Use the Force (but don’t force it)

(So concludes the #YourTurnChallenge – to read more, click here.)

“Do or do not. There is no try.” –Yoda

yoda

I could not complete the #YourTurnChallenge without at least one Star-Wars related post. If you think Star Wars metaphors, puns and analogies are redundant; maybe you should go freeze yourself in carbonite.

 

I’ve enjoyed seeing how many writers, artists and other creatives have “shipped” during this challenge. We really are part of a collective Force aren’t we? Rebels!

 

Speaking of The Force…like Luke Skywalker we creatives may face indecision. Can we really yield this mysterious creative power? We are but simple artists from Tatooine—I mean Arizona.

 

What if we start along the wrong path and the darkside forever dominates our destiny? The darkside, my fellow Jedis, is simply the voice within that tells you YOU can’t do it. That voice is as ridiculous as the Star Wars prequels. YOU can do it…but timing is everything– to this you must listen!

 

When to use the Force:

 

  • Family and friends continuously encourage you to keep on keepin’ on. Continuously is the key word. They have a certain obligation to tell us we’re good.
  • Family and friends are naysayers—just think if Luke would have listened to Uncle Owen’s poo pooing of Obi Wan!
  • Complete strangers tell us they like our craft—especially if they ask for more.
  • You wake up at 2a.m. with a perfect sentence, image or idea in your head—or Obi Wan comes to you in a vision.
  • Any inspirations that occur in the shower (I believe another #YourTurnChallenge individual wrote about this very thing).
  • You receive a rejection—how many times did Yoda tell Luke: “not ready are you.”
  • You’re afraid you’ll produce poo—face fear like a giant Rancor and smash it. Then go read Priscilla Tallman’s post on poo.

 

When not to use the Force:

 

  • You’re sick. Stop having delusions of grandeur and go back to bed.
  • You’re trying to force something to happen.
  • You’re modeling your craft to impress someone—okay Han Solo. Lay off the swagger and just be yourself; be natural.
  • You’re trying to trump another creative, or being downright devious—where did that get Lando Calrissian?

 

Remember creative, you don’t need to face a Vader to be a Jedi. The force is in you. Trust what’s inside you, but beware of the darkside. The only one to prevent you from using the force is YOU. Pass on what you have learned.

 

May the Force be with you.

 

 

Helping the Helpless (that means us)

(This is post #6 of the 7-day #YourTurnChallenge – to read more, click here.)river runs through

I recently watched A River Runs Through It. Isn’t it amazing how perspectives change? The last time I saw the movie was probably close to the time it was released, when I was more interested in Brad Pitt than waxing philosophical on the hidden treasures within the story.

 

In my subsequent viewing of A River Runs Through It, I was particularly struck by this exchange between the two central characters, brothers Norman and Paul:

 

Paul: Well, I thought we were supposed to help him.

Norman: How the hell do you help that son of a bitch?

Paul: By taking him fishing.

Norman: He doesn’t like fishing. He doesn’t like Montana and he sure as hell doesn’t like me.

Paul: Well, maybe what he likes is somebody trying to help him.

 

Paul’s last line is a kicker. As someone who actively lives a program in which helping others is a key point, I was zinged. Whether you practice a program of recovery, participate in an outreach, or ministry—or even appeal to the general human instinct in you to reach out to a fellow sufferer, you are taught to do all in your power to help another.

 

It’s a beautiful thing isn’t it? The idea that we can aid someone from the depths of what haunts them. But there’s a catch. How often do we subconsciously attach a condition or expectation with our offer of help? If I help you —- will happen. Mostly unknowingly, we concoct an outcome. We expect a change in the person, their gratitude or…something.

 

When it doesn’t happen we may become:

 

Angry

 

Disappointed

 

Fearful

 

Resentful

 

Sad

 

 

Later in the movie, the character Jessie (Norman’s love interest) asks a poignant question:

 

 

Why is it the people who need the most help… won’t take it?

 

 

Maybe there are a few answers:

 

They aren’t willing to receive help

 

They don’t want help

 

They don’t know how to accept help

 

They don’t know they need help

 

You may not be the person to help them

 

 

Ouch. The last one is a doozy.

 

 

So, how can we help another without expectation? How can we help someone who won’t take it?

 

 

Maybe there are a few answers:

 

We can try to let them go and simply love them where they are

 

We can be patient—they may want help eventually

 

We can pray for them

 

We can ask someone more qualified to help

 

We can simply “try” to help them the very best we can

 

Help with detachment is a hard pill to swallow. Paul, who desperately needed help, wouldn’t take it, but in his suffering he gave his brother a clue—I like the idea of you wanting to help me, and that is enough. If it’s enough for Paul, then it can be enough for us. It doesn’t mean we have failed if we haven’t fixed the person or problem. The problem isn’t always ours to fix. If we can learn to be okay with that, maybe we’ll feel less helpless.

The Acorn Club (& other lessons concerning embarrassment)

 

(This is post #5 of the 7-day #YourTurnChallenge – to read more, click here.)weird

Embarrassment has bounced around me all of my life, like Peter Pan’s pesky shadow. Sometimes I can sense it lurking around the corner other times it jumps out.

 

I’ve experienced minor embarrassment to humiliation of cataclysmic proportions. My broad research has empowered me to figure out a way to outsmart embarrassment. Before I let you in on my secret, I’m going to force you to read this story.

