Sunday, January 01, 2006

Light and Dark in the New Year

I'm not sure whether I like New Year resolutions or not. On the one hand, they might keep people motivated (for a week or two, anyway) to do things they really ought to do but can't seem to find the discipline for otherwise. On the other hand, maybe they just create more performance anxiety, a thing which many people have more than enough of anyway. But nevertheless I plan to try to stick with a couple of the ones I made, at least. I want to blog at least once a week and possibly twice. If I manage every other day, I'll have exceeded my own expectations. I want to write at least every other day, and if I can manage more, I should be able to move this third book along at a pace I haven't managed in years. I also want to put in more research time and organize my time better in general. I'm tired of always feeling like I'm running about two days behind. Maybe if I could just organize my time better, I could get everything done and not feel that I'm neglecting some things in order to finish others. That's all for now; we'll see how it goes.

In the meantime, I've been doing some reading about the shadow side of the human psyche, and it's been quite the intriguing subject. The idea that our shadow side, which some might interpret as our "negative" side, can be a helpful and strenghtening force in our lives (if used correctly) just flies in the face of everything I was taught as a child. Back then, I was told not to examine any of the negative sides of my personality too closely because I might get "sucked in" by them. (Being a grumpy b**ch is so tempting, yes?) I was told to turn the other cheek. I became a bit of a doormat. Goody Two Shoes ruled. But now I'm seeing things differently, and I'm realizing that darkness isn't necessarily a thing to fear, even when it's your own darkness. It is, however, a thing to respect and a thing to learn to work with in a positive way. It's when either your good side or your bad side gets out of control that you have a problem. There's a time and a place for Grumpy B to come out to play, and a time to shove her back in her cave for a while. The trick is in knowing the right time. Sometimes you need Grumpy B to shut up and let Goody T play nice in the sandbox, and sometimes you need Grumpy B to help Goody T stand up for herself against the bullies of the world. You need them both. You need all the parts of yourself whole and united in order to be a healthy person, and denying the darker parts isn't going to make them disappear.

An artist paints in a combination of light and shadow, without which the picture would come across as rather flat and one-dimensional. And as all writers know, (or should!) a character needs some sort of problem to solve or the book just isn't very interesting. Sure, there are some children's classics where the main character goes through what amounts to a series of experiences without much in the way of trouble or opposition, but there's a reason why most of us grew up and started reading adult fiction. Even those of us who enjoy the sweetness and light of certain children's stories will usually also seek out stories of challenge and strife--that's how we learn and grow. Of course, this is precisely what was wrong with my first few attempts at writing--no major problem in the plot, or villains so wimpy that they were easily overcome, or even a Deus ex Machina type of reprieve for the main characters just when things seemed relatively dire. One time (NOT in this current trilogy, I assure you) I put in a village of kindly centaurs who healed my characters and helped them in the middle of their quest. And while it was a bit reminiscent of things Tolkein tended to do with his characters, (Rivendell, the Beornings, etc.) it stopped the action for too long. Now, whenever I'm tempted to give the characters too long of a peaceful interlude, my husband reminds me, "no more centaur villages."

We humans need challenge to live. We need the feeling of overcoming challenge and living to tell the tale. Each of us is a combination of good and bad, success and failure, light and dark, goodness and evil. Let's move forward into 2006 and see what we make of that. It may be horrifying, it may be joyful, and it will probably be all sorts of combinations of both. However it turns out, it will make quite a story!

And Happy New Year to you, too!

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