Recently, I came across a blog post by writer Mindy Klasky, concerned with what a writer might choose to share on social media. Should we treat posts like the traditional holiday letter consisting of a list of triumphs, sharing all the good news and none of the worries? Or, do we share too much and come off as drama queens? What's the middle ground?
I try to be matter of fact about my life, for good or bad – the facts are the facts. Some events carry intrinsic emotional weight, whether losses – of loved ones, homes, jobs – or wins, like accomplishing goals achieved after long struggles.
Other events are subject to a lot of interpretation. Whatever the facts of a situation, however we feel as an initial response, our choices and attitudes can play a huge role in how the events ultimately affect our lives.
We can make conscious choices to look for positive interpretations. For instance, I recently started a new job that I could have chosen to consider a step down in life. After all, I have six years of post-secondary education; I have years of training and experience as a graphic designer and I'm now working as a security guard.
On the other hand, I'm working second shift, and slow periods allow me time and opportunity to write. And also, the work involves a lot more walking than I'd ever do if left to my own devices. A recent visit to the doctor shows some weight loss and my blood pressure improving from borderline to normal. My pride may suffer, but my health is improving and I'm practical-minded enough to prefer it that way.
After the initial discomfort fades, we can turn distressing events into entertainment. Arriving at my bus stop following a long day at work, near midnight on an icy winter night, I hated being barred by a police barricade from my apartment building. But the story of the manhunt for a gunman in my apartment complex made for a good story to share with coworkers the next day.
The point is not to play Miss Mary Sunshine. A lot of things in life hurt. Some losses can never be healed, and it's important to acknowledge those realities. But we can make things a little better than they might otherwise be by choosing to appreciate what advantages we can find in whatever situations life hands us.
We can make the effort to avoid buying into the kind of defensive thinking that makes negative assumptions about the character and motivations of others. We can look beyond ego-based reactions at not getting exactly what we want when we want it, and gain a broader perspective on our own lives and on life in general – the kind of perspective a writer should have on the lives of her characters.