ON PRIDE

Have you ever had a friend tell you they are proud of you, or tell you that you should be proud of yourself or your accomplishments?  On the few occasions it’s occurred with me it always throws me off.  It seems like something a parent should say to a child, or something you should say to someone that you feel may have low self-esteem.  Tell them you’re proud of them―make them feel good.

This happened to me recently and I really had to think about what they were saying because my first response was something like this.  “What the hell do you mean you’re proud of me?  You think I need a compliment or something?”

Sometimes I have to point my finger at myself and realize it’s me that has the problem.  Why should I be the only one that’s proud of my accomplishments?  It may go much deeper.  I think being proud, or having pride is an odd concept that gets intermingled with self-esteem.  Often those who appear the proudest of themselves are using it as a cover for their own low self-esteem.

So how does one find healthy pride?  Not being an expert on this I have concluded that healthy pride has more to do with self-honesty than anything else.  Few of us are capable of carrying out a self-assessment in an honest manner.  Not because we don’t want to, but because we can only use the tools we have and those include all the self-protective mechanisms we’ve spent years working on.

Perhaps, pride is a humble acceptance of those talents that others have identified in us, and that we personally know come from our true selves and not some manufactured identity or mask we create so that others will believe something about us that is not true.

Unfortunately, that narrows the field of those with true pride.  We live in a world of people who strive to emulate identities they have found on the internet, or in movies, or perhaps their favorite rock band―A world where many people define their own happiness on whether a team of professional athletes on a sports team wins or loses―a world where few have identified who they personally are, but strive to be something they are not.  Are these people being honest with themselves—about who they are?  Or are they hiding their true selves by pretending to be something they are not?

I realize this is an uncomfortable thought but the reason I’m bringing it up is because I believe in order to create literature, art, or music, beyond simply crafting it, 100% self-honesty is required.  True art will be the result of self-honesty, and pride will be a non-evasive by-product of knowing that one has produced that art, regardless of whether anyone recognizes it or not.  The ultimate compliment comes when someone is proud of being associated with what your self-honesty has produced.  You too will know when that compliment is an honest one, or simply someone blowing smoke because they feel they have something to gain from you.

I suggest looking deep into your upbringing, all the good, the bad, the dysfunction, the pain, and the happiness and find that true self.  I know this is not easy for me, but it is something I’ve committed to strive for.  Forget about someone else’s successes, failures, and experiences and find your own. Then you will produce your best work and be proud of it.  So will those around you.

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The Prompt

I constantly peruse the blogs and internet sites for various writing exercises.  Writing prompts haven’t helped me much in the past.  After all,  I can look around my room and find plenty of prompts, from the Nutcrackers on my mantle to the college graduation gift my ex-wife gave me before we were married.

Recently, I began working with a book called “Fast Fiction, Creating Fiction in Five Minutes” by Roberta Allen.  This short book taught me that when employed properly the prompt can allow one to reach deeper into the sub-conscious.  The theory, and it seems to work, is that if given a prompt and five minutes to write a complete short, there is no time to consciously think of a story.  Thus, it flows from within.

In this book, it’s recommended to carry out six five minute prompts in a row.  After 30 minutes, you have six shorts.  With thirty minutes a day you could theoretically have forty-two first draft shorts in a week.  Granted, many or most of them may not be stories that one wants to expand on.  Eventually though, one of the stories strikes a chord and connects and you want to finish it.

This cute little book also gives a lot of tips on writing a good short story so when you do revise your story you have plenty of tools to work with.  The key is to not revise while writing the five minute story.  Just let the nonsense, misspellings, bad grammar, and whatever else shows up flow for five minutes.

It has an interesting way of uncovering personal hang ups that may prevent you from reaching your full potential for creativity in writing.  At least, it did for me.  Try it and you’re sure to learn something about yourself.  I’d love to hear what you think about the exercises.