Writing from the middle

Karalee’s Post #57

In our society the middle point of almost everything seems to be envisioned like a bell curve. We strive to reach the pinnacle and then it’s all downhill, which by the way is perceived as negative.

Emotions go along for the ride too:

  • the initial struggle to “get there”
  • euphoria or great happiness at “making it to the top”
  • and then the inevitable “let down” when the best is perceived as being over and we slide back down to our regular grind.

From the Merriam Dictionary, the word struggle means: to try very hard to do, achieve, or deal with something that is difficult or that causes problems; to move with difficulty or with great effort; to try to move yourself, an object, etc., by making a lot of effort.

Our society seems to make us want to believe that our lives in general are meant to be a struggle. For example:

  • The Work Week. We struggle out of bed on Monday to make it to Wednesday (like today) which we call the “Hump Day.”
  • Work Projects. Again there’s a planning and hard working stage that rises to the success of the project. The success is enjoyed for a time, but then it’s over and no longer so important. Another project is started, etc. etc.
  • The 3 Act Structure in Writing. The beginning where the action mounts to wards the middle where there can be mini-climaxes that keep mounting to the major climax (the bell curve can be a bit wobbly here) and then the denouement and the story is done.
  • Life. From babies to middle age is a huge learning curve and struggle to find out who we are and what we want to achieve. Then, middle age hits and we enjoy it for a bit before the downhill slide to life’s end.
  • The beginning, middle and end of almost everything in our lives.

Now, I have to admit that almost everything has a beginning,a middle and an end. On the other hand I do want to challenge our culture’s perception of a huge struggle to get to the top, and that once we are there, the value of our success seems to diminish on the downhill slide to an end that inevitably seems a negative place to be.

Do we have to keep struggling for more successes until the last big downhill to our graves? Surely that isn’t really what life is all about?

Maybe I’m questioning life today because it’s my birthday and I’m in the middle of my lifespan, seeing myself standing on the top of the bell curve and saying “what the ****, I’m not heading down yet!

What is bothering me is the perception of the uphill struggle to success. Absolutely I struggled in a big way, from surviving a traumatic childhood to pushing for higher education, then starting a business and my own family.

I struggled so much I didn’t enjoy the journey.

Why isn’t the concept of enjoying the journey one that we embrace onward straight from childhood? Why do we struggle instead of enjoying the uphill journey to success? Learning and having new experiences need not be something to fear or shy away from, so why has our school system become something onerous for our children in the First World while going to school is a sought after privilege in the Third World? 

Maybe it’s the word struggle that is misused. Even as writers we are perceived to be struggling until we are published, and then we struggle some more to get another book written, etc. No doubt writers work extremely hard for their successes, but if the work truly was a struggle, how many of us would really persist?

There must be a large fun factor woven throughout each manuscript. There is for me. There’s excitement at my initial idea and I love the brainstorming it jump starts. Getting the story to flow takes work, but I love figuring out puzzles so there is fun there too. And, of course, the euphoria at the climax and the denouement that brings all the loose ends together.

So what are we really calling the struggle? Is it the sense of not being good enough? Is it our sense of self-worth and our egos that get in the way? Is it an overriding fear of failure? Maybe it’s that our society doesn’t perceive that enjoying the journey has value?

In my uphill journey I have experienced all of the above, but in retrospect it didn’t have to be quite so much of a struggle. I definitely could have let myself enjoy university more, as well as running my own business and raising my children. I imagine most of us could have taken a few moments to enjoy our life’s path more too.

So now, standing on the top of my life’s bell curve, I have a more realistic perspective and the path down is my choice. I really don’t like heights so I won’t take the cliff route, rather I see rolling hills and peaks and valleys.

Challenges.

Challenges that I will allow myself to enjoy rather than fear and I will gladly leave most of the struggling to the characters in my stories where it belongs!

To me life should be experienced more like a slide than a bell curve; an exhilarating ride down that makes one want to rush up to the top again simply to enjoy another ride!

Here’s to middle age!

Happy writing!

3 thoughts on “Writing from the middle

  1. I love your analogy of the slide down as an exhilarating ride! As one who has been on that slide for a while, I can honestly say it’s been even better than reaching the pinnacle. May that philosophy stay with you for the rest of this great journey. Happy, happy Birthday, Karalee!

  2. Karalee, it sounds like you’ve become much more “centred” in the middle of your life, which certainly bodes well for your next satisfying chapters of your journey! I totally agree about society’s wrong emphasis on striving and struggle to the exclusion of joy and fun. All things in balance. What do you say about a culture that coins a term like “guilty pleasures”? I call it a culture that’s a closet masochist. Enjoy enjoy enjoy … you deserve it!

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