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I Challenge You to be Respectful in the Face of Conflict


Did you know that it’s possible to be friends and/or maintain positive connections with someone even when you fundamentally disagree with each other about how to do life? If you’re friends or colleagues who keep in touch outside of the work place/space, then there must be something you like or admire about each other. Perhaps you like their ability to tell a story if they’re an author or perhaps you like their sense of humor or you admire their experiences or their ability to see the good in everything.

These are all reasons why I have rarely ever unfriended or unfollowed anyone on social media, and why I’m careful about who I do friend or follow. About half of my social media contacts are colleagues in the literary and/or academic fields, and in the ideals most important to me – Faith, lifestyle, fundamental freedoms, and yes, even politics – we rarely see eye-to-eye.

But that isn’t reason enough to turn my back on them. I love the diversity – intellectual, physical, spiritual, emotional – of my friends, family and colleagues. I don’t seek to agree on every topic with all of my connections. That would be disastrous to my growth as a person of intelligence and reason. People who seek to befriend and network only with those who agree with them are severely shortsighted and, dare I say, foolish. I’ve been persecuted and denied for my beliefs and opinions, and refuse to do that to others, as long as we’re able to preserve a mutually respectful connection. I maintain constant vigil on my conversations to ensure that I remain respectful, even in the face of disagreement.

I did recently unfriend someone on Facebook and unfollow another person on Twitter. The former Facebook friend is someone I know in real life, someone who’s company and conversation I’ve enjoyed on multiple occasions. What I couldn’t stomach and refused to make excuses for any longer was their constant disrespect and vitriol (talk about hate speech) toward my conservative friends. All of whom I’ve known longer than this individual. It got to the point that some people were questioning whether they should unfriend ME because of this person. Which quickly raised my anxiety level. I made the decision to unfriend this person for my sanity and to save my other connections; one person wasn’t worth further endangering my established network.

I don’t have a problem with debate and disagreement, especially when I’ve posted something encouraging it on my page, but I DO have a problem when you can’t keep a civil tongue in your head, and post a hateful, mean-spirited word vomit on my page. Especially when said words are uttered (or written) by someone who is supposed to be mature. An adult. At least according to their chronological age. If nothing else, dealing with people should teach you that you draw more bees with honey (respect will get you further than truculence).

To me, descent into name calling and hurling insults is something that we learn to rein in somewhere about the time we graduate from high school and realize that the rest of the world doesn’t operate that way. Or it shouldn’t, anyway…as our minds and bodies mature, so should our conversation and ability to disagree or debate with courtesy and civility.

The person I unfollowed on Twitter is an author I’ve followed for years. Someone who’s books I’ve read for years. I will probably continue to read their books. But their constant foul-mouthed and hateful comments against the current presidential administration – and that’s ALL they have been tweeting about lately – were triggering. This person has the absolute right to think, feel and say whatever they want, just as I have the absolute right to unfollow them so their vitriol won’t continue to blow up my Twitter feed and make the blood vessels in my eyes burst.

Here’s what I believe – what I’ve always believed (well, at least since I hit mid-twenties and actually began to THINK and not just ACT or REACT) – and have found to be true in 8 out of 10 cases (because there are always those who cannot sustain a relationship when they disagree on fundamentals). Treat others the way you want to be treated. AKA: The Golden Rule. And it IS golden. That’s it. Well, with a healthy dose of humor thrown in for good measure. That’s the secret to gaining and maintaining friendships and connections across dissenting views on lifestyle, religion and politics.

No matter how my connections respond – whether they love me or hate me, or something in between – I have to stay sane, be true to myself, be able to look at my reflection in the mirror every morning and every night. I have to be able to sleep at night and wake in the morning. I have to be able to meet my Maker with a clear conscience. Treating others the way I wish to be treated, with a side of humor, even – maybe especially – when we disagree, ensures that I can do all of those things.

Everyone has something to give. Everyone is unique. Everyone has something about them that makes them special. Everyone has a story to tell. I encourage you – I CHALLENGE YOU – to focus on those things, the qualities you first admired most about them, and let the rest go.

