Grow up and Read About Some Dragons

Cole Junso

As we get older, we forget who it is that we wanted to be; is that true? I think part of it is. I remember aspiring to be a famous author, professional basketball player, or well-known artist. A younger version of myself couldn’t find a reason why I wouldn’t be able to be all three. Now, I want to make sure that I have enough money to pay rent. My goals and aspirations have shifted over the years. However, some things about myself haven’t changed since then. I still have a wild imagination and want to make sure I have an impact on this world. Reading fiction has had a large impact on my life and these stories have always been my favorites to delve into, for a variety of reasons. Fantasy stories can play an important role in building critical thinking skills, empathy, and even help in finding positive role models.

Fiction can create scenarios we never even thought possible. This helps broaden a person’s imagination, which many times develops into creativity and helps apply critical thinking. This happens because not every story gives the reader a sense of closure. Sometimes, the reader is left only to their imagination about what could have happened after the last words on the final page. When reading we often think we know how a situation is going to play out and what the outcome might be. Maybe that comes from our experiences, things we have read in the past, or maybe we just have an expectation about how a story is supposed to move forward. I prefer a story in which I am not given that closure, then I am forced to use my imagination and come up with alternative outcomes. You’re given the perspective of multiple characters, and every single one has a different personality, motivation, and ending to their story. This helps build a sort of empathy for the characters in the story, which will hopefully translate to real world situations.  

Developing a sense of empathy for characters that may not exist in the real world seems like an odd concept, but characters in fictional stories almost always reflect real people. So, in a way, understanding fictional characters can give the reader insight on how people function in the real world, and how they may tend to hide their true feelings and emotions. Understanding that fact is important when working with other people and figuring out how to deal with different social situations. Fiction often presents the idea that not every person’s life is exactly what it seems to be on the outside. My experience reading fantasy novels has helped me improve upon how I treat people and taught me to handle situations with more sensitivity and, ultimately, more empathy. In fact, some of the most influential characters in fiction novels are the ones that have an immense amount of empathy. These types of personas that we read about could play a more important role in our day to day lives than we realize.   

Sometimes these fictional characters can give us, even as adults, people to look up to, someone to help mold our ideas of who it is that we want to be. An important step into what makes a human being successful, is the drive to always be better than you currently are. If I am constantly improving myself as a person, then ideally, I am improving my impact on the people around me. The characters that we find in fictional stories can be so influential that, as a reader, you find yourself caring for them. At times, it can feel like their decisions matter and you genuinely care about the choices they make. Luckily, a lot of stories end happily, and you see those characters in a positive light; good defeating evil seems to be a common theme. These role models, from tales that could never be true, carry their influence into the real world. The reader might strive to make more of an impact, just as their favorite hero did.

Reading is truly important. It has helped people calm down from tense situations and rest a little easier. It greatly enhances vocabulary and expands knowledge for all. For some people it has provided an escape from the real world and given them positive role models to follow. There are a multitude of obvious reasons to read books, and fiction stories should not be left out. Fantasy novels have improved my imagination and creativity, while helping me apply those skills to critical situations. I know and understand people a little more after diving into fiction. It has given me insight on how to best interact with others in various situations. Reading has given me positive people to look up to, admire and strive to simulate. Find a way to be better than you are already; pick up a book about old kings, magic, elves or dragons and remember the imagination that made being a kid so much fun.

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6 Tips to Becoming a Writer

Writing can be hard, but it is necessary to formulate your thoughts and to understand the world around you.  I once read that, as humans, we don’t write because we understand, we write to understand.

We write to understand, to share, to express ourselves, to heal – to communicate.

Whether you’re writing a blog post about DIY Halloween Costumes or a very personal experience, there a few key factors to note when getting started.  Here are my 6 tips to becoming a writer:

 

  1. Write What You Want to Read

If you don’t enjoy what you’re writing, chances are you wouldn’t enjoy reading it either, so why would anyone else?  Austin Kleon writes about this in Steal Like An Artist in the chapter called Write the Book You Want to Read. 

He talks about how you should write about what you like.  He tells us to think about our favorite writers and then think about what they would create if they all collaborated – Write that.

 

  1. Make it Engaging

When you write, don’t tell the reader how incredible you felt on the rollercoaster, make them feel it.  Or, maybe you’re writing about a painful experience or the most exciting time in your life.  Whatever it is, take the reader there.  Words exist so that we can express ourselves to others.  Are you more likely to be drawn to a piece that just tells you something, or are you more likely to be drawn to a piece that makes you feel something.  We read to learn; We read to experience a world different from our own.  JK Rowling didn’t tell you about Hogwarts, she took you there with Harry and she did it with words.

