So much has been on my mind lately and paying tribute to just one idea did not seem satisfying today, so here’s a post with different topics, no rhyme or reason.
-The situation in the Ukraine is nothing short of tragic. Putin has ordered the cruel destruction of lives, buildings, cities, culture, and history. This is something personally heartbreaking to me, as I have a close immigrant friend is from Mariupol. She enlightened me on the history of the area. What we don’t learn in America is how complex Ukrainian-Russian relations have been, historically. Western Ukraine is where more of the ethnic Ukrainians and Ukrainian speakers reside. Eastern Ukraine is heavily ethnically Russian. Things had been relatively peaceful (except for the Chernobyl disaster) until the rise of nationalism in the 90s.
Putin is attacking his own people, destroying a country with whom it is vital to have good relations, as it provides necessary access to the Black Sea and has produced oil and gas. Despite this, there is still much poverty in the Ukraine, and now the war is adding to economic destruction (while people are still living through a pandemic). Even the mere act of sheltering together from bomb attacks is perilous, as it involves people coming together in a closed, airtight, small space–exactly what must be avoided during Covid. Only 35% of Ukrainians have been fully vaccinated. Many feel Putin should be tried for war crimes and sentenced to prison for life. Unfortunately, doing this may be quite difficult. We can only hope that international pressure will end the war, and that wealthier countries will provide humanitarian aid and assistance to this war-torn country that is suffering.
-The process of revision in fiction is endlessly complex and surprising. In revising my novel, I expected there to be much material cut, believing that brevity was a big part of it. This is true. However, sometimes revising long work requires adding new material and writing new scenes. Ironically, this can make the piece more “efficient”: that is, putting in some key scenes early on can help cut material later.
-Plausibility and motivation are two important concepts that we do not learn much about in the craft of writing. Literary fiction place is a high emphasis on character and narrative voice. But some important questions we need to ask ourselves are “Is there clear cause-and-effect?” “Would this outcome really happen from that character’s/those characters’ actions before?” “How can I make what happens more believable, how do I build up to this?” Perhaps this is such a hard concept to teach because it is quite slippery and vague: cause-and-effect are so particular to each piece of writing, each context. But an analysis of how a writer got from point A to point B can be very helpful. The key reason I am not a fan of Alice Munro’s writing (yes, I am commiting lèse-majesté here) is because I do not find her causes and effects very clear; there are odd jumps and rapid shifts that leave the reader in the dark.
This reflection is the result of trying to strengthen one character in my novel so that he does not seem two dimensional or just motivating factor for the protagonist, but someone who has real drives of his own that lead to the immoral things he ends up doing.
-Don’t underestimate the importance of joy. We will NEVER create a better world without adding joy to it. The fundamental principle of activism and world-saving is for people to become happier in whatever form that takes: more justice, less racism, improved economic situations, better conditions for animals and flora and living beings. Very often, activists fail to realize that the people they wish to help would want to be joyous, not an angry bluestocking or militant radical who is obsessed with the Principle. It is a rather Buddhist way of looking at things that if we want to relieve suffering in the world, a big part of that is not to bring more suffering and negative energy into it.
Many people mistake joy for a lack of empathy and sensitivity to others’ suffering. These things are not mutually exclusive. One can be cheerful and joyous and bring that positivity into life while still taking action to help others and being deeply empathetic. HH The Dalai Lama has said, “The purpose of life is to strive for happiness.” This from a man who lost his country, whose people have been killed and persecuted and been forced to be refugees, but who chose to spread compassion, joy, and wisdom all over the world.
-What makes your heart sing? Is it romantic love? A beautiful piece of music? Your bond with an unconditionally loving animal? A passion for baking? The adrenaline rush while playing a sport? It’s so important to reconnect with that part of ourselves when we have been suffering through pandemic for two years.
Wishing my readers love and peace and joy.