My Cherished Object for Cherished Blogfest 2015

Certain objects I cherish because they were gifts from people I cherish, or special memories halo them. When I inherited my mother’s and two grandmothers’ jewelry, I immediately picked out the pieces I remembered the most vividly, the pieces I’d known since my childhood. I cherish them because of their connections to the first women in my life.

CCY_PercevalsSecretCvr_FNL-960x1280.131107In terms of my fiction, characters reveal themselves with the objects important to them, or by the objects they despise. Evan Quinn, the protagonist of my novel, Perceval’s Secret, gives up everything he owns for freedom and a new life. As I explored his new life and how he would live it, I discovered that he does not cherish material objects except for those related to his heart and soul, i.e. classical music. His new violin and grand piano are important to him, his library of music scores, and his digital recordings of music. I was surprised because I also didn’t see him as cherishing people but being disconnected from people. One of his challenges is making emotional connections with people. The absence of cherished objects in his life reveals the dearth of emotional connections for this character, and his attitude toward memory.

My most cherished object? My human body is essential to my life and I cherish her. I have emotional connections with her, memories, and challenges. She is my partner in physical existence, in daily living. She is also my first home, the home and shelter of my consciousness and personality. It has taken me a lifetime, though, to really appreciate her in that way.

As a child, I learned to view my body like a machine that required fuel to run and regular tune ups. My parents didn’t believe in praise or compliments for their children because they did not want them to become conceited and selfish, so they didn’t provide any truly positive messages about my body.  I did not believe my body was good, attractive or even helpful in life when I was a child.

ccyager at 3 years old (right)

ccyager at 3 years old (right)

My memories connected to my child’s body (and later) involve both sensory memories and memories in my conscious mind. Body memories, i.e. physical sensations connected to a memory, tend to be painful rather than pleasurable. My parents believed in corporeal punishment and were liberal in its use. My other memories improve as I mature, going from ignorance, embarrassment, abusing my body with junk food and not exercising, to major changes in perspective. I began running in my 20’s and that propelled the healthy changes in diet, clothing, and connection with my physical self.

Now, as I deal with chronic illness, I am acutely aware of the role my body plays in my life, her pain, her pleasure, and my responsibility to her. She deserves to be cherished in every way, cared for with the most profound attention, and protected.

More Cherished Object stories at Cherished Linky List.

Would You Work in a Moneyless Future?

trekonomics book cover

It seems to have popped again in the Zeitgeist, folks.  Yesterday at the New York Times Opinion Pages blog, Anna North wrote about Trekonomics by Manu Saadia in which he examines the economics of the “Star Trek” universe, i.e. a universe in which there is no need for money because people are no longer focused on the acquisition of wealth.  Instead, they are focused on the achievement of goals.  They don’t need money because they can essentially provide for all their material needs with the help of a replicator — for free.  Achievement will be the measurement of success, not money.

julaug2015 the atlantic cover

Derek Thompson’s “A World Without Work” in the July/August 2015 issue of The Atlantic takes a different approach, one that acknowledges a money and market economy but does not offer any ideas for a post-money or market “economy.”  Thompson focuses his article on the development of robots and how much of the work now done by humans will be done by robots in the future.  How will that affect society?  How will it affect individuals?  Families?  We invest so much of our identities into what we do for a living, self esteem will surely take a hit, as well as how we define who we are.  So, the psychological effects could be profound.

CCY_PercevalsSecretCvr_FNL-960x1280.131107In Perceval’s Secret and the entire Perceval series, the entire world is moving toward a moneyless future.  There is an international organization that has begun work on figuring out how to wean humans off money, because in another 40 years or so it will be obvious how addicted we are to it and to the consumption and power that comes with it.  America in 2048 is the poster child for the money-addicted society with its gross economic inequality.  China is not far behind.  The economic issues between America and China not only threaten the global economy in 2048 — the global economy still functions — but also the movement toward life without money.

As I read Thompson’s Atlantic article, I thought about my work imagining the future for the Perceval series, and especially my thoughts the last 15 years or so about money, how entwined it is in human existence, and what would need to happen in order to extricate ourselves from it.  The first thing I looked at, and what Thompson discusses regarding robots doing human work, is the hamster wheel we are all on in order to survive.  That is, I must find a job for which I am qualified in order to earn the money I need to pay for my basic needs: shelter, food, clothing, transportation, utility bills including phone and internet, and medical expenses, and paying off my debt.  In our current society, the only way to get off that hamster wheel is to become independently wealthy — win the big lottery jackpot, or win the big business jackpot and retire with millions in the bank.  For anyone making a “middle class” income or below, they have little hope of ever jumping off that wheel.

