Lessons from writing: I have a voice

I’m a quiet introvert.  I spent most of my life being submissive, avoiding conflict, and generally letting people steamroll over me.  Due to dealing with bullies for many years, I feared being friendless and rejected.  I rarely voiced my opinion, especially in situations where I knew someone would disagree with me.  If a “friend” spoke harshly or was even mean, I kept my thoughts and feelings private, pretending outwardly that I wasn’t bothered.

This started to change once I had a life-changing event take place in 2013.  I was riddled with anxiety due to yet another abusive friendship I found myself in.  That year I finally spoke my mind on the toxicity of the friendship dynamic.  Something which was completely foreign to me.  A year later I decided to publish my first book and start blogging.

Writing has opened a new window for me.  I feel more confident in what I have to say on a page and that has transitioned into my personal life as well.  I’m done being a doormat, and once I made that decision, people started to take notice.  Some were flabbergasted that I would dare to speak my mind.  Writing has shown me it’s okay to have an opinion or voice, even an unpopular one.  Everyone should be treated with kindness and respect, even if their behavior doesn’t warrant it.  However, that doesn’t mean, as I erroneously once thought, that we cannot or should not stand up for ourselves.  In fact, I would go so far as to say if a friend or family member doesn’t listen to your voice, especially if you are treated poorly or have an issue, then perhaps it is time to reevaluate the relationship.

If you are reading this I want to remind you that you have a voice.  You have a right to speak up for yourself, your beliefs, and to defend yourself.  Perhaps like me, you will find writing a means to empower you and your voice.

Three Years of Blogging

It was November of 2013 when I first started blogging on WordPress.com.  Since then, I have learned much about myself and the whole blogging process.  What started out as a mission to let the readers gain insight into the worlds I built and the process of writing, became so much more.

Truth be told, blogging was something I despised.  I saw it as a way for people to sit from the safety of their homes and critique the world around them without having to get involved.  Around the time of started on WordPress, I knew of someone who used his blog to spew criticism at the culture.  Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty to say about societal shortcomings, but I wanted a theme, something to tie my stuff together and that’s writing.

Writing was to be the topic and I resolved not to deviate from that.  In July of 2017 I finally moved on from WordPress.com and bought a domain.  Along with that came a new vision with my blog.  During the couple years I only wrote about writing, I struggled with topics, yet I did not want to be an armchair critic.  Blogging after all is something anyone can do, anything can be said, and facts largely become irrelevant.  That isn’t something I want to be a part of.  However, many authors use blogging to discuss life, social issues, and the world.

I realized that if a reader is going to take the time to read a blog they want to know more than the ins and outs of writing.  A variety of content is essential, especially if a blog is going to become monetized.  I began writing on more topics, and realized that I can do it in a way where I don’t have to offer sanctimonious platitudes without facts.  I can write about my observations in the world, sharing my thoughts and feelings while at the same time directing my own words back at myself.  I have a blog about refusing to get offended but instead pausing and taking time to formulate our thoughts instead.  This is something I need to do, especially in this crazy world that only seems to be getting more insane.  Now, the challenge is to not become what I dislike about blogging, and become a critic from behind a computer screen without living up to my own standard.

Assumptions

We are all guilty of it.  Most of the time we are unaware of the snap judgements we make about people and our settings.  While judgement has an often-negative connotation, most judgements are benign such as which clothes we wear, and the best way to start our day.  Others however, are more impactful and can deeply harm our relationships with others.  We all know assumptions, especially negative ones, are not healthy, yet we continue to make judgements based on nothing more than our presumptions.

One of the main themes in Crystal Moon is that we should always be careful what sort of conclusions we come to, especially in marriage.  It is a part of human nature to assume the worst, especially if there is an argument or a relationship hasn’t been going well.  Sometimes there are other factors such as a bad mood, alcohol, or simply an inability to empathize with another person.

Usually, the more negative assumptions we have about a person, the more wrong we are.  There are of course exceptions, toxic people do exist and they are more common than we would like to believe.  Everyone that has gone to school knows that first hand, and perhaps when we become adults we are on guard against such toxicity.  It is easier to assume the worst and be on the defensive then it is to be vulnerable, especially opening ourselves to someone who will betray that trust in the future.

