Be Authentic

Be Authentic

be-yourself

The fake girlfriend of Manti Te’o reminds me of the reality show Catfish. The host of this show tracks down a culprit in an online dating relationship to see if he or she is the person they are portraying in an online dating relationship. The show is a hit because apparently there are a lot of people in the world who would do or say anything to convince others that they are someone they are not.

It’s amazing in a day where many of the people who are singing and proclaiming, ‘They are born this way’, ‘Love the skin you’re in’ are spending most of their lives squirming restlessly in that same skin. There is often so much we don’t like about ourselves that by the time we are finished regrouping and redoing we resemble someone else altogether.

Years ago, when I first started writing I wanted so badly to write like Frank Peretti. He is an amazing Christian author, novelist who writes about demons and angels with the clarity and excitement of the vampire series. He struck gold with it and became an internationally best- selling author.

My first novel-to-be was much like his (or so I thought). It was one of the first full-length pieces I had ever written and it rambled on into eternity; basically I was saying a lot of nothing because the story took off on a life of its own and I didn’t have the courage or strength to chase it. Well as it turns out the best way to write like Peretti is to actually be Peretti.

Years later after much writing and some good ole fashion soul examination I came into my own. This kind of authenticity was far reaching because it meant getting to know myself and figuring out what I wanted to say and saying it as authentically as possible. There was no stilted dialogue or elaborate symbolism. It was just me.

The problem was learning to like who I am and remembering that we are all constantly evolving. This may be the problem with so many of us—the process of just learning to love us. We don’t like ourselves and are sure others will feel the same. We continually readjust to fit or to at least look the part. This gets to be exhausting. I know because I did it for a long time.

I am sure when God created us he knew a lot of us would possess this kind of self-loathing. But it’s only when we connect with him that we realize we are in possession of the perfect tools to get the job done (whatever that may be). Once we adjust to this we can begin loving and living in our own skin. We can begin to write, speak, dance with an authentic voice that shines and gives the observer, the admirer…the chills.

The original paperback cover of The Oath.

There is certain kind of attractiveness a person has when they are walking in the fullness of their true self. It’s kind of like that guy you meet, that short, odd looking dude who keeps staring at you from across the room and everything in you tells you he is not your type until he walks over and begins a conversation. He is funny and cool with his height and isn’t bent on trying to be the tall, dark, handsome one. He understands he is not tall and that handsome is in the eye of the beholder. Suddenly this guy you’d written off is holding your phone number (not the fake one this time) and you’re glad he had the courage to be himself. There’s something about being authentic that brings out the best because being our best really is good enough.

  • God Leaves the Light On (dimlyburning.com)

The Art of Giving Up

The Scenic Railway at Luna Park, Melbourne, is...

The Scenic Railway at Luna Park, Melbourne, is the world’s oldest continually-operating rollercoaster, built in 1912. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At first glance, when a project–be it writing or others–is not working the simplest and easiest solution seems to be to shut it down, and at the least, go back to what you were doing before you got caught up in this dream of yours.I mean it’s not like a roller coaster ride. You know it’s the tallest, fastest coaster ever and your significant other or teenage grown-up dares you to ride it. And you think, not a problem. Except, when you get to the top, you know, that point at which you hold your breath, the knot in your belly tightens and you’re wondering what kinda fool…But oops too late. Here comes the death drop. Oh, yes, it’s coming and there’s no turning back. (I mean didn’t you wonder why they called it the death drop?) There are no second chances here, no changing of the mind. There’s not even an escape plan. (You’ve see those poor folks stuck at the top of some defunct rollercoaster for hours).

But most things have an escape route, for when it just doesn’t go your way. (There’s a reason that 60% of all marriages end in divorce…yikes…oh yeah they knew about the route). The narrower the route is the riskier the venture becomes. It would definitely be a less traveled road. People like the option to fail or at least give up. And sometimes they do so subconsciously, that is, begin to back out of a thing, not realizing they’re giving up without a proper fight.

But what I’ve found is that giving up is rarely an instantaneous decision. Like a failing marriage there is a path. There are check points before the end. There are always signs and resolves that we settle in our heart before we actually throw in the preverbal towel. Often when we finally make it official; or public or whatever you want to call it, we often look around and wonder, why didn’t I just stick it out? Why did I give up so easily? Where did I go wrong? But giving up is not easy, contrary to what we often hear. Usually there is a struggle between your heart and mind. The mind—the portion of man that deals with reason. It is here we make our logical decisions; how much money to spend on this, how long it will take to save for that. Our heart is where we make those decisions about who we will marry; or who becomes our closest friends. This is because it is with the heart that we connect on a spiritual level. When these two parts of our inner being struggle, they can go at it hard. Yet some of us are addicted to the struggle. We have grown comfortable with giving up when there is too much sweat involved. We have mastered the art to giving up. We know the specific steps to take, the lies to sell ourselves before we finally make the public announcement. It is part of our life’s recipe to skillfully know how to slowly bow out and make it appear that there was no other way to do it. And if you watch for the signs you may be able to avoid giving up on things worth fighting for.

