Wednesday, 26 February 2014

How to Identify Your Life Lessons

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At my creative writing class this week we worked on character development.  The exercise our tutor set for us challenged us as writers' but as I sat staring at my notes, I couldn't help but apply the writing exercise to my own life.

The exercise went as follows:-
  1. Think of a person you know and make them your main character, they can be family, a friend or neighbour, work colleague or a fellow club/church/slimming group member and they can be dead or alive.
  2. Write a single sentence, including physical descriptions, of how this person looks.
  3. Write a second sentence and describe how they show emotions.
  4. Write a third sentence using key words to describe gestures they use.
We then had to interview each other and took on the role of our characters.  We asked basic questions about age and name (most of us used fictional names) and interests we had.  The most interesting part for me was when we asked about family - it really stirred up an emotion in all of us.

Now the character I had chosen for my exercise was an ex-work colleague who I haven't seen for many years.  When we worked together I was very young and na├»ve and she therefore felt it
appropriate to undermine and bully me in the workplace.  She was also the type of person who, if you had a headache, she had a brain tumour!  Quite an interesting character to work with.

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As I was 'interviewed' my fellow writers' asked if I had a husband, my immediate response was 'he doesn't care about me, I get no love and affection from him, work is too important so I turn to cakes.'

I don't know if this was true of my ex-colleague, she was a portly woman with very large hands, but it did make me sit up and take notice of what I was saying.  Were these just seeds of a character in the making or was this bubbling up from somewhere else?

I've been divorced for ten years so I can't remember if I turned to cake when my own ex-husband chose work over family, and I'm not about to open up those memories, not even for the good of my writing!  I decided to carry on with the interview and see what else emerged.

I had picked this woman, seemingly at random, and yet as my interview progressed, more and more of those annoying traits she had outwardly projected, bubbled to the surface.  Yet again I had no idea if what I was saying held any truth in relation to this woman but they certainly resonated with me.

Our role-playing concluded and we were set with the task of writing a fiction piece and placing our new character in a scene that would be out of their comfort zone.  The object of the game was to see how they handled new conflict.

Some of the stories I begin in class fill my head for several weeks after and I feel compelled to polish them and finish their tale but I was almost relieved to close my notepad after this session.

As I drove home, the similarities between myself and this woman, played on my mind.  I cut this person out of my life years ago and that was the right thing to do.  Emotional vampires have no place in my world (fictional vampires however are always welcome - Damon Salvatore I'm talking to you!)

So it dawned on me that the reason I disliked this person was because I could see my own flaws glaring back at me through her.

I don't think I'm dramatic (my mum may disagree with this one), if I have a headache then it stays a headache, even if a friend told me they were suffering with one, I still wouldn't upgrade mine to migraine status.

I do know that I need to listen more, everyone knows I can talk for England so life lesson number one, is to learn when to shut up and let someone else get a word in.

I won't bore you with the long list of annoying traits I managed to jot down on a post-it when I got home, let's just say I have a lot of self-work to do...

Take a moment to think about the people in your life - family, friends, colleagues, parents at the school gate, and fitness crazy people at the gym.  Are there any that spring to mind immediately in a negative way?  Maybe great aunt Susan is always finishing your sentences, or maybe there's that one mother on the school run who always looks like she's stepped out of a hair salon.

Then take a look at what it is that annoys you about them.  Do you finish other people's sentences but hadn't noticed you do it?  Maybe you never let your children finish an argument before defaulting to 'I'm the parent, therefore I'm always right' mode.  Why does that perfectly coiffed mother grate on your nerves, do you crave extra time for yourself?

Go on, own up.  You're safe here - vent all you want, I promise not to judge, who did you think of (no names please) and what did you see in yourself?



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