 

When I was a young lass of twelve or thirteen—or however old you are in 6th grade, I was a social pariah. Awkward to the nth degree, I wore mismatched clothes, piggy tails and said and did weird things–all the time. You could say I was “organically” dorky. I yearned for acceptance from my peers, and as a result exploded even more weirdness at them. The cooler I tried to be, the more ridiculous I came off.

embarrassment

I’d finally had enough. I was going to embrace my semi-solitary pre-teen angst and create a subculture of my very own. Thus, “The Acorn Club” was born. I invited the only two people I felt would join this gathering by the Oak Trees. Our purpose—I hadn’t actually thought that through. Before I could, there was a fourth social outcast interested in joining The Acorn Club.

Did I welcome this sad soul into our band of misfits? No I did not. I sent her packing. I was finally the leader of something. I had to exert my power on someone lesser on the totem, isn’t that what cool people do?

In less time that it takes an acorn to drop, the entire 6th grade population of Hidden Valley Elementary came skipping toward our group of three, chanting in unison (with impressive gusto) “The Acorn Club, The Acorn Club.” The individual I cast away had enacted her revenge—deservingly so, I might add.

Mortification set in like the bubonic plague. A small reprieve in the form of the back-to-class bell temporarily squelched my rising embarrassment.

 

Once back in the classroom, I slumped onto my desk.

 

“Today,” explained our teacher, “we’re going to read a new story.”

 

Wait for it…wait for it.

 

“It’s called the Acorn People.”

 

Let’s pause to acknowledge the very unfortunate coincidence.

 

Sadly, there’s more. Ready?

 

“The Acorn People is about mentally retarded (that’s how they said things back in my day) children going to a special camp.”

 

Oh boy. Like a bad movie the entire class erupted into laughter and turned their pernicious cool-kid faces in my direction. I burst into tears and actually ran out of the classroom.

 

Now you’re ready for the secret. But first, please take this small one-question quiz.

 

Is the lesson of Acorn Club:

a. Just desserts (I had it coming)

b. Embarrassment can be a learning opportunity

c. I should have named the club Something better like “Yoda’s Kids”

 

If you answered “a” you’re probably right, because I believe that kind of thing happens in life. If you answered “c” you’ve got a goofy sense of humor and I want to be in your club (even though Yoda Kids isn’t a great club name either). If you answered “b” than you’ve discovered my secret.

Embarrassment can be a learning opportunity. It is often viewed as a form of humiliation and a deficit. Don’t let anyone see us crumble. Don’t let anyone think it bothers us. Humbug. Embarrassment has taught me not to take myself too seriously. It’s shown me that vulnerability can be more powerful than plaguing.

It’s helped me realize that it’s okay to show my humanness. It can cultivate relationships, if I’m open and honest. Embarrassment ushers me into humility. And if all else fails, embarrassment is almost always brilliant fodder for writing material.

A Time for Comfy Chair Weirdness & Priscilla

(This is post #4 of the 7-day #YourTurnChallenge – to read more, click here.)

Time

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:” Ecclesiastes 3:1

 

There’s a time to love and a time to hate,

A time for war and a time for peace

 

And there’s a time for two writers to sit in a bookstore

And be joined by a third writer/stalker from the self-help section.

 

Huh?

We’ll get to it in time.

Yesterday I was experiencing a case of the “mehs.” Until this happened…

the chair

Allow me to elaborate: in “real time” whilst in the midst of a deep conversation with close friend and fellow writer Shannon at a bookstore, a third party plopped down in this very chair. Said chair was inches away from our prized-bookstore comfy chairs. Not a few feet…INCHES. Our new friend not only made herself comfortable during our private convo, but didn’t make eye contact. Shannon and I gave each other the look. The this-is-awkward-but-we-don’t-want-to-be-rude look. Do we invite our new friend into deep thoughts by Erin & Shannon? Do we break into small talk—how’s the weather, did you watch the news this morning? We didn’t have to think about it long, because this happened…

Writer Stalking “This” is friend Priscilla stalking us from the self-help section. Shannon’s Facebook check-in alerted writer friend Priscilla to our whereabouts, and this is how she made her entrance. It took us awhile to notice. When we did we laughed until we cried.

The levity was perfect timing. Not only did the randomness of it all remove my “mehs,” it made me realize how similar creative people are—awkward, ridiculous, mega-talented, beautiful weirdos—laughing until they cry and scare poor-unsuspecting strangers out of comfy chairs.

Time for all it’s offenses is a friend when it brings levity. Time when it brings us together as struggling artists is a gift. How will you experience time today? Try stalking your friends based on their Facebook check-in and then write about it. Even if no one else cares, you and your kindred spirits will. Add levity to your world and theirs–it’s the right time.

P.s. Priscilla is part of the #YourTurnChallenge. Click here for her latest post.

Gummy Bear & Vitamin C Falling in Love

(This is post #3 of the 7-day #YourTurnChallenge – to read more, click here.)

He’s translucent and gummy. She’s orange and round. Together, they are gummy bear and vitamin C falling in love. What does that have to do with anything? Everything. What do we have left when the whimsical is gone? Plain old vitamins–stale life. A six year old can make up a love song  about two unlikely supplements in a second. For some of the most brilliant, creative and ambitious writers it can take hours simply to write one sentence. I heard it took Joseph Heller 20 Years to write Catch 22 (wouldn’t it be a delicious catch 22 if it took him 22 years?). If you find that…

You can’t write a sentence

Paint a canvas

Clean a closet

Connect the dots

or

Make a masterpiece

It’s time for operation whimsical. Find two unlikely objects and make a song about them falling in love. Draw a mustache on a selfie. Skip in the rain and don’t apologize to scrutinizing neighbors. Write a blog, based on a blog that was inspired by a blog, but with a twist. Eat cereal all day long and encourage everyone you know to do the same and then write about it. What’s so whimsical about cereal? If gummy bears and vitamin C can fall love then so can Fruit Loops and Apple Jacks. Now stop reading and go get your whimsical on.

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