Updated: Feb 10
Us Writers pride ourselves in our artistic and creative work. But isn't it a bit arrogant and narcissistic to believe that you are the one who created it all? I also still want to latch on to my characters and worlds and feel like I created all of this with my own mind, but that is simply unfair to your world and characters. Storytelling is far too infinite to be something so limited as creation. Let me explain through a personal experience of mine.
I've Come Far
I’m in 11th grade and the first quarter of the school year just finished. I’m sitting in my tiny room barely big enough for a bed, a table with a computer on it, and a bookshelf. The white walls and large window covering an entire wall made the room feel much bigger than it was.
It’s Monday, and the reason I’m sitting here and not in school is because of the Covid-19 Pandemic. South Africa recently announced a lockdown. The joy I felt when it was announced is a story for another day. But it was a chance for me to find a way to accept things.
Up until recently, I’ve been a very pessimistic person. I’ve also been a bully and quite a monstrous person. I never intended to hurt anyone necessarily, but I felt hurt, so I wanted to hurt others. But when I was in 11th grade, I’ve at least made it quite far. My mind was out of the gutter and I’m on my way to becoming a better person again. There are many things I did that I’d rather not have done. But the only thing I can do now is to live with those things behind my back. I always tell myself that if I don’t get reminded of this or that mistake when I take a shower, I’m slowly starting to accept it. I always had some sort of problem where I would heat up incredibly badly when I focused on something very deeply. It caused itching and burning on my skin. So, often these memories literally burnt me more than the hot water of the shower as I recall in detail the things I regret. It’s strange how we do that to ourselves.
But Hatred Still Lingered
One thing was holding me back from making more progress though, and it was my hatred for school.
You can ask anyone close to me about how I rambled and almost cried with hatred for school. I’m was a high grading student and people respected and looked up to me for it. But each time an exam was returned to me, I felt more like a fool than ever before. I hated myself for letting myself be eaten up by the system. I didn’t even want good grades, and I was getting burnt out early in 11th grade.
My father is an incredibly wise person, but even he struggled with me each time I spoke to him about it. He tells me that the only way to overcome my hatred is to accept school and to accept the hatred instead of feeling it continuously. I knew it was good advice, but he couldn’t tell me how I was supposed to do it, nor was anyone else. It had become a daily routine for me to lay awake on Saturday nights crying. I asked myself why I’m doing all of this. I was degrading myself, telling myself how bad of a person I was. It became a real problem when it wasn’t just Saturday nights anymore.
The Time Spent Trying
When lockdown struck, I spent many of my waking hours thinking of some new philosophy to try and help me accept things. But after dozens, if not hundreds, of hours I still hated school more than I loved anything or anyone. Each day after school when my father asked me and my younger sister how our day was, the reply was always the same. My sister mumbled, “Boring,” as she plugged her earphones in and I always said, “Fine.” Everyone knows “fine” doesn’t mean fine, my sister seemed to have a bit more honesty in that regard.
That brings me back to me sitting in front of my computer on this Monday. I’ve been writing for one hour in the morning each day. I’m working on a new fiction novel and one of the main characters, Remercier, is someone who carried the same type of hatred that I did. He doesn’t hate school, but he also struggled to accept his own hatred. I didn’t intend to write a character that carried similar troubles to myself, you can call if subconscious coincidence if you want but it doesn’t really matter to me.
The point is, this character had been sent back into the past to relive it in the same way he had already lived it. He was supposed to go through every mistake he made, and he was expected to make them again. The person who sent him back wanted him to accept his mistakes instead of regretting them.
Remercier was sent back to a time when he still lived in his father’s little home/shop.
This is the exact extract that I wrote that day:
I said, “I wonder why he decided to send me back to this point.”
“He probably wants to train you to accept the past. Acceptance and forgiveness will empower your energy [Energy is this worlds magic] beyond that of any normal soul.”
“So you’re telling me that he want’s me to live out my life, exactly like I’ve had before. I need to relive all those years of torture.”
“I don’t know what Dodan plans on doing, your Dodan is different from my Dodan after all.”
“Whatever he wants me to do, I refuse to relive my life as it was. I always told myself that if I got a second chance, that I would use the shit out of it.”
“I also don’t like the thought of my young son being controlled by a future version of himself. The idea scares me. Where did my son go? Will he ever return?”
