The world seems awful absorbed in “self” these days. I just put some distance between a friend and me because I felt uncomfortable in several situations with her, such that I came home feeling bad about how I handled myself in the moments. I couldn’t get past the how I felt to wonder how she felt, however, because my side felt so intense. Such struggles make for great stories.
SELF is a powerful word.
We judge politicians and businesspeople on how we would have handled a situation. We judge authors on how we would have written the book. We judge our parents on how they raised us, and parents judge us on how we raise our kids. And all the judgment is based on Self . . . how we perceive life should be.
But there are more angles to Self than setting our own personal standard for living. Sometimes we need to pay attention to Self by protecting it, so that other Selfs (yes, that’s misspelled on purpose) do not overpower our own. Self is a word that has powerful meaning, and consequences, and all too often we gloss over the concept, not taking the time to fully grasp how it factors into the equation for both ourselves and others.
Here are a few Self considerations:
Authors that self-publish do so for several reasons: power, control, fear of rejection, impatience to learn, and an inability to tackle the traditional path for whatever reason. The author keeps a grip on all aspects of the process. Sometimes it’s about taking charge, and sometimes it’s about running away from the bureaucracy of agents, editors and publishers. Bottom line, it’s about how it makes an author feel. It’s why self-published authors tend to argue louder about the path they’ve chosen . . . they are protecting a personal choice.
Some of us have stronger Selfs than others. All of use want a strong Self, but most of us juggle an internal battle with how solid we feel about our Self. Silence is easier than taking a stand. What’s important is that we define ourselves with strong reasoning and passion, and hone our ability to stand back and perceive other opinions as options, not accusations. In that strength comes the ability to control what upsets us and what doesn’t, what is good for us and what isn’t.
With motivation comes responsibility. In our endeavors to be proactive toward our goals, we risk attacks on our choices. To a reader, what he reads and wants to learn can be judged and affixed to the caliber of his being. To an author, self-motivation to be a prolific writer can draw feedback from friends and family whose time is neglected for writing time, or comments from fellow writers that being prolific means the author is shortchanging something. Self-motivation requires strength to wade through and accomplish the mission.
Self-control is to avoid temptation and stay the course. Social media can be temptation to deter us from the manuscript. Television can keep us from reading a good book. Writing for word count versus writing for tightness is a strong magnet for novice writers. A strong rein on Self is an asset indeed.
In other words, selfishness. Usually perceived as a negative trait, self-importance can also be key to living your life to its fullest. Same goes for a book’s characters. Yes, self-importance can cross the line to the detrimental and extreme, but a person or character who does not consider his Self important, finds others stealing his time and attention. A good human trait to ponder in the theme of a story.
As a reader, your first instinct is to weigh how a story impacts you. It’s about how it meshes with your Self. How the story educates, entertains or improves the quality of your Self. But remember how an English teacher could make you think outside yourself and ponder why the story was written a certain way, plucking out the symbolism, studying the metaphors? You walked away with a new interpretation of the story, and you never saw that author in the same light again. You wound up recalling some of those books as catalysts in your young life.
Maybe what we’re missing these days is the slowing down, the dissection, and the understanding of what someone meant when they said it, or wrote it. The other guy’s Self versus our Self.
As an author, consider your character’s Self when defining their motives. What if his choice altered his life forever? What if he is hiding his internal thoughts or past events, things that would make people alter their opinions of him? If a character’s whole world rocked off its axis, how would he redefine himself? If a character chose to change the direction of his life, why does he do it and how does he protect himself when others chastise him for it? Regardless of his altruistic motives, every character’s actions revolve around the Self.
Have you considered how your tale will impact a reader’s world and shift his internal compass?
What do you want your reader to walk away with? Are your words and ideas honed skillfully enough to change someone’s life . . . as a minimum find a permanent spot in his head, a subject he’d easily recall later and want to discuss?
Self is huge in our worlds, so it should also be the same in our works we write and read. It isn’t about the author telling the story but instead about the character’s self as it crumbles, guards, waivers or fights, analyzing the feedback that will occur with each decision he makes. It’s about removing the author’s self from the telling, or else burying it so deeply within the character that it’s not seen by the reader. If Self isn’t a key factor in a story, either via the reader or the character, the story is shallow and does not work.
How profound is Self in your work?
How important is Self in the works you read?