This famous quote has pushed many an aspiring writer to improve their work. It is a perennial piece of writing advice, simply because it’s true: you can’t impart on others what you don’t feel yourself. Even a liar must be convinced of his own lie if he is to persuade others to believe it. And what are fiction writers but professional liars?
A convincing story is delightful because it feels real. But that conviction comes at a price – for both the writer and the reader.
Our dragons lurk in the darkest parts of our mind, heart and soul. They go by many names, take on many different forms. But while they may be fearsome and dangerous, they needn’t be our enemies. Today’s dragon is called: Jealousy.
We all know how those birthday parties go. Someone asks: “So, how is business going these days?” and immediately your cousin tells about their new car, that promotion they got, and the tour through South-East Asia they will be going on next month.
You listen, dreading the moment they will ask: “And how about you?” Because your car is ten years old, you’ve had to put in extra shifts to increase your wages this month, and your summer holiday will be a camping trip.
Your innards churn, your throat constricts. “Why them, and not me?” whines a voice in the back of your head. Life isn’t treating you badly. Not at all, and you know it. Still, you feel sick at heart.
That is Jealousy for you. She is a vicious dragon, but you needn’t put up with her antics.
Picture yourself in a dark alley. There, in the shadows, the glint of bloody jaws. Something moves, its disfigured limbs crawling too fast to be natural. What is that? You freeze, back up. Then, nothing. Did you imagine it? You listen, you watch, until you see something in the corner of your eye and—!
What makes monster stories so appealing? And why are we so inapt to recognise those very monsters in real life?
Our dragons lurk in the darkest parts of our mind, heart and soul. They go by many names, take on many different forms. But while they may be fearsome and dangerous, they needn’t be our enemies. Today’s dragon is called: Resistance.
Small But Annoying
Recently I have been working on taming one of my smaller but incredibly annoying dragons. Every time I want to – or need to – do something, it will nag at me not to. With Resistance on my shoulder, getting through the day is like running a marathon with a ball and chain. I might have a chance of reaching my goal, but I will be exhausted well before the halfway marker.
I have no love for athletics – more on that later – but nevertheless, for years this was what every one of my days looked like. Not only did I get nothing done anymore, but every time I did accomplish something, it had cost so much energy that the gain was barely worth the effort.
Eight therapists had failed to help me tame my flock of dragons, and even this one kept slipping through the maze. Until one day, not too long ago, I noticed my son copying his mum’s behaviour…
Clearly, a change was in order. Conventional therapy was out the window, but the ideas posed by coaches James Clear and Benjamin Hardy resonated. Working from their principles, my son and I wrestled our Dragons of Resistance into submission.
We ended up needing only these two simple techniques.
From the instant a toddler recognizes its first letter, we bombard the poor child – and its parents – with the importance of reading. Yet for every child that takes to reading readily and early, there is one that can’t sit still during a bedtime story and rather plays with toys instead of staring at squiggly symbols in a row.
Once these kids grow an appetite to venture into the world of comics, they are told to put down that ‘trash’ and read ‘proper books’. To drive that point home, their school system will force them for years to read classic literature far beyond their interest and comprehension.
Which is a terrible shame. Not on those youngsters, but for them. Because if their repulsion of reading persists, they miss out on far more than a handful of books.