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"Hard is not hopeless." - General David Petraeus

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Punching Bag Beat Me

The veneer has been stripped away.

I always thought of myself as more of a rough and tough tomboy type, rather than a girlie girl. I hated dolls, loved Tonka trucks.  Love to hike and ride, hate to sew and quilt.

But I'm learning just how reserved a person I am.  Eight weeks ago, I started working out with a trainer.  He incorporates the typical equipment, such as the leg press etc. but he also introduced what to me is the wholly unnatural element of boxing and punching bags for exercise.

The Lord knows I've WANTED to punch plenty of people in my time, but I've never thrown a single one (that I can remember).  So when the trainer broke out the boxing gloves and demonstrated what I was to do, I was thinking "you want me to what?" and "that goes against decades of training in how to act like a lady!". 

Ditto when he brought the heavy bag (I don't know what its called) in for me to kick.  My first words were, "You want me to kick a poor innocent bag?"

Oye.  I knew I was a very reserved person by nature, but I had no idea how deep it ran. That heavy bag probably barely felt my kicks.  If it were a mocker it'd be taunting "Neener, neener neener.  I didn't even feel that!  You WIMP!"

Being a reserved person is overall a good thing--I wish more people demonstrated some reserve in selected areas.  However, being very reserved does have a few weaknesses--the physical ones described above which I am working to overcome are one example.

But today, Chila Woychik posted an article about honesty in our fiction.  You can read it here:

She uses the term honesty to describe the idea of baring our soul on the page.  To me, it all boils down to reserve.  I know very reserved people who have no problems baring their soul on the page.  For them it is cathartic.  Yet there are others, like me, for whom it is a challenge.  There is some part of us that holds back in really laying out the gamut of emotions our characters go through--we must work to really let it all hang out with them.

I suspect part of this is because as writers, generally to write something interesting we have to avoid the old advice to "write what we know".  We have all experienced things that caused an intense emotional reaction, but probably haven't been shot at by terrorists like our hero has and most are probably fortunate to never have experienced the kidnapping of a loved one, etc.

So to write our stories, we have to step in and be someone else.  After all, that's why we write fiction isn't it?  To build worlds and play at characters of our choosing.  To examine and make sense of the world around us through our characters' eyes.

But how can our characters make sense of their storyworld if they are inhabited by years of reserve instilled in them by their author?  You have to cut loose, not be fearful and let them experience it all deeply according to your characters, and not your own reserve.

I don't see this reserve just in my own fiction.  I see it in stories and chapters I've critiqued over the years as well.  Continuous writing practice helps to overcome it.

Some people are naturally skilled at bringing honest emotion to the page.  My friend Nicole Petrino-Salter I think is an example of a writer who brings honesty to the page.  You can visit her site here:

Being unreserved with emotion on the page means a deeper reading experience for your reader. 

With every book I write, I want to be more honest and unreserved on the page.  And hopefully by the next time I post on this subject, I'll be kicking the tar out of punching bags too. 8-)

1 comment:

Nicole said...

I'm honored to be included in your post, Brenda. Some of us are drama queens, but you might be surprised to know I'm "reserved" when I first meet people and I much prefer, even revel in, one-on-ones with people over and within large social gatherings. I'm definitely emotional, and sometimes it's tough to be unrestrained.

Thank you for your friendship, Brenda. And kick that sucker. ;)