Posted in Challenges and Contests, Coffee and Conversation, Just for Fun!, Life Writing, Marketing my Writing, Story a Day May Challenge, Weekend Coffee Share, Writers' Resources, Writing in Freedom

June Gear Shift for #weekendcoffeeshare

If we were having coffee, you might just find me scratching my head and saying, “Wow – June seems to be flying by!’ I may also be scratching my head and staring around me in stark befuddlement….

Or, more likely, I’m at my laptop. I’m finished with #StoryADay May, other than StoryFest this weekend – I’ll tell you more about that a bit later in the post – and I’m about a third of the way through the #JuNoWriMo Challenge (think a more freeform version of NaNoWriMo).

But here I go, putting the conversation before the coffee again. I have a tendency to do that when my mind is busy, and I’m deeply involved in something….or when I have a new passion. Please do come in, sit down, make yourself at home. It’s cold and rainy today (I’m typing this on Tuesday), but it’s snug here in the house, if none too tidy.

That goes hand in hand with my busyness of the mind and overall sense of distraction.

I know, I know. I’m rambling. Haven’t slept much the last couple of days. My sleep/wake cycle seems to be influenced strongly by the moon, and there are a couple of days most months when I don’t actually sleep at night; just take a catnap or two during the course of the late morning/early evening hours. You’re catching me after the second night…and I’m more than a little bit tired.

But that doesn’t mean you’re not welcome. I’ve got a wide variety of teas, coffee, lemonade, and an assortment of snacks. Please, help yourself.

So, in addition to my marketing and revision classes, I’m also still refining my Accomplice’s labels, and now taking a more professional approach to the business side of my writing career. I’ve gotten very efficient at producing first drafts, adequate and gaining skills at plotting, and I’m making strides with revision – which means the only remaining obstacles to publication are production and marketing.

I like to start learning things before I specifically need them, so I’m making an internal shift toward those things. As time goes by, I expect to be putting more of my energy into them.

And that’s a bit of where my JuNoWriMo effort fits in. This year, instead of writing fiction for a third straight month, I’m drafting blog posts (including this one). When I’m in a place of creative intensity, I tend to get too absorbed in the project at hand to focus on writing new posts – or even reblogging older ones. Also, since I’ve been deeply engaged with fiction projects for the past two months, I’m in need of a bit of a breather – a changing of the gears, so to speak.

So I’m using my breather productively to create a blog pool. I’ll use some of the time to get back into the rhythm of my weekly blog schedule, which was abandoned somewhere along the middle of April, and really hasn’t been seen in anything more than the barest glimpses since.

But the rest will become my rough draft inventory, to be revised, polished, and packaged for later consumption.

For the first time, I will have a substantial stock of material ready to develop; once the month is finished, dedicating to a few hours a week of maintenance and replenishment should keep me in good shape. August brings another month without a major challenge, so I’ll use that for developing and finishing posts and ideas.

I think I’m onto something here, and it’s making me very happy.

Oh, I almost forgot!

This weekend is StoryFest – the “virtual recital” of the StoryADay May Challenge. If you’re a fan of short fiction, stop by the homepage anytime before Monday morning (EST), and enjoy a nibble, or a buffet, including my 1,100 word story, “Broken.” Writers write for readers to read! =D

There’s probably a lot more I could say, but I feel like I’ve been talking your ears off already, figuratively. Now I’d just like to sit here quietly and sip my drink while you tell me what’s been going on with you. If my eyes start to drift closed, feel free to just leave your cup on the table. I’ll get to it….later.

As you venture out on your way, I wish you a week that’s filled with all the joy you can imagine – and then a little more!

This post is part of the #weekendcoffeeshare, hosted by #nerdinthebrain. Clicking the link will take you to more conversations – and please leave a comment in the box below, because it’s not a very good conversation if I’m the only one talking. =)

Posted in Blogfest Entries, Challenges and Contests, Coffee and Conversation, JuNoWriMo, Just for Fun!, Life Writing, Marketing my Writing, Stream of Consciousness Saturday, Weekend Coffee Share, Writers' Resources, Writing in Freedom

To What Do I Owe the Pressure? #weekendcoffeeshare and #SoCS

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that I’m looking at my caffeine intake as a little bit more than just enjoyable, this week. You see, on Thursday night, I had a migraine – one of the worst I’ve had in the last few years. Caffeine tends to help, but this one was stubborn and nauseating, and no fun in all kinds of ways (it’s hard to find the fun when breathing makes your head throb with such sick fierceness, you’re sure you really wouldn’t mind if it went ahead and imploded, because at least then the pressure would be off…)

If we were having coffee, I’d realize by now that that’s not the best way to greet you while you’re standing on my blistering and chaotic enclosed porch, and I’d belatedly stop holding the door open, usher you into air-conditioned comfort, and ask you where you wanted to sit. I’d also apologize for being low on anything you might want to sweeten your beverage with – my Accomplice will be re=provisioning us when he gets home from working in a broiling kitchen. It’ll probably be a tremendous relief for him to wander the air-conditioned store aisles.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that the headache didn’t exactly go away, but it’s been no more intense that moderately annoying and uncomfortable, so there’s that.

There was also inspiration in the midst of the pain.

If we were having coffee, I’d share how I realized that I was imposing arbitrary pressure upon myself, because I had a preconceived notion of how I was going to achieve my novel-length writing goals.

