One cold evening,
I looked outside
At the ashen sky,
Trembling with grief
For the world
I once knew
A world I feared
I might never
But a white dove
Came to me,
Bathed in light,
And told me
Not to be afraid,
That the world
Could be better
If only I chose
To make it so.
She told me
She reminded me
That just as
And every storm
So does resistance
Filled my heart
My spirit wings.
In that moment,
The fear I’d felt
Gave way to courage
And the promise
Of a brighter future.
As I watched her
Into the sunset,
What I must do.
If I want to
Make the world
A better place,
I have to believe
I can start
It’s time to
Be the change.
My submission to the February Poets for Peace collaboration. May we all be the change we wish to see in the world!
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!
If there’s one thing I remember
From the days when I was small,
It’s the lessons that you taught me,
The wisest words of all.
You told me to be happy
In whatever I might do,
Whether writing for a living
Or finding love that’s true.
Your incredible work ethic
Was your family’s guiding light,
As you worked from early morning
To the late hours of night.
For the family you so love,
You do everything you can,
And your three adoring daughters
See you as their Superman.
You’re the best male role model
That a girl has ever had.
I’d say my greatest blessing
Is to have you for a dad.
So I say to you, dear father
(I think you know the rest),
I love you times a million!
May your birthday be the best!
Happy Birthday to my wonderful father! Thank you for your inspiring lessons and words of wisdom! I love you so much!
We’re halfway through February, so let’s continue celebrating the month of love with some new “What If?” Writing Prompts! This week’s set features more prompts in the theme of love and peace. See what hopeful stories you can spin from these ideas! Enjoy!
What if… all human beings were born with the instinct to love everyone?
What if… World Peace became a reality?
What if… all forms of art were used exclusively to cultivate a more positive and accepting society?
What if… everyone went out of their way to help strangers in need?
What if… people were psychologically incapable of feeling hatred?
Have fun creating your own stories about love and peace!
If you have any “What If?” writing prompt suggestions (for any theme), please feel free to share them in the comments below. Ideas I like may be featured in future “What If?” posts, with full credit and a link to your blog (if you have one)! Also, if you’ve written a piece based on an idea you’ve found here, be sure to link back to the respective “What If?” post. I would love to see what you’ve done with the prompt! Thank you!
I’ll never forget the night I returned.
It was my first good night of sleep in weeks, the night I finally stopped crying ’til three in the morning and wishing I were anywhere or anyone else in the world. That was the night I won myself back.
The third track of my once-favorite punk rock CD was echoing its second verse through my headphones as I sat curled up on my bedroom floor surrounded by a mix of tear-stained sheets of paper, torn photos, and used tissues. I would have stayed there all night, like I had every other night, if I hadn’t opened my eyes just then and seen something that made me scream.
A person was standing there, staring down at me with a look of sheer disappointment. I was terrified, not because I had never seen her before, but because I knew exactly who she was regardless. Her face was a little more mature and she might have been slightly taller than me, but there was no mistaking her: this was myself from the future.
“Hello,” she said the moment I pulled my headphones off. “Nice to see you again.”
I stared at her in silence.
“Twelve years,” she continued. “In case you’re wondering.”
It must have taken me at least five minutes to find my voice, but she didn’t seem to mind waiting.
“I see we’re not over him yet,” she said, looking around the room. “He really did a number on us, didn’t he? I remember this mess. Took us weeks to clean up. Depression is the worst stage of grief.”
“Wha–” I finally stammered. “What are you doing here?”
She shrugged. “Isn’t it obvious? I’m here to help you.”
Those words made my heart skip a beat. “Are you here to make me feel better? To tell me that everything’ll be okay? That he and I can still be friends?”
“Not exactly,” she said, leaning closer to me. “You see, I told myself that if I ever got the chance to travel back in time, the first thing I’d do was visit my sixteen-year-old self and…”
She reached out and smacked me square across the face. It stung like a dozen white hot needles in my skin.
“…slap her for being so stupid.”
I faced her again, one hand on my cheek. “Ow! What the hell’d you do that for?”
“To knock some sense into you,” she replied, standing up again. “You don’t understand this now, but you’re way better than this. At least, you’re going to be.”
“What are you talking about?”
“This!” She gestured around the room. “Love letters? Photo albums? Emo music? Come on, girl, get it together! It’s over! He doesn’t want you anymore. He’ll never want you again. It’s time to move on.”
“But…” I sniffed, the ever familiar tears welling again. “But I can’t imagine my life without him!”
“Oh, please! You’re sixteen! You can’t imagine your life without Evanescence! And trust me, they’ll get old faster than you think.”
I looked down, blushing. “Did you come here just to humiliate me?”
“No, I just have to be blunt with you first. Things are going to get worse before they get better. As soon as you think you’re getting over him, you’re going to see him with someone new, and it’s going to crush you. You’ll start wondering what you did wrong, what’s the matter with you, why can’t he love you like you love him. You’ll think you drove him away and this breakup really is your fault. It’s not. You don’t realize this yet, but the guy you’re so heartbroken over right now is a total jerk. You may still care about him, but he never really cared about you.”
“That’s not true!”
“No? When was the last time he complimented you or went out of his way to do something nice for you? Heck, when was the first time? Face it, he used you to boost his ego, that’s all. And now he’s tired of you and using some lame excuse about focusing on school to keep your hopeful little heart on a string while he moves on. You have to get over him, and soon. I don’t want you, us, to be hung up on him a minute longer than we have to.”
“So what do you want?”
“To show you this.” She handed me a photograph pulled out of her coat pocket. In the picture was a tall, sandy-haired man, about thirty years old, with soft brown eyes and a smile just imperfect enough to give him a quirky sort of charm. I looked up at the future me and shrugged.
“Who is he?” I said. She smiled.
“That, my dear, is your future best friend… and the man you’re going to marry.”
I wasn’t ready to believe it, until I saw her wave the diamond ring on her finger at me. I can’t remember exactly how I reacted. Maybe I just stared, maybe I smiled, maybe I froze for several minutes before I shouted with joy. All I remember after that moment is my future self crouching in front of me and looking me in the eye as she spoke in the kindest voice she had used yet.
“He’s going to fall in love with you because you’re smart and adorable and incredibly loving. You’re going to fall in love with him because he’s sweet and funny and genuinely cares about you. He’s going to ask you to marry him because he can’t imagine his life without you. And you’re going to say yes because the way you think you feel about your ex-boyfriend right now is the way you’re actually going to feel about him.”
I looked down at the photo again, this time with the biggest smile I’d given in months. He was pretty cute, now that I thought about it. So this was my future husband? And I’d only have to wait less than a decade to meet him? It was the first hopeful news I’d heard since being dumped. The future me took the photo back and placed a hand under my chin.
“See? It’s not the end of the world. So dry those tears, keep your chin up, and remember that every broken heart is the start of a new journey. True love is just around the corner.”
And with that, she rose to her feet, stepped back into the shadows, and vanished, like she was never there. I might have believed she wasn’t, that it was all a dream, had it not been for the wide grin brightening my face and last night’s hastily scribbled note sitting on my nightstand when I awoke the next morning.
I’m glad I decided to return to that day and talk some sense into myself. I did eventually get over my ex, start dating again, move on with my life. I found love a few years later, waiting for me around the corner just as I’d promised myself, and since then, I’ve never been happier.
Dedicated to my wonderful boyfriend, the love and light of my life. Happy Valentine’s Day, sweetheart! I love you!