The Importance of Quiet Moments

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

The fourth novel in my Elizabeth Investigates series is kicking my butt. I thought I had everything planned out and set up. I was wrong. As I wrote I kept feeling like I was going too fast. I hit a wall about a month ago and instead of trying to find a solution I flirted with another book idea.

Writing isn’t a hobby so much as an obsession. When I’m writing, my mind is consumed with what’s going to happen. I think about scenes in the shower and I play out dialogue on the bus.

When the obsession stops being productive or switches stories my writing stops.

It’s an extremely frustrating feeling not knowing what to do to make the story move forward without becoming derivative or dumb.

My Daughter has appended her bedtime routine. It’s shortened and removed the last GOPEE! Instead now she says, “Wake up… Papa! Wake up… Papa.” It’s followed by, “Sing” and after her two songs (Goodness I’d missed holding her and singing.) and finally by “SIT!?”

So I sit there for ten minutes whiles she goes to sleep. Not every night, but it goes better when I do.

In those ten minutes she’s pretending to sleep, my wife is in bed, and I have nothing to do but think. Those quite moments are slowly helping me understand what to do next. I have some good ideas now, but the next 2/3rds of the novel have changed a dozen times. It’s amazing how much just stopping and thinking has helped.

If you’re stuck in your writing, try shutting yourself off from distractions and letting your mind go over the story. Like all writing advice, your mileage may vary.

Later Days,

Éric

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Be Different but don’t be Different?

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

In genre fiction, most adventure or epic forms, the protagonist is an ordinary person placed in extraordinary situations. They are praised for a certain talent or personality trait that saves them in the end.

Despite being nothing special at the beginning, they have something that makes them special. As their story unfolds they become extremely special by the end.

Sometimes the protagonist starts as impressive or unique, but that almost always makes them social outcast in order to avoid making them seem too good to be true. We excuse friends, or characters we’ve watched grow, from this because we feel invested in their journey.

The whole narrative informs and is informed by real life, where anything new or different is seen as suspect. People revel in watching those with fame or great ability fall from grace. Is it jealousy or just a twisted sense of balance?

The contradiction is certainly there for everyone to see. We as a society worship extraordinary abilities and accomplishments while simultaneously dehumanizing anyone who is different, including those same people.

It honestly feels like society is telling us to be different and special but while being like everyone else.

Hold on… while I climb onto my high horse.

There’s a lesson in this and it’s simply to think critically about your reactions to what’s different. Your natural instincts will kick in and tell you that different is evil, wrong, silly, etc.; well, your instincts are jerk-faces.

Take the time to understand, analyse, and if necessary, live and let live.

Different isn’t bad, it’s just different. We need to stop trying to pull each other down and instead celebrate both our differences and our talents.

 

Be aware, be curious, and be kind,

Éric

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Dear Dragon – Some advice on advice

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Hello Dragon,

Throughout your life people will give you advice on everything; whether you like it or not. Most people mean well and are genuinely trying to help. You’ll get it from your family, your friends, that extremely nosy person in line at the grocery store…. Everyone! (You’re not even born yet and I’m already giving you life advice.)

It’s important to remember that advice is just a suggestion. Take it all in, think about it, do research, and then make up your own mind. In the end it’s not me, or your best friend that has to live with the consequences, it’s you.

The difference between good advice and bad advice can be really hard to spot. Just because someone is genuinely trying to help, doesn’t mean their advice is good. This holds for people in authority too (Yes, even your parents) they make mistakes and they can repeat bad advice.

A lot of advice gets filtered through multiple people. If it’s important advice, find the original source or one you trust. Then decide if the advice is worthy of following.

Your grandmother told me when I was young, “Believe only half of what you see and none of what you hear.” It’s some of the best advice I’ve ever gotten. Unpacked of meaning, it simply reminds you to think about what’s going on around you, what you’re seeing, and what you’re being told. If you think critically, you can avoid a lot of trouble.

A lot of bad advice involves certainties. Everyone believes this, or It’s always that. The moment people are completely certain about something, it’s your responsibility to wonder if their advice is bad.

Remember, you’re not alone, your Mum and I will always be there to help you work through things. Even if you just need us as a sounding board. We love you and we’re here to help.

 

I love you, Baby Dragon,

Your loving Father

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5 Pieces of Advice for My 20-Year-Old Self

I’m older now than I was at 20 and I hope wiser. Here’s the non-paradox causing advice I’d give myself if I could talk to the 20-year-old me.

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5. Trying new things is scary but worth it.

You know how you hate the idea of sushi or kale chips? Try them anyways, twice. You’ll be surprised. You’ll love the first and hate the second, but if you don’t try them, you’ll never know.

This applies to more than just food (although new food rocks), try new kinds of books, new events, new crafts, and new ways of seeing the world.

A lot of it will suck, but the more things you try, the more awesome things you’ll discover.

4. It is ok to like things.

You will meet people who you respect and who absolutely hate things that you like. It doesn’t mean that you should hate those things too. It doesn’t mean that you’re dumb or stupid for liking those things. It certainly doesn’t mean you’re wrong for liking them.

People will judge, berate, and mock you for things you like. Those are the people who suck and shouldn’t be in your life. A true friend will tell you they don’t like it and discuss it without making you feel like crap.

As weird as it sounds, it’s ok to like something that is bad. It gives you the chance to find out more about yourself and what about it you like.

Don’t let others tell you what you like. Trust yourself.

3. It is ok to show excitement about things.

Showing emotion and controlling emotion isn’t the same thing. Society tells you that men need to be stoic, strong, and controlled. That’s complete bullshit. If you want to squee in public, that’s ok. It doesn’t make you less of anything.

It’s perfectly ok to be excited about a movie, job, book, trip, person, meal, tv show, piece of lint, etc.

Showing your excitement shows others how you feel. If they agree or disagree, they’ll talk to you about it.

2. You don’t have to know what to do with your life yet.

You know that deep existential fear that you’ll never find your “calling” or “purpose” in life? Unfortunately for most people, that doesn’t go away. It’ll bug you for the next few decades, possibly more.

Good news is that you’ll find a lot of things you’re good at and that you’d gladly do for the rest of your life. Bad news, they probably won’t pay much to start with, if they ever do.

The only thing you can do about this is keep searching and keep doing the things you love.

1. Jobs, Money, and Love will stress you out…

You may at some point pay off your debts, get a job doing something you’re passionate about, and fall madly in love with the most wonderful person. These are all possibilities, but just like a frustrating video game there’s always something after.

Jobs, Money, and Love will always be there in one form or another.

Getting the perfect job? You’ll stress about keeping it, being good at it, being the best at it, and not over doing it.

Paying off debt and suddenly having lots of money? You’ll have other debts that come up, other expenses, worries about what happens if you lose your job.

Finding the love of your life? You’ll worry about losing them, not being good enough, having to share them with others.

Maybe you’re just a worrier. Maybe these are just facts of life. Either way, deal with them by planning and taking it one step at a time. They’re not going away, they aren’t ends. They’re rungs on the ladder of life.

 

In short, the advice I’d give my 20 year old self is this: Chill, enjoy life, and don’t let anyone tell you how you should be or feel.

Éric

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