Wednesday, April 30, 2014

On the Culture of Positivity and Realism

Perhaps it goes against realism to only write through a positive lens.  Maybe it's unlikely that anyone would take me seriously as a writer if I never struggled with anything.

I do have challenges.  And weakness.  And frustrating situations that when unexpressed, cloud my vision as if I were walking through a smoky forest fire. Yesterday I wrote a very negative post about an encounter I had with someone who frustrates me.  And each hour the post stayed up, I felt increasingly unwell.

Even though I didn't name names, it felt like a low down thing to share.  But I learned from it.  I was aware of how sending out negativity did not solve my difficulty, but kept me focused on the bad feelings.  And nothing I will ever write will change the person who sends me to the roof and whom I occasionally have to encounter.

So focusing on the person outside of me didn't help.  It was real, and it was raw, but it wasn't good for me.

Healing and joy started to return the very moment I took the post down.

And then later in the evening, I watched a superb talk by Brandon Stanton of Humans of New York.  Brandon was candid and sparkling on the topic of his surprisingly short trajectory of success.  He's been photographing strangers for four years.  His photography skills are average.  But Brandon does something no one else thought to do:  he interviews his subjects about intimate details of their lives.  If you have yet to encounter his work, I know you will be delighted by the discovery of HONY.

 I connected with several of Brandon's thoughts.  I felt less self conscious about my blog header when hearing "it's more important to be different than to be good," (when you need to stand out).  Eventually I hope to write under my name, but I still have yet to make the leap.

I also was captivated by his values.  It's important for his work to maintain a "culture of positivity".  This doesn't mean that tough issues and social problems are avoided, as he often asks his subjects to tell about their current struggle.  What he hopes to see in the commentary is positivity, where people are inspired to offer encouragement despite the problem.  The result is a perfect balance of realism mixed with positivity.  Not the realism of broadcast news mixed with the negative commentary that fuels the fear mongering machine.

What does this mean for me as a writer?  It's so confusing to have negative emotions take over my head, then feel limited because I hold those back.  Brenda Ueland advises, "write like a pirate, like a lion!"  The goal being truth!

Why should I be so afraid of the truth?

I am discovering that what has become a priority for me is not more expression of the low feelings.  My well being depends on refocusing my efforts towards creating for the expression of gratitude, of love, of the simple awareness of beauty, of color, of texture, of the journey through different experiences that add light.

Every day comes with at least one problem. People around me are going to behave the way they behave, and that's okay if I don't like it, or if it is offensive.    I can look in another direction.  Dig a new fountain pond with Elliot. Plant the garden.  Ride my bike like a beast up a super long, steep hill.  I can sit in my meditation room and listen to the soothing voice of Deepak while the cat comes in to purr on my lap.  I can hand paint a greeting card, or return to working on my writing project.  I can open my dusty horn case and practice the new (old favorite) music I found at a second hand store.  I can cook something delicous and have a little feast.  All of what I need comes from within.  I've been practicing at the skills that bring me closer to myself.

The point for me here is not to dwell long in the problem.  It solves nothing for me to stay focused in those socially difficult areas.  My happiness comes from the process of creating.  It comes from within my own being as an expression of spirit.

Why can't realism be happy and beautiful too?

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