



JenWriter said...

I'm afraid of doctors, nurses and hospitals. And here's why. Or at least why I think that is.

My first memory. I was a tiny child, getting surgery done. I was in the operating room, and the nurse wanted to put a gas mask on my face. I was terrified, hiding and crying. Gas masks are scary looking to 4 year old kid.

One nurse leaned down and opened up her arms. "Come here, I'll tell you a story."

I thought, "Yay, a nice lady!"

I ran over to her. The second I reached her, she pushed the gas mask on my face.

B.E. Sanderson said...

Oooo, dirty trick. No wonder you're afraid of them.

Wendy Roberts said...

I love your piglet/eeyore story! I'm afraid one of my kids will become sick or injured. It's probably because I've spent the last 15 years just trying to keep them all from killing each other LOL.