Color of Change sent me a bumper sticker to celebrate President Obama's inauguration: "Keep Growing".
Now that's a mantra.
Keep growing, baby.
Keep trying to grow.
Keep trying to change.
Blind growth doesn't help and can be detrimental to true growth. Think of the parable of the boiled frog (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boiling_frog). Your growth and change needs to be intelligent with some awareness about what's going on, requiring assessments of where you're at and where you want to be. Dreaming, learning, planning and acting isn't enough. You need to measure, assess and adjust.
Writing fiction, I've learned to respect everything written, from the best and worst of blogs and poetry to the best and worst of fiction and non-fiction. I sample genres and sample again.
I try to learn what I don't like about books. Even the worse books can teach me lessons about how to not write a scene or end a story. That's tougher than learning from beautiful prose, spellbinding scenes and riveting characters. Beautiful, amazing writing is easier to read than turgid writing.
Assessments are required with the best and worst, trying to answer the thirsty question, Why? Why don't they work for me and why do they work for me? Many times even bad writing can produce a raw gem for the reader willing to make the effort.
Reading bad writing can help freshen writing. If everyone reads only what eveyone else has deemed good, then everyone begins thinking and writing in similar manners. What fun is that? Of course, real genius will shrug those chains off like the chains are discarded dental floss. The rest of us need to work to escape them.
This may all sound defensive. I plead guilty but it's understandable as I've rationalized it. I'm writing urban adult fantasy that features a man with a life falling apart, with one son who judges him harshly and another who loves him conditionally, that's to say, humanly, accepting his foibles without condenming him for them. In one sense, the novel harkens back to a favorite series of mine, Roger Zelazny's "The Chronicles of Amber" along with "The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant" and "The Ill-EarthWars".
Yes, I have a thing for chronicles. I prefer endings that aren't perfect, with flawed characters and loose ends that are never brought together. Even as stories end, they go on in our hearts, minds and souls. I like letting people swim in a sea of ambivalence about what happened.
I hope the story works for readers, but I let them find whatever interpretation they can to hold them afloat. One of my novel's aspect I enjoy is that my main character bought a gun years ago out of fear of what might happen. His wife didn't permit guns in the house so he hid it from her in the garage. Now that things are happening, he's pulled it out of its hiding place to protect himself but he's afraid to use it. Although he starts carrying it about a quarter into the book and ineffectively threatens people with it, he never fires it.
The gun, like the story and his life, are about what might happen. That's why I write, trying to unpeel the world to see what might happen. As my character thought at one point, the things he expected to happen never happened and the things he never thought would happen were happening, and then, there were matters he never conceived of thinking might happen that are happening.
It's all about the happening.
Causes Michael Seidel Supports
Kiva, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Propublica.org, Doctors Without Borders, GreaterGood.com