Posts Tagged With: bravery

Making It Up As I Go: The Six-Word Memoir

The myth is that the six-word story concept evolved from a challenge Ernest Hemingway once accepted. He came back with, “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” Stunning, right? It’s like the counterpoint to “a picture’s worth a thousand words.” Back in 2006, SMITH Magazine took up the idea of creating six-word memoirs and started collecting them. A couple of years later, they published, “Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Famous & Obscure Writers.” (And you can still follow their story experiments here.)

It’s a great book, and though there’s technically no plot (though you could count the hundreds of life stories as individual narratives), it’s extremely hard to put down. These are real people giving you a snapshot of how they view their own lives. Some of the entries are inspirational. “Open road, no map. Great scenery.” A lot are funny and good for a smile. “I fell out of the nest.” But every now and then there was one full of regret that just dropped into my heart with a thud . “Followed rules, not dreams. Never again.” or, “My life’s a bunch of almost’s.” True to reality, our lives are not all witty and amusing, and I was impressed by the bravery of people sharing the hard stuff.

It’s almost impossible not to start imagining what you’d write for your own life, so I started trying to think up my own. A few candidates so far:
• Jumped in pond. Made good ripples.
• Libraries saved me from total bankruptcy.
• Death’s great. No clocks. No clothes.
• Came to terms with snowflake speech.

Think about it. What’s your story?

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Categories: From the Lips, On the Page, Uncategorized, Visual Books | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

What Makes the Muskrat Guard His Musk?

Courage.

It’s not exactly what I thought it was. It’s not what the Cowardly Lion thought it was. (And, for what it’s worth, it’s not even exactly what the Wizard said it was, either, when he implied that running away from danger was wisdom.)

Even the dictionaries aren’t consistent on courage. Dictionary.com lists courage as “the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery,” while the OED’s version defines courage as “the ability to do something that frightens one; bravery.”

Notice the difference? In the first definition, courage is doing something “without fear.” In the second, it’s doing something despite being afraid.

I’ve been eyeball-deep in the findings of Brené Brown lately, a social worker and researcher who’s been spending years studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and wholeheartedness. It wasn’t initially what she started out to do, and she ended up completely changing her whole perspective on what courage really is. It’s definitely opened my eyes to a few things. Hint: real courage is about being open. Sound counterintuitive? You’re not the only one.

This exploration has had enough of an impact on me that I’m going to keep this post short, for fear of getting a little wordy with admiration, but I’ll point you to her two talks on TED.com, which she gave several years apart. You can find them here and here. They’re really quite stellar, and they are an entertaining, sincere and fascinating snapshot into how she learned (through bona fide research) that courage is inextricably linked with vulnerability—something that surprised (and terrified) her more than she expected. Her most recent book, Daring Greatly, is a great place to start if you’re looking for a good book to pick up. (Although I am also a huge fan of I Thought It Was Just Me (But it Isn’t), which is a fascinating and practical look into perfectionism—which is also an interesting counterpoint to the traditional definition.)

And so. What makes the muskrat guard his musk? It’s still courage—it’s just not what I thought it was.

Categories: On the Page | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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