BUT (she said, trying to get back on topic), I'm gonna veer around this topic until I finally figure out my point, bear with me. It's only because I'm actually trying to draw from two totally opposite directions.
What directions, you may ask? Writing romances and Biggest Loser and heroism. No, srly. And here's why.
We write about heroes. Duh. Not exactly a news flash. But what is it that makes our heroes heroic? I remember when I was a brand new baby writer, I had this book with a woman (what? I can write women, shut up) in it. The way I had written the story, she did prevail in the end, but for the majority of the book she was petulant and childish (that's what I get for modeling my heroine after the books of teh 80z). I sent it to a contest thingy, and three of the five judges wrote, "Not heroic" in the margin. Sure they said it in different ways, yet the message was the same. Characters throwing hissy fits, stomping their size four and a half feet, tossing their "wild mane of curls", and pouting with cherry red lips (gag. gag. gag) aren't heroic. They're just childish.
So back to boyz. Because I like me some of that.
What makes a hero, heroic? Is it because he puts up with the above type heroine and doesn't lose his patience? Is it because he handles all the problems with his big broad shoulders and never lets on how difficult it is? Is it because he's freakin' hawt and he lets his woman be her own person, save her own day, make her own discoveries while he screws her senseless and loves her unendingly (okay, I think that one got my vote. Way to go, subconscious!)?
Now to Biggest Loser. You still with me? I record shows, because they are inconveniently on. Last night while I worked on the day job (which bleed over by a lot), I had Biggest Loser playing in the background. They had this "Final Exam" thing with each of the trainers. When they got to Jillian, I started tearing up. I was annoyed, because displays of emotion for no apparent reason trigger my WTF button in a big way.
But then I realized why it got to me. I teared up because she was playing the part of someone who feels defeated by their failures. The job of the contestant was to give her usable advice to show her what they'd learned about self-worth. But here's the clencher: One of the contestants realized what she was doing. She said, at some point she heard all the words she used to say about herself, coming out of Jillian's mouth like they were her own problems.
With that in mind, I listened to contestant after contestant deal with their own self-doubt and self-hatred in the guise of comforting Jillian through her weakness. OMG! TEARZ! Contestant after contestant, all but one having lost more than 100 pounds at this point (the other lost 98), were faced with their own words. Their own tape recorder of hate that they used to play. "I'm a failure. I never accomplish anything. I'm too fat/short/stupid to deserve happiness. I'm so tired of my life." And who wouldn't be with that kind of baggage, that kind of verbal butt-kicking? I just wanted to hug them all.
As writers, I think we deal with the self-recriminations too. If we write, we feel guilty about not spending time with the family. If we don't write, we feel guilty about not working. If we don't sell enough, we decide we're inadequate/stupid/bad writers/terrible people. If we sell a lot, it only lasts until the next royalty check when, if it dips, we wonder where we went wrong. If our family disapproves, we might hide what we do, defend what we do, blush because of what we do. We face social ridicule for writing "those books" and even though we're proud of them, the sting does eventually settle in as defensiveness.
And here's where I tie all this together. I have this fan-girl. Her name is Amanda P. She's from England and she is the most amazing woman. Despite any of her own life drama, she never fails to send me encouragement. I get long emails from her a couple of times a week talking about my talent. Admittedly, it's hard to hear. I have my own tape recorder of failures playing, and hers, talking over it, confuses my tiny mind. Her latest email made me think of Biggest Loser and those heart wrenching confessions. It made me think of how easily we give the title "hero" to a fictitious character, but forget to remember the heroes we see everyday.
The heroes like you. Like me. Like your neighbor, Bob, who looks like he doesn't care a whit that his dog just went in your yard. Even he has that tape recorder. Some people just live up to that expectation they have for themselves. Some people strive to improve. Some people struggle under the weight of their own self-hate, never realizing that they are heroes. HEROES!
Amanda wrote me this, in her most recent email. It's all I'm going to share because it was a private email, and she knows stuff that I don't want to put out there. Also, pretend she's talking to you. Pretend it all day long and remind yourself of it when your tape recorder begins to play.
I say, don't you always find the ones who can laugh about the shit that has literally been thrown at them are always the bestest of people and have to have any problems dragged out of them? It makes my respect for you grow because, although i am aware you weren't fishing for it and certainly don't think you deserve it, to follow your dreams against opposition and keep trying despite all the setbacks sounds bloody heroic to me.
One breath in. Now breathe out. YOU are a hero. Believe it.