We begin to weigh the cons more often than we do the pros:

When my hubby began to contemplate quitting his job, he would sigh heavily two hours prior to going in. He would lament about the hours, the lack of parking space and his jerk of a boss. It was pure ritual. When he first started working the job he was stoked about the benefits and the overtime and how cool his boss was. Now his boss hadn’t been cool for months and the overtime sucked. How was he supposed to spend time with his family? How was he supposed to ever get anything done?

You constantly dream about what it would be like to do that other thing

A few months ago my brother was in love. I mean this girl was something special. She was the kind of girl that had him using the M word without his knees knocking. But then he offhandedly starting asking me about my one friend, you know what’s-her-name? Is she still single? She was always kinda hot. Wha…huh?! The grass is suddenly greener and plusher on the other side and if you could…only…just…touch…it…to be sure…Yeah, not a good sigh that this is going to work.

You spend less time doing this thing you love so much

The word, procrastination is now your go-to word. Suddenly you’d rather do anything but work at this project. Isn’t it time to schedule an appointment for that root canal?

You stop talking about it

When our work and ideas are new people can’t shut us up. We find ways to get back on the subject of us even when the conversation is clearly about something else.  Speaking of your grandmother’s hip replacements this screenplay I’m working on is all about the nuclear family dynamics

Yes, there is a definite pattern, a road, an art that many of us have mastered because we can’t grasp the concept of truly giving it everything. It is true some things need to be killed and buried. But just make sure you aren’t giving up because you’ve gotten so good at it. Some things are worth the trouble.

 

Don't give up just because things are hard.

A story without sound conflict quickly fails

Everyone likes a happy ending. But in order to fully appreciate it there has to be some stuff that comes before it; a struggle, a cause, a problem. It is this which makes us appreciate the protagonist triumphing. Now, many works of fiction don’t become a tedious read because the subject matter is boring—I read a variety of genres. Most become problematic because the conflict is not defined, we couldn’t care less if the protagonist lives or dies, or there is too much drama drowning out the central focus of the story, thus taking our focus off the real conflict (if there is any).

 I critiqued a story for a young man about a football player caught doing drugs and a former member of the team found out about it and threatened to expose him, in which case he would’ve been kicked off the team. And the conflict was just as plain and flat as the sentence I just wrote. The thing which drives conflict is the extinct to which we feel we know or connect with the protagonist or the person for whom the conflict is against. If their character is too general (all we know about them is the way they look, for example), too cookie cutter (dumb jock or blonde, nerdy with glasses, angry or cool Black person) or if we don’t in some way connect with them, frankly we won’t much care what happens to them. Characters are so multi-dimensional and flawed we want to see all of that because on some level they are as we are; imperfect and complex. And we feel a psychological need to “protect” this person.

Other times there is so much going on it’s like spooning our way through a bowl of mystery stew. Mind you, drama and conflict are not the same things. Conflict is the battle that your protagonist faces; drama is all the stuff within the conflict. But if there is too much drama or if there is so much going on without a focus it becomes convoluted and just way too much to care about, especially if the drama isn’t centered toward one central conflict. For instance a Black family is being discriminated because they moved to an all-white neighborhood and the neighborhoods hate them, their employers are threatening to fire them, and the people are their kids’ schools shun them. All of it is centered around being discriminated. But if, in addition to that, the wife’s mother is dying of cancer, the husband is having an affair, the daughter is thinking about dating an older guy and the son is diagnosed with dyslexia, well, that’s a whole lot happening and the central conflict of the story is in jeopardy of being over shadowed–unless of course we can somehow tie it into the central theme and even then…

If you notice often biopics are narrowed to the central theme of a story, even if in real life the protagonist had much more going on. If we have too much to care about, we stop caring about any of it.  Often it seems as if writers feel the need to have a lot of drama going on in order to make the story interesting. But if the central conflict is focused and intent, if you can deftly build character and suspense, you will find that you need less “stuff.”

In Martha Southgate’s, A Taste of Salt, all of Josie’s family members had issues to deal with but they were all centered on the problem of addiction.  In Terry McMillan’s Waiting to Exhale, all of the friends had their individual trouble, but it was about the general issue of the women finding themselves. In Joyce Carol Oates, We Were the Mulvaney’s , all of the family members had issues to battle but all  focused on the central conflict of the story, which was dealing with the rape of the daughter.

Conflict is like the filet mignon or the main course of a meal. If it is under or overcooked or drowning in sauce, we will not walk away praising the vegetables and potatoes. We will be griping about that awful meat. But if the filet is good we will talk about it for days and forget that the veggies came from a can.