Seven Ways To Connect Your Writing And Your Life

An important question for any artist is: How can I built a​ career and simultaneously be true to​ myself? It’s an​ important question,​ and during the​ twenty years I’ve taught writing,​ hundreds of​ students have expressed the​ belief that success and personal integrity are mutually exclusive.

The Lifewriting™ approach to​ fiction suggests that not only do these two qualities overlap,​ but that the​ safest,​ surest,​ most satisfying path to​ discovering your true voice,​ your deepest creative flow,​ and ultimately crafting the​ most satisfying career,​ is​ to​ be true to​ yourself. it​ suggests that Aristotle’s famous debate concerning the​ relative merits of​ plot and character is​ a​ trick: Plot and character are actually two sides of​ the​ same coin. Character is​ best revealed through action. And plot is​ merely what happens when a​ given character engages with a​ specific situation. it​ is​ not only possible,​ but advisable,​ to​ shift back and forth between those perspectives,​ seeking to​ create a​ seamless whole.

How do you,​ personally,​ define character? You MUST have some theory or​ feeling for the​ human condition,​ or​ you’ll have nothing to​ write about. the​ best and simplest way to​ learn characterization is​ to​ study psychology. And the​ best psychological study is​ yourself. Why? Because you have more information about what makes you you than you will ever have about what makes anyone else tick.

What this path demands is​ the​ honesty and courage to​ look deeply into your own life,​ and some model to​ organize the​ different aspects of​ your personality and emotional history. Then you need some mechanism to​ help you apply your discoveries to​ your writing.

The very finest model of​ the​ human condition is​ the​ 6,​000 year old model from India,​ the​ “chakras” of​ yoga. Supposedly seven energy centers within and around the​ human body,​ they mirror Maslow’s hierarchy of​ human needs. Both yogis and psychologists suggest that until the​ “lower” more basic needs are met,​ one cannot move to​ the​ next level of​ life.

The Chakras represent survival,​ sexuality,​ power,​ emotion,​ communication,​ intellect,​ and spirit. Let’s take a​ peek into the​ way each of​ these “levels” can be used to​ connect your inner emotional world,​ and your writing.

1) Survival. What are your deepest fears? Remember that fear underlies most anger,​ and fear turned inside-out inspires most comedy. What comic or​ horrific use can you make of​ your own most secret fears? Create characters with the​ same concern and needs. I promise you: plenty of​ your readers will have the​ same problems. Die Hard and a​ hundred other movies a​ year punch this button. we​ fear dying,​ disfigurement,​ abandonment,​ old age,​ and disease—all survival values. All superb story sources.

2) Sexuality. What turns you on? Sexuality can be an​ important aspect of​ your character’s lives . What was you r first experience? Best? Worst/ Most recent? Least ethical? at​ what point do you feel you began to​ have mature sexual relationships? When do you think that sexuality is​ appropriate or​ inappropriate? What people in​ your experience have been uplifted,​ healed,​ damaged or​ debased in​ their sexual interactions? Every one of​ them is​ a​ character,​ and an​ opportunity for you to​ express your opinions and philosophies. the​ movie a​ History of​ Violence used sex brilliantly to​ help us understand the​ powerful bond between the​ leads.

3) Power. What is​ your physical condition? What does it​ say about your actions,​ values,​ and priorities? Craft characters with distinct physical attributes,​ and allow their life history to​ express itself in​ their movement and appearance. Rocky or​ Million Dollar Baby utilize dynamic training and fight scenes to​ express depths of​ passion and desperation. While physical power is​ the​ most basic form,​ this evolves into financial and political power—any form of​ control over self,​ family,​ or​ others. Explore your own attitudes toward these kinds of​ power,​ and begin to​ craft characters who breathe.

4) Love. What is​ love? Mature affection as​ opposed to​ immature “puppy love”? Love for one’s children and family. Love for country? For all mankind? What is​ the​ difference between love and sexual attraction? What is​ the​ price you see people paying for their heart space connections? What are the​ greatest advantages and disadvantages of​ human contact? Forrest Gump is​ about a​ man with a​ beautiful loving heart…and the​ mind of​ a​ child. His life is​ better than almost anyone he ever meets,​ despite their advantages.

5) Communication. What is​ your belief about education and perception? What is​ our obligation to​ communicate with clarity and honesty? What kind of​ mischief is​ caused by miscommunication? is​ verbal communication better,​ more immediate and more honest than nonverbal? in​ Billy Budd,​ an​ inarticulate character strikes a​ man dead,​ largely due to​ frustrated communication.

6) Intellect. What are your intellectual strengths? Weaknesses? When have you had to​ modify your world view because reality didn’t match your theories and beliefs? Creator with Peter O’Toole tells of​ a​ brilliant scientist locked in​ an​ intellectual prison,​ unable to​ deal with the​ death of​ his beautiful wife. ago. He must either change his map of​ the​ world,​ or​ his heart will die.

7) Spirit. What are your spiritual beliefs? Are you an​ atheist? Agnostic? Buddhist? Christian? What do you see as​ the​ spiritual and philosophical differences? if​ you didn’t use the​ specific labels,​ could you create characters of​ each type,​ and demonstrate the​ differences? if​ so,​ why? if​ not,​ why not? Have you ever had a​ crisis in​ faith? Ever felt a​ prayer was answered? Did it​ happen in​ a​ way you expected,​ or​ otherwise? Ghandi dealt with a​ man of​ great spiritual commitment who found the​ strength to​ loosen the​ grip of​ the​ greatest empire the​ world has ever seen.

Once you have thought through each of​ these levels as​ they apply to​ your own life,​ you are now able to​ create characters of​ uncommon complexity and depth. And you have taken a​ huge step toward releasing your true writing potential…whether your intent is​ artistic,​ commercial,​ or,​ most wisely,​ both.

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