We all have the ability to take the reader there, we just have to be creative with our words.  If you’ve ever been to an impromptu show, you may have seen the game they play where one person leaves the room and the other stays behind with audience.  With the remaining person, the audience chooses an object to describe to the other person when they come back into the room.  When the person comes back into the room the audience has to describe the object to them without explicitly saying the name of it.  As you write, think about what you are wanting to write about, and then leave it on the page as if you are describing it to the person coming back into the room.  That is how you take the reader there.

 

  1. Have a Point and Maintain That Point

Whatever the topic is that you are writing about, make it a point to have a point.  That means that with every sentence, you need to be able to come back to your point.  As a reader, have you ever read something that didn’t stay on topic and by the time you get to the end of the piece (if you get to the end of the piece), you wonder how you got from point A to point B?  As a writer, you never want to create a piece that doesn’t have a clear journey beginning to end.  As you are writing, take time to pause throughout your process and read different bits and pieces and ask yourself if there is a arrow pointing directly back to your point.  If not, it probably doesn’t belong.

 

  1. Be Vulnerable

When people read something, they are either desiring to learn something new or to hear “me too”.  Writing a piece that lets the reader know “me too”, is 10X more effective than a “how to”.  That’s why local parenting magazine Mamalode is so successful.

CEO and Founder, Elke Govertson, was looking for “me too” not “how to”, but continued to only find the latter.  One year, on the night before Mother’s Day, she thew a party in which she called “Mother’s Day Eve”, and invited fellow mothers to come together in the name of motherhood.  Out of vulnerability, these moms began to share their experiences with one another – the good, bad and the ugly.  For the first time, Elke didn’t feel alone or lost in the perils of Motherhood.  Instead, she felt uplifted and empowered and, most importantly, part of a larger community who could say “me too”.

Through her own experience, Elke wanted others to feel the same.  She knew from her own frustrations with the “how to’s” that a publication filled with “me too” stories, like the ones shared that night, would create value in the lives of mothers across the country and even the world.   Thus, Mamalode was born and is referred to today as “America’s Best Parenting Magazine” across the United States and in various parts of the world; all because of a little vulnerability.

You see, we’re all human.  At the end of the day, we’re all made up of the same stuff.  We experience upmost joy and happiness, as well as the deepest heartache and pain, all while craving to love and be loved; always wishing for more time.  What differentiates us from one another is how we experienced those commonalities.  It’s funny how some of the most gut-wrenching topics to write about are ones that every single human on Earth, has or will experience.  Think: love, loss (death) and time; the three abstracts that motivate every single human on the face of the Earth.  Be vulnerable and write about your experiences with those.  Let your reader know “me too”.

 

  1. Find Your Voice and Embrace It      

There is no one like you in this world, and there will never be anyone that is as “you” as you are.  That’s pretty incredible.  This means that your voice, whether you’ve found it or not, is yours and yours only.  We each have our own thoughts and experiences and opinions.  If you don’t voice them, no one will because they’re not you.  To find your voice you must be willing to be vulnerable (see #4).  Sometimes this is the hardest kind of vulnerability to engage in because you are forced to be vulnerable with yourself.  You must ask yourself questions like: “What do I truly think/feel about this?”, “What does my voice sound like?”, “Am I being honest with myself?”.  Once you’re honest with yourself, you have the key to unlock your voice, which not only helps you to find yourself, but also to discover where your niche is in the world.  Maybe your voice sounds at home in humor or dripping in satire, or how to create a multitude of DIY Halloween Costumes.  Perhaps your voice is more at home talking about the tough stuff.  Wherever your voice is at home, follow it there, put your feet up, get to know it and write.

 

  1. Actively Pursue YOUR Human Experience

 There’s an incredibly metaphoric, on-going scene in the first Princess Diaries movie that is so important to remember when it comes to this tip.  Princess Mia’s neighbor in San Francisco is a writer who sits in front of his house every day working on his autobiography.  The ironic part of his “autobiography” is that is filled with events that he sees happening in the lives of others within a hundred-foot radius of his front porch.

As a writer, you need to make sure you leave the porch.  Pursue and engage in YOUR human experience, because no one else can truly write about that (see #5).

In contrast, there’s another movie called Stuck in Love that hits this head-on.  About a family of writers, it follows the life of a father – a writer, who hasn’t written a single word since his wife left him for another man three years ago.  He’s raising two teenagers – one of which is publishing her first novel and, the other, a Stephen King fanatic.

Raising both children to be writers from birth, the father gets hold of his son’s journal (a journal he has paid him to keep since he could write, along with his sister too), and tells his son that he needs to really experience life to become a better writer.

To become a better writer, you must actively pursue your human experience; you must really experience life.  You can’t do this from your porch.

 

 

 

 

 

…And since we’re talking about Stuck in Love, I will leave you with this:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meg Dowaliby is a Senior studying Marketing at the University of Montana, who has a passion for content creation and storytelling.  Meg considers herself to be a “creative” with the objective of evoking emotions that bring people together as a marketer.