Just a short Monday post to keep you inspired. Firstly, thank you to all my new followers and those of you who keep it interesting with your comments! 😉 I’ve been thinking a lot about ‘power’ recently. Not in the ‘success’ or ‘world domination’ sense, but in a personal capacity. We tend to let people, jobs, family or life in general take power away from us. We get stuck in routine. Stuck in limbo with a vague memory of creativity. We let life shit all over us (excuse my un-ladylike description). I just wanted to remind everyone that we are ALL going to have to relinquish power at the end of our lives (Lady Death will surely make it an easy transition though), but right now we have power running through our veins. So if you’re sitting there, sipping on your coffee and thinking about the meaning of life and how fragile we essentially are. Don’t! We can refuel and make the most of what we have at any given moment. Whatever your age, or gender or race…whatever your current circumstances…find that little spark hiding inside you and go give ’em hell.
A special note to all the women reading my blog. I think it’s really important that you learn to rely on yourselves. So whilst kindling and nurturing that inner power of yours, please make an extra effort to find your physical power. It’s no secret that I live in a very dangerous country (I’ve mentioned it on many occasions) and I’ve discovered that self-defense can go a long way in making you feel safer, less victimized and…powerful. Wherever you go in the world, whatever situation you find yourself in, it’s good to be able to take care of yourself. So find your nearest martial arts class or go for a self-defense workshop. It will work wonders for establishing your sense of identity in a world that often seems like it’s caving in on itself.
Here’s some badass inspiration…and she just happens to be South African like me 😉
Is that you? Is that me? Can we even begin to pull ourselves out of our mundane, sometimes annoying, habitual existence to dress ourselves in some sort of tight-fitting ( maybe even a little claustrophobic?) costume so that we can feel slightly special?
Is it possible that instead of creating fictional characters when we write, we can (even momentarily) reach levels of heroic strength within ourselves in the real world?
I was supposed to be sticking to my post-graduate reading/writing deadlines for the night and yet I found myself meandering over to old episodes of The Flash (Season 1) which I’ve already watched like a gazillion (or maybe gamizillion – can someone please make that an official word already) times. Procrastination is my thing. I think it’s very much a writer’s thing. When given boundless time to write, we procrastinate. When given a chest-tightening deadline, we procrastinate. It’s what we do! However, while sitting on my bed and enjoying the sights of Barry Allen -please dear God make a version of him actually exist in this world and I swear I’ll change my mind about marriage as an evil societal stricture!-
I had a sudden flash (see what I did there? lol) of inspiration. Yes, we are being overloaded with comic book heroes and villains…to the point that it’s becoming mainstream to be a comic book fan. It’s sad really. Because those of us that like having our little nerdy ‘cool club’ have to now debate the comic book truth versus the Hollywood blockbuster to the local airhead at the hair salon who thinks she’s an expert on Lois Lane’s character after watching a really bad Amy Adams interpretation. Or how you have to punch a guy in the face when he says Fox from Wanted is his favorite comic book honey but he doesn’t seem to understand that the real Fox isn’t Angie flavored, she’s black and equally hot.
Anyway, my point…the comic book influx (true to original material or not) can be a source of inspiration. We now have a pool of television series, movies and other avenues of reinterpretation that are entering the lives of everyday folk. What does this mean? It allows you to find what’s unique and different about yourself (mutant like even) and lets you roll with it. As a writer, this can be useful. We often tend to restrict ourselves (whether writing academically or not) and I think it’s important for people to pinpoint their strengths, then cultivate that as best they can. Writing is a dramatic performance (according to Henning, Gravett & van Rensburg in Finding Your Way in Academic Writing, 2005) in which we lay out our thoughts similar to actors who act them out on a stage. And in writing or performing our thoughts in this way, we make sense of our knowledge, and even ourselves as writers.But to ‘perform’ we need to face our inner demons that spew out fear, insecurity and lack. We need to be able to overcome adversities and any mental or physical challenges that life throws at us. I have less than a year to complete my thesis, do the necessary prep work for the PhD program I want to pursue and build up my freelance client base (as a copywriter) so that I can do the adulting’ and earn an income that doesn’t make me cry when I walk into a bookstore and see the giant spike in book prices. And many of you out there have even more on your plate. You may have family attachments, physical ailments, money issues, depression, abusive relationships…loads of things that are consuming your time and keeping you from being successful. I say…you can do it! Whatever it is that you want to. Whether you’re a writer, or not. Your superpower may be small, or it may be grand, just find it.