I didn’t know what to say; he continued after a short silence, “But I have no control over any of it, so I can’t do anything more than accept it.”
“How do you do it old man, accept things that are unacceptable. Everyone keeps saying that you should accept what you cannot control. Even though I understand the idea, how do I actually do it.”
“The benefits of acceptance and forgiveness…”
“I know of the benefits, I know that it is moral and stoic, but how do I do it. There is a deep feeling of hatred inside of me, people keep saying that I should change or that I should love. I understand all of it, I understand that I should forgive and love, but no one bothers to tell me how they manage to do it.”
“Nobody knows how they do it Remercier. Most people don’t even manage to come close to any sort of acceptance. I also don’t know how to do it, but don’t excuse hatred as the only strong inner emotion. Love and forgiveness are just as powerful as hatred. The only way to accept hatred and the only way to defeat it, is to overwhelm it with love.”
“How do I love what I hate?”
“You don’t have to, you just have to love more than you hate. Many people are blind to what they love, what do you love Remercier?”
“I don’t love anything, I live on hatred. Hatred is what drives me and keeps me moving. It’s the very thing that fuels me and allows me to exist.”
“So you don’t even love the smell of fresh rain, or the feeling of adventure, or the swimming pool on a hot day, or the laughter of children in the morning, or the chirping of birds from dusk to dawn, or the people close to you, or that toy you are holding, or the smells you can only experience once a lifetime. You’re telling me that you don’t love me, or the feet that keeps us stable, or the hands that makes us food?”
“Well, of course I recognize those things exist, but they don’t give me a deep inner feeling of love.”
“It’s simply because you think of all the things you hate so frequently that they’ve grown roots deeper and deeper inside of you. If you always think of the things you love and are grateful for, their roots will eventually not leave any space for those of hatred. Don’t get blinded by what you see but make an effort to look at the things you can’t see. You’ve placed yourself on a pedestal far above the things you love, you are the one that placed your hatred on a pedestal of the same height as yourself. Leave the hatred behind and sink back down so you can see the things you love. You are the one who chose to only look at your hatred.”
There was a silence as I wrapped my head around his words.
“I mean I can’t argue with that, even though you just speak in figures of speech. I’ll give it a try old man.”
On that Monday morning, I didn’t even think much of the dialogue. It came naturally and without any struggle and I didn’t even care to notice the message within. It’s only when I looked back at it and read what I wrote that I saw it. Remerciers father gave the exact practical advice I needed, and I didn’t even notice it.
My character just told me something that I had struggled to find for dozens of hours. Not once did I think about what each character is going to say to the other. My fingers never stopped moving. Every time I wanted to think about it, I stopped myself, because the resistance felt wrong.
This Monday morning made every single second I spent writing over the past year completely worth it.
I refuse to believe that I came up with the dialogue between my characters. I’ve long since thrown away the idea of creating a story, I merely want to be as good as a translator as I can be.
It has happened many, many times where I simply let some characters talk through my voice, and I’ve never sat back and thought about what the other person is going to say, they simply spoke as if they were having a completely real and in-person conversation. I’ve learned and formed philosophies surrounding these very conversations that changed my life. The characters that talk to each other are much wiser, smarter, and more experienced than I am. I can’t bring myself to believe that they don’t exist as real people. They have taught me things and created things that I would never have thought of. I am a creative person, but gaining from these characters what I did, had to have come from a person much more creative than I. In no world is someone going to change their own life on a consistent basis by themselves. You need the wisdom, the knowledge, the perspective, of someone other than yourself to change your life to the drastic extent these characters have changed my life and each other’s lives.
This is why I say that I don’t care to WRITE or CREATE a story, but to simply be the best translator of the world and characters I chose to translate.
I’m not religious in any way and I don’t believe in superstitions. This isn’t an expectation. I don’t believe that my characters truly physically exist. But to me, my characters don’t have to exist physically, mentally, or spiritually, to be REAL.
I have much more evidence (personal experience, not concrete) of this philosophy. I also have much more to share about it and how it can change the way we write.
Next time I’m going to explore this idea further and I’m going to look into how this changes the way we can write and whether it’s beneficial at all.
Please comment down below if you want to talk about this topic to share ideas or even challenge them.