What is your breaking point?
In every story there is a point at which something in the protagonist snaps – a breaking point where fear turns into ferocity and ambivalence turns into action. A decision is made. A line is crossed. Things change.
As writers, as creators, we come to this pivotal moment over and over again. In our journey, we face many such turning points – big, life-changing ones and small, seemingly innocuous ones that nevertheless send ripples surging across the inner landscape of our hearts and minds.
Most of the choices we make are relatively peaceful. They do not require sacrifice or a change in how we perceive ourselves or the world. They are simply a matter of artistic acumen or preference, a decision to use blue instead of yellow or this word instead of that one. These decisions may take time and effort, but they do not demand much more of us. They do not require us to give up a truth or a lie. They do not leave marks on our souls or change our creative trajectory.
But, sometimes we come to moments that, whether we realize it at the time or not, change everything. If you look back on your own creative journey, you will see these points like sign posts along the road. You will see how each one marked a choice, a decision – this way or that. You will see how they have defined the path you have taken and brought you to where you are today. These choices were not peaceful. These choices were fraught with doubt and indecision. These choices forced you to swing out over the abyss, look down into the depths of your fears, and confront the terrifyingly insubstantial nature of reality and the equally terrifying realization that you are responsible for creating that reality.
Am I a real artist? Do I deserve this? Do I have what it takes? Should I say yes? Should I say no? Should I risk it? Is this what I really want?
These do or die decisions are not passive events. You cannot coast through the process in a state of serene confidence. You have to fight your way to your ultimate choice. You have to pass through tangled forests of uncertainty and shadowed valleys of unworthiness. You have to go willingly into the dark, even though you know the splintered talons and greasy jaws of your personal demons are only a hair’s breadth away.
This is not the moment to surrender. This is the moment to get spitting mad. This is the point of no return, the I’m-mad-as-hell-and-I’m-not-going-to-take-it-anymore turning point that catapults you into a new reality, one of your own making.
All acts of creation include an element of violence. Creation is change. It is turning one thing into another, and metamorphosis is a painful process. It is not for the faint of heart. But nestled at the core of creative violence – shining in counterpoint to the sharp, messy chaos from which art is born – is a deep and savage love. Anger and a passion to fight do not exist in a vacuum. They are driven by love. We do not do battle simply for the sake of doing battle. We do battle to defend something, to free something, or to stand up for our beliefs. We risk ourselves only for something we love.
Like any good story, your creative journey is filled with conflict. And you, as the protagonist of your story, must be willing to fight the good fight. You must be willing to get in there and get your hands dirty, take risks, fail, fall, and try again. It’s okay if you wander for a while; that’s part of the story, too. It may take you a long time, years even, to reach the point that will change everything. But when you do, don’t be afraid to get mad. Remember, your anger is love in disguise. Use it, and see where it takes you.
This morning I finished reading The Grace Keepers by Kirsty Logan. I picked the book up in part because Logan was recommended to me by the instructor of a writing class I took last fall, and in part because the back cover features a recommendation from Ursula K. Le Guin who wrote, “A highly original fantasy, set in a haunting sea-world both familiar and mysterious.” If it’s good enough for Le Guin …
This book has a feel similar to Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel, The Buried Giant. Though Ishiguro’s tale takes place in the distant past, and Logan’s is presumably set in a semi-apocalyptic future where the oceans have devoured almost all the land, each story is wrought of equal parts reality and fantasy. Though the settings and some of what happens have a sense of magic about them, the characterization is firmly grounded in the reality of what it means to be human.
The story elements include a dancing bear, watery graveyards tended by grace keepers, and whispers of merpeople; but the themes around which these elements entwine are more familiar and substantial: loneliness, family, prejudice, belonging, home, acceptance. Though the trappings of the floating circus glitter and shine, they only serve to sharpen our focus on the truths that lie in the darker shadows behind the silk curtains.
Logan’s writing is both lyrical and pragmatic. Though her language and imagery are beautiful, they are not superfluously so. Each image, each bit of dialog is relevant to the story. This book was a pleasure to read on many levels, and one I recommend.
And, here are a few of my favorite writerly posts from this week:
- 5 Things I Know About The Path by @Momastery
- Andy Weir: The Martian – How to Go From Self-Published to Six Figures [podcast] by @jaltucher
- Writing Wednesdays: Beautiful Losers by @SPressfield
- Junot Diaz On Why It’s So Important To Read Authors Who Don’t Look Like You by Carolina Moreno
- How to Balance Writing, Family, Work & Life: An Unhelpful Guide for the Perplexed by @djpoissant
- Find those who will love your work by @DanBlank
Finally, a quote for the week:
Here’s to embracing your ferocity and setting it loose on the world in the most loving and beautiful way you can.
Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content marketer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian and aerial arts (not at the same time), and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on Facebook, twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.