Whenever I’m in a writing lull, I think back to a Flash episode where Cisco Ramon celebrates his superhero friend’s achievement by fist punching in the air and yelling “Super sonic punch baby!”. And yes…I repeat that to myself occasionally (I’m weird like that) because it reminds me that nothing is impossible within our meagre selves. We can, if we push ourselves, achieve so much more. So the next time you’re banging your head against your writing desk, sure about your complete lack of abilities…think of your favorite superhero and how they wouldn’t give up…
and neither should you.
I’ve included a clip of my infamous Cisco Ramon motto for those of you who are not-Flash friendly :
I watched an inspiring TED talk by game designer, Jane McGonigal a few months back. She’s quirky and has you believing by the end of her talk that you can easily level up, defeat that last boss and win the game that is life. With her PhD from the University of California at Berkeley in performance studies & games research, any internet trolls that want to lash out about the inabilities of girl gamers better be prepared to be proven seriously wrong! McGonigal uses gaming as a means to solving real world problems : think Mother Teresa humanitarian goals with Lara Croft badassery. Together with the Institute for the Future in Palo Alto, California she works tirelessly on research that proves that gaming can help people form vital abilities needed in real world contexts, whilst grasping concepts that can help bring about positive change for humanity. Poverty, climate change, world hunger…these are just some of the issues that she believes gamers can help put an end to. And why not? The amount of time spent in fictitious worlds battling villains and demons is proof enough that gamers, like readers (as I’ll soon delve in to), are well equipped in finding the solutions necessary to saving the planet. Before we go any further, get yourself a cup of coffee and watch this…trust me, you need to!
Inspired yet? Now that you have a better understanding of what I’m talking about, let’s move on to how this applies to fiction and why I’m writing about it on my literature blog. I came across this essay by Nadia Crandall entitled “Cyberfiction and the Gothic Novel” (2008). I’m exploring the Gothic in literature and how it leads to development in children when used in Children’s Literature. But I had never thought to look into the usefulness of cyberfiction or the steampunk genre. After reading the essay, I was reminded of Jane McGonigal’s talk and it got me thinking. Seriously thinking. Cyberfiction is predominately set in an alternative reality or dream-space where according to Crandall transgression and liberation can be found.The dream-space exists in opposition to conventional constructs of the real world and allows a divided consciousness which further enables readers to experience a world different from their own. Readers can inhabit two realities contemporaneously. Here they can find strengths and talents (unknown in the real world) for fighting monsters and achieving hero status.
This was similar to what I’d heard McGonigal talking about with the virtual world or landscape in gaming.
So how does this help human existence? Reading fiction and playing video games are able to lead people to emancipation of self. It makes perfect sense that a reader, or gamer, can be led to applying problem solving techniques (found in fictional literature and games) to personal as well as global issues. Going back to McGonigal, she has put into effect games like EVOKE, World Without Oil and Superstruct that have everyday, ordinary individuals such as you and me working together to make a difference. She cites the science of positive psychology as fundamental to her game design. This is what she has to say about positive psychology in gaming on her website : “The key question I always ask when making a game: How can this game lead to real and positive impacts? In other words, how can this game help players cultivate:
the full range of positive emotions and engagement,
stronger social connections and relationships,
more resilience in the face of challenges and obstacles,
more ambitious and surprising accomplishments
and service to something bigger than ourselves? “
As far as I’m concerned, the same can be applied to reading fiction. Of course you’d have to look at the type of fiction and the ways in which it makes use of the above listed. Or the ways in which it leads to the above by challenging the mind. And as we forage through the landscape of dream-space or dream-scapes , we can hopefully bring back with us knowledge and experiences which fit into the jigsaw of world problems. The introverts, the geeks, the anti-social weirdos that live behind books and controllers…time to start making that difference.
For more inspiration check out :Available on Amazon.com