Today I’m delighted to welcome Erin Brown Conroy to the blog. Erin is a writer, author, musician, coffee-lover & mom from Michigan, and a good friend. Today and the following two Wednesdays, I’m hosting a series of guest posts by Erin honestly examining the realities of ‘life messes’, and how we can use them to transform our lives for the better.
Today she begins by introducing the topics & themes of the series. I’m sure you’re all going to be really impacted positively by Erin’s posts. Over to you Erin:
It’s a fact that novel writers deal with crap. Poo. Foo foo. Fodder. Now that I have your attention, let me explain. (I’m going to let you in on a storywriter’s secret.)
Novel writers are always looking for fodder to impede, perplex, and entangle the story’s Hero. I’m talking about problems. In order to tell a story that readers enjoy, the Hero must strive, struggle, and be strained through conflict, complications, and pain—and then come out changed on the other side. You’ve probably heard of this change dynamic in story. It’s called the character arc.
Through the character arc, we see a glimpse of ourselves in the Hero. As we live the Hero’s life in the story (because every reader puts him or herself in the Hero’s place) we identify with the fodder. Then, in some crazy way, the Hero’s mess helps us to deal with our own messes. We have cathartic moments. And we’re somehow soothed. Encouraged. Inspired.
So writers mess up the Hero’s life on purpose, for the reader’s benefit. (Here’s lookin’ at you, reader.) Yep. That’s right. When a writer intentionally messes the Hero over, as in that point in the book when your heart beats faster for the Hero and you say to yourself, oh, crap…I can’t believe this is happening—it’s all for you.
Where do the writer’s messy ideas come from? Well, actually, this messing with the Hero thing isn’t too hard to do. It’s easy to see mess. It’s all around us. Pretty much anywhere, unhealthy thinking piles up in garbage-like heaps. I’m not trying to be negative. Messy lives are real and a’plenty.
Oh come on! Where’s the encouragement? Aren’t we just human beings who are hangin’ out, doing the best we can? Why the fuss? Why do we have to talk about mess and get all serious about this? It’s not that bad…
Actually, it is. When we mess up and don’t deal with the mess, it doesn’t make a good story ending. Ask any author (for a book). And ask any person who has been messed over (for life).
But the good news is this: Messes have the potential to lead to really amazing living in the here-and-now. Awesomeness. Absolute loving-life coolness. Who doesn’t want that? It’s like the great ending to the story in a book or movie, where all the pieces fall together, and you feel completely satisfied. We want the story to end well, don’t we?
So the question begs to be spoken: With all the messing up that we human beings do, why aren’t there better endings to our life stories? Why aren’t there more amazing right now moments? When does the mess turn into the satisfying story ending?
I have some ideas as to why. And they all have to do with something called emotional intelligence.
Emotional intelligence is the ability to monitor our emotions—and use those emotions to guide our behaviour.
But there’s a problem, you see. Emotional intelligence is a hard commodity to come by. To become emotionally intelligent takes work.
Just like with eating food, it’s easier to be unhealthy than healthy. It’s easier to be selfish than sacrificial. It’s easier to go along with thinking (and acting) that doesn’t grow us. It’s easier to run with our nose to the ground, not paying attention to what’s really going on. It’s easier to live day to day in the grind, without changing for the better.
After all, who has time to become emotionally strong, mentally wise, and spiritually deep? (Okay, I’ll get my tongue out of my cheek now.)
Here’s where the Second Law of Thermodynamics kicks in. We’re bound by entropy. All things move toward disorder. We’re stuck with a tendency to decline. Especially in relationships, if you just try to maintain (and not grow), you’ll end up losing something. To keep relationships working, you have to expend energy—and quite a bit of it.
The bad news is, ignoring personal growth makes messes. When you stop working at making your life better, and you’ll roll with gravity downward. Ugh. (We’re back to the mess.)
But wait. It doesn’t stop there.
Because mess has the unlimited potential to make our lives better. The mess—the poo, the foo-foo, the fodder in your life or mine—doesn’t have to continue.
We have the power to go a different direction.
Let me show you how.
Tune in to my next post, to learn more.
Erin Brown Conroy, MA, MFA, is an author, speaker, professor, and online course designer. She oversees two online writing programs and teaches writing, leadership, and interpersonal communication at the college level.
You can find her writing at coffee shops and putting her feet up at night to watch a good movie with her teens and three dogs.
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(Pictures: WordPress / Online Source / Erin Brown Conroy)
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