Last year, I shared a post about the lessons I’ve learned from my mother and how they inspire my writing. Today, I’d like to honor my other greatest role model with the most important lessons he’s taught me and how I apply them to my fiction. My family has played a large role in my life choices as well as my creativity, and much of that is thanks to the wisest man I know: my father!

So this week, I’d like to dedicate my creative writing post to the man who lovingly raised me by sharing three of my favorite lessons from him that inspire my stories. Enjoy, and thanks for the inspiration, Dad!

1) Real men respect women.

There’s a lot of debate around the question of what constitutes “being a man”. Some people measure masculinity through physical strength, others through intelligence or courage, and still others through power or wealth. Many even claim that the only requirement to make a man is a Y chromosome. My dad, however, seems to have his own idea of what it means to be a man. He’s not a big fan of sports (unless you count the tennis game in Wii Sports), he values wisdom coming from anyone, and he considers people who show off their wealth petty and obnoxious. In truth, the only men I’ve ever heard him call “not real men” are those accused of mistreating women.

If I learned anything from my dad, it’s that a real man knows his worth shouldn’t be measured by the power he can exert over women, but by how well he thrives when on equal footing with them. My whole life, my father was the only man in the house (even most of our pets were female!), yet from the respectful way he always treated his wife and daughters, I know any brothers I might have had growing up would be just as chivalrous today. That’s why the male heroes in my stories are always gentlemen who treat their female peers as equals and never look down on them in any way (the same can’t always be said for the villains). It’s a lesson my dad has been teaching me for as long as I can remember, and one I continue to work into my fiction to this day. If I expect to be treated decently by the men in my life, my heroines must demand no less from the men in theirs!

2) Whatever you do in life, strive to be happy.

One piece of advice my dad always gave me and my sisters was to “be happy”. That may sound vague, but what he really meant was that we should always make choices that lead to a positive and fulfilling life, in every possible aspect. Pursue a career in something you love doing. Marry a person – not “man”, “person” – who loves and respects you. Avoid people and situations that make you miserable. Tackle the problems you can solve and let go of the ones you can’t. In a nutshell, every decision must be made with a single clear goal in mind: being a happier person.

So I’ve tried to make choices that benefit my happiness. I’ve pursued writing and science because I love both. I’m in a relationship with someone who makes me laugh and who treats me like royalty. I work hard for the things I want and try to get past the things that make me unhappy (hard as it is much of the time). And I apply the same lesson to my stories: I give my characters clear ideas of what they want in life and the courage to jump through every hoop imaginable to get it. I once wrote a protagonist who was ready to throw everything else in her life away for the one thing she desired. Why? Because she knew it was the only thing that would make her happy.

As a writer, I’ve come to realize my father has essentially been telling me to be the heroine of my own comedy. And as long as I’m willing to pursue happiness above all else, my characters will continue to do the same.

3) A woman’s father is the most important male figure in her life.

Every girl, no matter how many strong women surround her, still needs a man in her life to serve as an example of what she should expect from all the other men she ever meets. Brothers, uncles, grandfathers, and even male friends can provide some insight, but no man is more influential in a woman’s life than her father. He’s the man who raised her, who watched her grow up, who was always there for her (or in many cases, wasn’t). He’s the first man who ever loved her and the only one guaranteed to love her forever. How can any other man hope to compare?

Princess Merida sharing a laugh with her father, King Fergus (Brave, 2012)

More often than not, the way a girl interacts with her father growing up will set the standard for how she interacts with men throughout her adult life. The relationship I have with my dad is one of my most valuable family ties because he’s more than just a cool dad to me; he’s a mentor and a friend. Our bond has made me the woman I am today and has served as inspiration for several father-daughter relationships in my fiction, and his wisdom continues to guide me and influence my stories about family. I’ve learned much from my mother and sisters, but my connection with my father will always be exceptional!

What about you? Have you ever been creatively inspired by your father’s lessons? What sorts of stories or poetry has he inspired?

Today’s post is dedicated to my father, whose love and lessons have always been a wonderful inspiration to me. Happy Birthday, Dad! I love you!

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