“It’s your life – but only if you make it so. The standards by which you live must be your own standards, your own values, your own convictions in regard to what is right and wrong, what is true and false, what is important and what is trivial. When you adopt the standards and the values of someone else . . . you surrender your own integrity. You become, to the extent of your surrender, less of a human being.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
I work with a lot of writers, mostly creative nonfiction writers who want to share personal experiences on the page. In writing (especially creative nonfiction) we want to be responsible to sharing our
story, not the other “characters” that show up in our life. We (and the reader) want your story, your experiences, your challenges and heroics. We don’t want too much of how someone else did you wrong (even when they did). We don’t want to read about who
you are blaming for your problems. We want a taste of the difficulty and then how you lived through your misfortune.
In our writing we get to decide whether we are the protagonist, hero or victim in our stories.
In life, same.
Keeps the sad game going.
It keeps stealing all your wealth–
Giving it to an imbecile with
No financial skills.
–Hafez, Persian poet
In my spiritual practice of Lojong
(mind training) there is a slogan that goes: “Don’t transfer the ‘zo’s load to the ox.”
(Zo is a female yak.) Don’t put what is yours onto someone else — that’s what victims do, they don’t grab the opportunity of conflict or difficulty as their own. Instead they transfer the problem onto the other. Then the results (benefits) and narrative,
have been given over to someone else as well.
The biggest difference between a protagonist turned hero and a victim: the protagnist becomes the cause of her life as her life progresses, the victim becomes more and more a victim, an effect of her life. The protaganist’s story is captivating, so we read on; a victim’s story is not so interesting so after awhile, we put the book down. Of course a great story can be where one is initially the victim and becomes the protagonist and hero!
In life, same.
We want to claim our narratives on and off the page
. We want to be the cause rather than the effect of our lives. This way, our life (and writing) move us and others (and reader) forward.
“In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.” Eleanor Roosevelt
I write about this in The Zero Point Agreement
: how all the momentum of our life comes from taking responsibility for our experiences. When we take responsibility for our lives, we become a character worth reading about.
In life, same.
“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” Eleanor Roosevelt
“Do what you feel in your heart to be right– you will be criticized anyway.” Eleanor Roosevelt
This June a week on the beautiful Madison Wisconsin Campus: Write-By-The-Lake, UW-Madison. Let me help you be the hero of your story.
Enjoy these inspirational quotes from Eleanor Roosevelt:
“People grow through experience if they meet life honestly and courageously.”
You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’”
“You have to accept whatever comes, and the only important thing is that you meet it with the best you have to give.”
“Since you get more joy out of giving joy to others, you should put a good deal of thought into the happiness you are able to give.”
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
“It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan.”
“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”
“Do the things that interest you and do them with all your heart. Don’t be concerned about whether people are watching you or criticizing you.”
“You can often change your circumstances by changing your attitude.”
“I sense it’s also been tied to a sense of inadequacy, of (un)worthiness. In the past, I probably invested so much time in preparing
to write, rather than actually writing because I felt it was essential – I wasn’t a writer, wasn’t capable, so a lot of preparation was necessary. And the prep, the learning in advance, might save me from the humiliation of producting laughable crap. Instead of just learning to write by writing.” William Robicahaud,
Wisconsin writer, traveler, hero