I don’t know if it’s the time of year or a complete coincidence, but a lot of people seem to be struggling
at the moment; feeling down or having difficulties with something they’re working on. Equally, there’s a lot of brilliant people boosting us all up and offering encouragement and advice. I’ve been one of the downers too, and determined to drag myself out of it, I wanted to be careful what I picked for my next topic. Having just settled on detailing my experiences so far with writing competitions, I realised that while relevant – and hopefully helpful/informative – it would probably have been grumpy writing! And that got me thinking; why is it that so much that’s written – or said for that matter – is negative? Even if it’s done in a positive way like, look what can be achieved or overcome if you work at it.
Imagine this conversation:
“Hey, I’ve just got my book published and it’s gone straight to number one.”
“That’s brilliant! I’ll bet it was hard work?”
“Oh, no, not really. I sat down and wrote it in no time at all; a perfect first draft! Got signed by an agent and then it was published within a month.”
“Oh. Right.” Silence.
What do you say after that? People respond to struggle, because everyone struggles with something, and they like to hear about others having the same problems. Not so they can gloat, but so that they can feel they’re not so weird and alone, maybe get some advice from someone who’s gone through the same thing. Also it’s irritating as anything to know someone who just sails through things hassle free, and from a reader/writer point of view, you might have trouble connecting with that character. Partly because it’s just not believable. So, if there’s no adversity, no conflict, you’ve got no story. There’s nothing to tell. Or if you do it’s boring or annoying. That’s probably one of the reasons behind certain sayings, like:
No news is good news.
Adversity is the mother of invention.
Adversity builds character.
Life is nothing without passion.
Without darkness there is no light.
You need all of it – dark and light, to build depth and get a real picture. Passion isn’t just the good feelings, but the bad too. Real life isn’t ‘fine’ all the time. Which isn’t to say that it’s good to just complain and moan, although it’s equally bad to keep all your worries and problems to yourself. Instead, twist things around: try to find the positive in negative things, and if you can’t then try looking somewhere else; find one positive thing somewhere in your life and build on that. Remember, without the struggle, we wouldn’t have good stories! That’s why so many have a good vs evil element.
(I sound like one of those inspirational posters that make me cringe! That’s what comes of doing searches for quotes about adversity/struggle/passion)
Challenge: Try writing something without any negativity, or create a character who’s completely happy, has no problems, and is perfectly cheerful. What do you get? Can you even finish it? I tried and it was not my best work. Maybe you can do better.