Most of the time negative assumptions do nothing more than get us into trouble, especially if we lash out first before discussing them.  I have come to believe that people are more emotional than rational, especially when they are fired up.  When we are upset and believe another person has wronged us, in that moment we want to fight, and more importantly win.  This is the sort of mess the main characters find themselves in.  Both the husband and wife come to conclusions about one another, and instead of discussing their fears and concerns, the real issue at hand continues to spiral out of control.  When this happens in fiction it creates plot, but in real life it can cause irreparable damage.  When we are accused of doing or feeling something we aren’t guilty of, we feel angry, that there had been an injustice done upon us. May we learn from characters in fiction and be better than that, remembering how it feels to be on the receiving end of untrue assumptions.

Three Years Ago (Now four)

Note: This was published October 2016, but the lessons I learned are still very much relevant.  This is one of the most important blog posts I have ever written.  We can love someone while standing up for ourselves and putting up boundaries, including not being a part of that person’s life.  Toxic people exist, never be afraid to speak up.

Have you ever met someone who felt off, but you had no reason at that moment to feel that way?  One particular person I knew gave me that vibe, and for a few years, I honestly didn’t like them much.  It wasn’t until around 2011 that this person confessed something they had done that put them in a tight spot.  I felt as a Christian it was my duty to be there for this person and decided that I was being paranoid and judgmental, so I shoved my reservations to the side.

Over the next year and a half, we grew closer, spending a lot of time talking on Skype and the phone.  There were red flags that I ignored during our friendship.  If I had something to address with this person, they would blow it off, turn it around, and blame me.  This person, among many other bad signs, made grandiose claims of prophecy.  Around this time, the off feeling came back.  Well, if I was honest with myself, it never left, but the warnings in my soul became so strong I couldn’t ignore it.  For the sake of privacy, I won’t say too much more on the situation, but this person did inspire a character in one of my up-coming novels.

When I began talking to a 3rd party about my situation, things started to clear up.  I was making excuses for this person in my head, this person who was emotionally and mentally abusive and manipulative.  In June of 2013, I first brought up my concerns to this person, which neither one of us handled very well. I admit that.  I gave this person another chance but with strict boundaries in place.  Again, the blame was completely placed on me from this other person’s perspective.  I do not claim to be perfect, but I always tried to treat this person with respect.

The 3rd party I was talking to about this situation told me in October of that year that I needed to confront this friend and tell them my concerns.  The person I talked with said I needed to do it in order to grow.  I was terrified, but a couple weeks later I did it.  I wanted this conversation to just be over.  To make a very long and complicated situation more concise, this “friend” didn’t like what I had to say at all.  This person even tried to get my wife to side with them on the issue.  Perhaps I didn’t handle things 100 percent the way I should have, but I do know I was gentle.  Confronting someone with serious issues like this is neither easy to say or easy to hear.  After my wife and I tried everything, suggesting someone else help resolve this and trying to talk about it, this person shoved us away. We let them walk away and resolved to never allow their manipulation back into our lives.

The point of this story is not to shame the individual involved.  I have no idea where they are right now, if they have changed, or if they truly know if they changed.  What I do know is that if you have someone in your life that is manipulating and/or abusive, you do not have to stand for it.  Even if that is the only friend you have in the world, you do not need that toxicity in your life.  Turning away from that doesn’t make you a bad person, it makes you smart.  Friendship should be mutual.  The second it isn’t, the moment there is an imbalance of power and benefit, it may be time to rethink it.

This crazy experience, which was filled with more drama than I could ever include was too rich of a resource not to use for a book.  I wrote in a secondary character who becomes friends with the protagonist who is based on my former friend.  Unfortunately, even in an urban fantasy setting, things that happened still had to tone down because, frankly, my readers would probably find it unbelievable.  As a writer, every experience is fair game.  Those experiences, whether they seem real or not, are what make stories relatable.  Even if it is incredibly painful like this experience was for me.  All of life is for us to use.

Note: I chose to use the words “them” and “they” because they are gender neutral and increases the privacy of the person I am referencing.