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Filed under Anxiety, Friendship, How To, Humor, Life, Mental Health, Musings, Real Life, Relationships, Stuff, writer

Lessons for Life: The Golden Rule


No matter your race, religion (or lack of), gender or creed, the greatest “rule” ever created, thought of or implemented, is the one dubbed “The Golden Rule.” In its simplest, purest form, it charges us to treat others the way we wish to be treated.

Yes, it is a verse from the Bible (so Atheists and other non-Christians may believe themselves exempt), but it’s also the best law I know of for life. Just think of all the evil that would cease to exist if we as humans – ALL humans (WITHOUT qualification or equivocation) – treated other humans – ALL humans (again, WITHOUT qualification or equivocation –) – the way we wish to be treated. So much pain and suffering could be eliminated.

Sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity, gender, culture, opinion, politics, nationality, creed (Did I forget anything?) have NO bearing on The Golden Rule…at least, they SHOULDN’T. The Golden Rule transcends them all.

This is the one idea I have been force-feeding my son from the day he was born. Sometimes I think he actually gets it. Other times, he says, “I treat other people the way they treat me.” *sigh*

That’s not the way it reads. But why should I be surprised? Society’s voice is sometimes louder than a parent’s voice. And that is a tragedy. This idea/law/life-lesson isn’t based on RESPONDING to OTHERS’ treatment of US. It is meant to be OUR FIRST ACTION. And THEN, our reaction.

Yes, I do realize it is sometimes (often?) a bitter pill to swallow. As humans, when we are mistreated or betrayed – or PERCEIVE we’ve been mistreated or betrayed – our knee-jerk REACTION is revenge. Instead of finding – or creating – something positive from something negative, we feel justified in tossing away The Golden Rule, because the betrayal or mistreatment has released us from responsibility of our own actions.

I get it. I have the same problem. Especially since I have a temper. Many a bridge has exploded (never mind the burning) behind me due to my temper and REACTION without consideration. Most of those bridges have never been rebuilt. And I have life-long regrets.

And here we come to the heart of the matter. The Golden Rule is applicable ONLY to OUR OWN ACTIONS. (Mind. Blown.)

As much as I would like to, I ultimately cannot dictate my son’s actions and reactions. He may be a minor according to society and the laws of the USA, but he is still a living, thinking being with free will. All I can do is TEACH him the right actions, give him consequences for the wrong choices, and praise him for the right choices.

The ONLY person I can control is MYSELF. And sometimes I fail. That doesn’t mean I stop trying, throw in the towel. No. I get back up, dust myself off, and try to do better next time. And the next time, and even the one after that. As long as I draw breath, I need to strive to treat others the way I wish to be treated. It is my mantra.

 

What is/are your view(s) on The Golden Rule? Do you think perfect adherence would make our world better, safer, more peaceful?

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Filed under Life, Parenting, Real Life, Relationships, Writing

From One Writer to Another: A Short “How To” on Writing Fiction


I wrote this post for my friend and colleague Rachel Thompson’s BadRedhead Media blog several months ago. And now it comes home. 🙂


Photo Source: Unsplash.com/MindJournal

Photo Source: Unsplash.com/MindJournal

Do you have an idea for a great story? Does something inside push you to string letters together in complete sentences that end up filling multiple pages? Do you feel as if you’ll burst if you don’t stop RIGHT THIS MINUTE and record those scenes and that dialogue swirling round and round in your head?

Welcome to my world, and the world of so many others like me. Welcome to the world of WRITING. What do I do NOW? you may ask. I’m so glad you did. I have answers for you. 🙂 In this post, I’ll address writing historical (specifically, medieval) and fantasy fiction, as they are the setting/time period/theme of my current Work in Progress.

While writing fiction can be as simple as sitting down and setting pen or pencil to paper (or fingers to computer keyboard – whichever your preference), it isn’t always so. It surely wasn’t that simple for me. Oh, the words may flood your imagination and before you know it, you’ve written a complete chapter. Good for you! I sincerely hope it’s that easy for you. Quite often, though, research is necessary, even if it’s just looking up the meaning and best use of a word or phrase.

