Empathy VS Sympathy

I have always been a bit vague on the difference. After watching this video I get it now. How often we give sympathy when empathy is what is needed. We need to be brave to be empathic. Sympathy is a cheap substitute. In writing we need to be empathic with our characters. It is also a useful tool in defining them.

Make a Mess

Some words from the woman who wrote, among other things Bird by Bird, one of the greatest writers guides there is.

Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life. . . . Perfectionism is a mean, frozen form of idealism, while messes are the artist’s true friend. What people somehow (inadvertently, I’m sure) forgot to mention when we were children was that we need to make messes in order to find out who we are and why we are here – and, by extension, what we’re supposed to be writing. – Anne Lamott

How often I have stared at the blank page afraid to put down a word,waiting for the perfect one to come.  It doesn’t, but when I write without thinking which is usually so messy I can barely read it.  The gems pop out.

Life is messy for a reason.  It’s more fun that way. Look at the kids eating ice cream dripping down their front or tumbling down that grass hill, the smiles and laughter are contagious.

Let’s all make a mess.

Crabby hands

You know who they are, those tiny grasping hands in your mind stubbornly pushing to get an end result.  You have to finish this or that project or else you are a failure.  They rush you forward before your creative heart is ready.   You may get an acceptable end, but not an awesome one.

Things take time.  We sometimes need a creativity delay for that great idea to emerge.  The universe can’t be rushed. We can’t hurry up the sun or the stars, they come when they come.   Letting our crabby hands control us, only makes us crabby.   When I see a project is not going the way I want, I get crabby which is the antithesis to creativity.

When I get crabby and the grasping turns to discouragement,  I send my crabby hands out for a manicure, take a pause and ask myself why am I pushing so hard?  Do I feel passionate enough about this project to finish it joyously?  If not,  Why?  I address it and either finish it or let go.  Not everything you start has to be finished.  Many famous writers, artists,even scientists have projects sitting in drawers or closets, because deep in their hearts they knew they weren’t quite right.  Not everything you do is going to be good, let it go.

Nothing is ever wasted, what ever work you have done on a project, you learn from, if only it’s that the concept didn’t work.  Maybe that novel is really a short story or that painting is mundane, but that color you mixed was excellent.  You are just warming up for that truly fabulous creation.

So when those crabby hands start making you crabby, go to the beach and let them play.

Write Naked

No, not literally, well maybe, it is summer.  Play strip poker with yourself.  Read your pages. Are they authentic?  if not take something off.  Keep playing until you and your words are naked.

Real life is scary, when a dog bites, it hurts.  When we pussy-foot around and pretend it doesn’t, the reader stops because they know it’s not true.

A fear newbie writers often have is not being original.  If you reveal your naked self, you can’t help, but be original. Only you have your fingerprints.  Bravery equals vulnerability equals nakedness.

Ask yourself   –  (a) Am I saying the truth or putting on a baggy sweater?  (b) Does this feel smothered with scarves, gloves and hats or exposed and enticing in a teeny bikini?

Writing is not to hide but to reveal.  Take the clothes off your writing, let the air touch your words.   People connect with vulnerability, watch Brene Brown’s Ted talk on YouTube if you don’t believe me.

We come into this world naked and screaming ‘Hey world here I am’, then time passes, people tell us to hush put on your clothes.  We blush at the thought of going to a nude beach or telling someone that their dress is ugly.

Rock the boat,  jump over board,  Go skinny dipping

Then pick up your pen and write naked



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