But what if no one needs money to pay for basic needs because they cost nothing?  At the same time, robot development has progressed to the point where robots could replace humans in the workplace.  This would require a great leap in artificial intelligence in order for a robot to take over the duties and responsibilities of a CEO for example, but I see this as a possibility.  If money no longer needs to exist, then what?

000-money-backgrounds2-prwHumans would need to make a great leap forward in their own development, i.e. change attitudes, beliefs and ways of thinking to redefine ourselves and what we believe the purpose of human existence is.  Right now, like it or not, the purpose of human existence is to earn money.  Next, there would be a HUGE disruption/upheaval in the financial and economic sectors — banks and investment companies going out of business, people losing their jobs in all areas of human endeavor (all those billing departments, for example) — and if humans are smart they’ll start preparing for this far in advance of it.  Another area of disruption/upheaval: labor unions, government agencies, employment agencies, and anything else related to labor.

For Perceval’s Secret, a world without money, as much as I wanted to include the transition in the series, became just too big and overwhelming.  It threatened to hijack the story.  So, I had to dial it back far in the background and be content with including some specific details showing that a transition has begun.  I needed to find a way to challenge Evan Quinn’s attitude towards money as well as insure that he’d have enough to live on in his new life.  Being a musician at any time can be financially stressful.

Although a world without money won’t be happening anytime soon, at least the discussion has begun….

(There’s a movement already working toward change: The Zeitgeist Movement.  I’ve written about it before here.  They are dedicated to a “no money” future…..)

Political Correctness in Creative Writing

Parents Carrying Child

“Political correctness” has gotten a bad rap.  These two words strung together have become a catch-all for some people who regard it as another way to say “oppression.”  These people want to be free to do and say what they want without regard to others or the civility of the society in which they live.  Do you know what political correctness really is?  Gina Hunter, at Eyes on Life in April 2013, posted her take on it, and I tend to agree with it.  I’d add now that people who stand against political correctness may do so in order to maintain their feelings of power over people they view as inferior in some way.  Usually people who feel power and control over others will not surrender that power without a fight.  They need to feel powerful and in control because inside they feel powerless and insecure.

This week over at “Charles Ray’s Ramblings,” Charles Ray posted about political correctness in creative writing — should writers be politically correct or no?  If so, how far to go?  When does political correctness restrict creativity, if in fact, it does?  Charles writes, “Writing holds up a mirror to the world.  I agree.

Gina Hunter wrote:

What is political correctness?  PC says that you can’t discriminate against someone for his or her age, sex, religion, sexual orientation, or race.  It’s about treating everyone with respect, no matter who they are or where they came from, what they think or what they say.  It’s about accepting that other people don’t think the way you do, don’t feel the way you do, don’t believe what you believe or want what you want, and their thoughts, feelings, beliefs and desires are as valid as yours are.  How boring the world would be if everyone were the same.  PC is about getting along with each other, agreeing to disagree, not holding grudges, and listening with an open mind.

A-hand-writing-with-a-pen-006As a writer, if you regard your characters as people, then you’ll want to be true to them as the people they are, accept them as they are, love them unconditionally, then portray them in their stories as they truly are.  That doesn’t rule out doing so with compassion and respect.  If you have a character who happens to hate Italian Americans and his speech and behavior reflect those feelings, then it’s part of his or her characterization.  I think creative writing has the potential to reveal just how ugly and undesirable speech and behavior is that is not politically correct, i.e. disrespectful and unaccepting of others.  How abusive such speech and behavior can be, and how revealing also of the insecurity, fear and ignorance that fuels it.

No one is all bad or all good.  Human beings carry within them the potential for learning, change and growth.  I would suggest that when creating a politically incorrect character to keep in mind that taken to the extreme, without any redeeming qualities or beliefs, that character would not be plausible.  He’d be more of a caricature than a person.  Maybe you have a character who is a better than average father, works hard at being a good parent, but can’t see his own prejudices against people of a different skin color.  How does that affect his parenting?  How does he behave outside his home?  Is he confronted at his job or other places with people who trigger his prejudice? Does his wife share his prejudice or no?  You can see the rich potential in this situation — lots of potential conflict and obstacles — far more than if he were only prejudiced against one group of people.