Research

If like me you write historical fiction, then your setting (geographical) may be a place that exists or did at one time exist in the real world. If so, you’ll need to be sure you know a few things either before you begin writing the story or at some point before you’ve finished your first draft:

  • Where in relation to the rest of the world that place exists (or did exist, if it doesn’t anymore). Part of my book takes place in medieval Silesia, Poland. While it still exists, the borders have changed over the centuries and today it’s divided between Poland, Germany and Czechoslovakia.
  • Topography – mountainous, plains, desert, etc.
  • Climate(s)
  • Culture(s) – how the natives interact with one another and with foreigners/visitors.
  • Cuisine
  • System of exchange – bartering, coin money, etc.
  • Native/national costume/style of clothing (if any). I say “if any,” because in America for example we don’t have any one national style of clothing.
  • Weaponry, soldiers/armies, defense/offense, justice system
  • Sexuality – discrimination between the sexes, expectations and perceptions that separate the genders, local/national traditions/norms for single persons, married persons, etc.
  • Language(s), dialects
  • Medicine/healing
  • Travel between cities, towns, villages, countries

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it’s a good place to start. The necessity for research is one reason why some books and series take years to write and publish; all of the research that must take place before pen is even set to paper, research that continues while writing, and then the redrafting, polishing, editing and proofreading. If you’re going to spend the time and energy writing a story with the intention of publishing, then you want to be sure it’s your best work. Every time. Your writing skills may improve with each successive book – in fact, they almost certainly will improve. That doesn’t mean your earlier works weren’t your best; they were your best at that time.

all-great-literature

Historical Fiction

So. What will you write about? Will you write a coming-of-age tale? Will you write a swashbuckling adventure full of pirates and damsels in distress? Whatever you choose to write about, you’ll probably discover the truth of one of my favorite quotes of all time about writing. Leo Tolstoy said, “All great literature is one of two stories; a man goes on a journey or a stranger comes to town.” The first time I read this quote, I took it as a challenge – a challenge to find a book that WASN’T about one of those two stories. So far, every story I’ve read (literally thousands) has supported this statement.

All fiction is based on one of these two ideas, and you build upon them. Even if the story doesn’t begin with a journey or an arrival, one of those is still present. While, as Patricia C. Wrede points out, a hero going on a journey or a stranger coming to town aren’t plots per say, they ARE precipitating incidents that introduce the plot; they are where the plot begins. They are the foundation upon which all fiction is built.

Fantasy

And what about fantasy? On one hand, writing fantasy can be easy – it’s often make-believe, after all, and subject only to the limits of each writer’s imagination and motivation. On the other hand, it needs to be believable. And if your fantasy is set in the real world – sort of a small step off the beaten path – then you still need to research the setting, time period, etc. This is what I did in my book, SERPENT ON A CROSS, and its work-in-progress sequel, VEIL OF MENACE. I combined real-world historical events and places with fantasy, mythology and Jewish mysticism/esotericism. Some of the fantasy-related research that’s gone into this series is:

  • Eastern European (mainly Russian and Polish) mythology and folklore
  • Jewish folklore and superstition
  • Jewish proverbs
  • Jewish esotericism (NOT kabbalah – my story predates traditional kabbalah)
  • Other writers’ works on any of these subjects

The Actual Writing

Even though writing fiction may not always be as simple as sitting down and setting pen to paper, it doesn’t have to be a daunting prospect; it shouldn’t be. In my case – because I love research so much – the actual writing was sometimes set aside in favor of the research. I finally had to make myself stop (or at least pause) researching and start (and finish) writing the story. Of course, my impatient characters often made their presence felt, usually in the middle of the night, not letting me sleep until I wrote down the scene(s) beating at my imagination.

As for what to write about, the sky is virtually the limit (actually, I’m pretty sure outer space still has vacancies as well). Write about what you know and want to share with others…write about things that scare you that you wish didn’t scare you…write about something you’re interested in learning more about.

One of the wonderful things about writing a story is that you will always learn something, whether about yourself as a person or as a writer, about the subject, about the location. Perhaps all of the above. Such a wealth of knowledge awaits you as a writer. What are you waiting for?

Recommended Reading

Some general research recommendations (all of which I have read) for writing fiction and fantasy:

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Filed under books, Fantasy, Fiction, Historical, How To, Reader, Reading, Research, writer, Writing, Writing Tips