You’ve heard them; inspirational blurbs titled, Everything I know about _______, I learned from/in ________. Fill in the first blank with life, love, humor, etc. Fill in the second blank with TV, film, how to books, whatever people believe is the key component of their learning experience. My personal favorite is Everything I learned about life, I learned in kindergarten. Having given this some thought, I realized I can apply this to my writing…and my parents.
Everything I learned about writing, I learned from my parents (first):
1. From Mom: Read. Read a lot. Read all the time. Read anything and everything. Read the good, the bad, and the ugly.
2. Observe life. Don’t be a passive observer. Be a participative one. If you’re interacting, you’ll gain more in terms of what you are observing than if you merely stand by and watch.
3. Contrary to that popular adage, write what you know; don’t limit yourself to that. No matter how smart we are, our limitations are strikingly obvious. Break free of what you know and check out all the things you don’t know but would like to.
4. Remain curious. Forget the axiom curiosity killed the cat. Old age killed him. Boredom killed him. The next door neighbor may have killed him, but it’s doubtful that curiosity ever killed him.
5. From my father – when you’re on the job and “in the zone” it’s okay to tell people no. Ignore the bed that isn’t made. Ignore the dishes in the sink and the laundry on the floor. The zone cannot be denied.
6. Write from a place of strength. We all have a force within us where our strongest foundation is. Find that place when you write. It is the only time your writing will be honest and real.
7. Deny expectations. No matter what you do in life people will place their expectations on you. Don’t fall for it. The only expectations in your life that matter are yours. Follow that and the people around you will benefit as much as you do.
8. When you aren’t in the zone, don’t forget it exists. Watch the world around you with an eye for the magnificence that exists. The sights, the sounds, the smells, are pieces of history that will never take root in a text-book but only in those who are there.
9. Appreciate everything you’re given, the gifts, the challenges, the tragedies. There are lessons in all of them. Like the pearl, we will gain more from the friction of adversity than the ease of good times. Never lose sight of what you can take with you on that journey.
10. Live the life you have, not the one you wish for. It’s great to have a dream, but to accomplish that dream you must remain rooted in the reality it will take to get there. And the reality usually involves hard work. Accept that.