In the same way, someone who is politically correct cannot be all good.  What flaws would this person have?  Maybe being politically correct is a constant struggle that she’s very aware of and working at.  Or maybe she makes a terrible mistake that reveals how deeply entrenched prejudices can be.  A character can have contradictions and conflicts within herself, just like any person can.  I see dealing with political correctness in creative writing as an opportunity to give my characters speech and behaviors, beliefs and attitudes, that readers can relate to as well as grapple with themselves.

kids-playing-outside_1

 

Support #IndieBooksBeSeen Today — Indie Pride Day!

Today is the second annual Indie Pride Day in support of indie authors and their books.  The purpose is to demonstrate support by posting at social media sites, re-posting other authors’ posts, and spreading the word all day.  For more information, check out IndieBooksBeSeen.com.

C. C. Yager on July 1, 2015 holding promo card for "Perceval's Secret"

C. C. Yager on July 1, 2015 holding promo card for “Perceval’s Secret”

Just a Hobby? Or Just a Job?

ugly fighter

Doubt punches me in the gut.  Where’s Faith?  Faith usually slips between Doubt and my gut, defends me, protects me, envelopes me in Hope.  Religion is not the only arena where Doubt and Faith battle.  Artists know this all too well.  As a writer, I struggle often with Doubt, calling on Faith to boost my confidence and resolve.  It doesn’t help when other people don’t take your creative expression seriously.  Then Doubt whispers, “Am I a writer?  Is my writing good enough for others to read?  Is my writing publishable?  Who’d be interested in what I have to say?”

Benjamin Moser captured this battle well in his Bookends essay from January 27, 2015 in the New York Times, “Is Being a Writer a Job or a Calling?”  He talks about the type of writer he wanted to be, a member of a “priestly caste,” a writer “whose view of literature as a means of understanding the self and the world offered a noble possibility for my life.”  I confess to having the same view of literature with a subtle difference perhaps: I consider writing a part of my learning and growth in this physical life, my way to explore, investigate, research, and learn about the human condition.  I write first and foremost for myself, then an “ideal reader,” and then the rest of the world.  And yet, when Doubt strikes, it is the rest of the world that I’m most concerned about.

Hobbyists don’t have this problem.  And there was a time, years ago, when I actually decided to abandon writing completely and do something else.  As I recall, that lasted about six months before my anger and peevishness annoyed my friends enough and they suggested that I return to being a writer.  It was astonishing how not writing affected me physically, too.  I became depressed, lethargic, acquiring a general malaise and wondering if I had cancer or something else terminal.  No, hobbyists don’t have this problem.  They write for fun and occasionally, not being driven by the creative fire inside, not needing to write as one needs to breathe.

When I returned to writing, I decided to approach it as a job, more for the benefit of the rest of the world than for myself.  I structured my work day as I would a job, giving myself plenty of time for actual writing at my desk in the mornings, then taking care of research and the business of writing in the afternoons.  But I was really writing all the time in my head.  Ideas flowed out of my imagination, teasing me with their potential.  I finally woke up to the fact that reading everyday and voraciously was a part of a writer’s job description, as well as leaving the desk to experience everything life has to offer.  Without life experiences, writers have no raw material from which to write stories.

I’ve written before about writing as a vocation or avocation, and even created a job description for a creative writer.  I’ve not written about the battle between Doubt and Faith.  As I gear up for a couple of promotions for Perceval’s Secret and my blogs this summer, Doubt has come out swinging, pushed by fear.  Would anyone really be interested in what I have to say as a creative writer?  Faith confronts Doubt: “You are a unique individual.  No one else thinks as you do.  What you have to say is unique to you, and you have a unique way of expressing it.  So yes, people will listen.” Moser supports this view: “The sense of inner purpose, so often unmentionable in a society enamored of professionalization, distinguishes a writer from a hack.”  That inner purpose is Faith.

leap-of-faith-630x315

It’s actually helped to write this morning about Doubt and Faith duking it out over my writing.  The act of writing supports Faith and my inner purpose, making Doubt look silly.  And what do you do to reinforce your inner purpose so Faith can overcome Doubt?