I am letting go of that, and finding new ways to look at and move forward with less stress and more acceptance of my humanity and limitations. It feels good!

If we were having coffee, I’d notice that you’re looking a little confused. Maybe I wasn’t as clear as I could be. It’s like this:

  • I want to write three new novels in my Kifo Island Chronicles series this year.
  • I’d slated April for the first, June for the second, and July for the third, to coincide with both CampNaNoWriMo sessions, and JuNoWriMo.
  • It was a great plan – except that I didn’t take into account my last-minute decision to go for a “value-added” Blogging From A to Z April Challenge, and submit a longer version of my Star Trek: Enterprise fan fiction vignettes on fanfiction.net (another long-time goal has been to share some of these Trek stories I’ve been scribbling in notebooks, then shoving into cupboards, since I was 13 years old.)
  • Perhaps predictably, some of these stories went into thousands of words, and, in order to post them on time for each day’s story, I also had to do a decent job of rough revisions.
  • That took over, and I didn’t get quite to the halfway point of A Rising Tide, the April Kifo Island project.
  • Now it’s nearly June. I’m just past the halfway point in ART, and I’ve been writing a Story a Day this month, exploring the characters and elements of the next two novels, The Far Shore and Tsunamis. I’ve just gotten underway with the planning; the plotting comes after a good deal of character work, for me.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that, up until the migraine from Hades put me out of commission for a few hours, I was very stressed about all this. The pressure in my head was a potent signal of the pressure in my mind about all the things I “had to” get done.

If we were having coffee, I’d grin and tell you how happy I am that I realized it was all too much, and too rigid.

Now, I’ll be counting the words I need to finish ART as part of my JuNoWriMo 50K word count. That means I can be moving forward with the goal, and with the planning and plotting, without driving myself into further migraines, or even grumpiness. If I plan on having the plotting done right around the time I finish the current draft; I can start writing that one within a day or two of finishing ART (I do need a bit of a breather to reset between drafting projects. Then, once I’ve settled into The Far Shore, which I’ve slated as my June project, I can start the character work for Tsunamis.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that I still expect to finish three novel drafts by the end of July, but that this feels like a much saner way to do it. I’d exhale deeply and fully, take a good clean breath, and ask you what you’re working on, and if you’ve ever let self-imposed deadlines make you as crazy as this one made me!

If we were having coffee, I’d remind you to check out the other wonderful #weekendcoffeeshare posts at the hashtag, or by visiting Diana at Part-Time Monster. I’d also say that this post is part of #SoCS (Stream-of-Consciousness Saturday). The prompt was “press” as a word or part of one. You can find the rules here, and other posts at Linda G.Hill’s blog.

If we were having coffee, I’d walk you out to your car now that the heat of the day is easing a little. I’d point out the lovely rhododendrons, and promise to have sweetening supplies the next time you pop by! Until then, some musical sweetness to cap off your visit…

 

Posted in Challenges and Contests, Coffee and Conversation, Flat Surface Friday, Just for Fun!, Life Writing, Marketing my Writing, NaNoWrimo, Writers' Resources

The Structure of Lovely Chaos: Coffee and Conversation

When I was six, my family was driving on a highway late at night. Streaks of headlights and taillights painted the dark. For the first time, I realized that each car held people living lives as important to them as mine was to me. I wanted to know what those lives were, and to share my own. So settle in, and I’ll get you a cuppa something refreshing, and let’s chat…

How do you decide how to spend your free time? Do you set specific goals, or let things come as they will? Prefer order, or chaos?

Because I tend to prefer a blend of both, let’s explore specific goal-setting –  with spontaneity and playfulness.

A few weeks ago, in the thick of NaNoWriMo, several members of my local region decided we’d form a small critique group. We’re all working toward publication on several fronts, and we’re feeling that we need some structure and accountability in that process, so there will be rather strict policies in place:

  • We’ll be expected to submit ten pages by our weekly Sunday night write-in.

  • We’ll all submit our critiques by Wednesday, so that there’s time for people to consider changes before the next Sunday.

  • We’ll remain a small group of 4 or 5; which means that each of us needs to both submit and critique in order for this group to be beneficial.

I need a plan, so that I know which project to give my main focus to each week. The catch – I don’t like strict, “have-to”schedules. There really aren’t many things more likely to send me into full-on resistance mode. So – I’m taking a more playful tack that suits me better, while still letting me meet the requirements of our group…and that leads me through the bamboo curtain to my study, where I do most of my writing these days.

It’s about a 10′ by 15′ section at the end of our long, narrow living room, partitioned from the main space by three tall bookcases bolted into a weight-bearing wall to form a divider. There’s no window, so I’ve done what I can to add pops of color and points of visual interest. Like most of my writing, it’s still a work in progress – some spaces are in a state of chaos, others are cluttered or dusty, and a few are clean and tidy. I see an analogy to my life there, but that’s not what this post is about, so….moving on, we find the yellow-canvas covered homemade bulletin board that used to reside at the day care where I worked.

There lies the intersection of both of these quests: the desire for an embracing creative space, and the desire to build and share my repertoire of published work.

Almost two years ago, I set my bulletin board up with pages for each of my works in progress…but the setup wasn’t flexible or useful. A change was in order, and when John Holton over at The Sound of One Hand Typing introduced me to kanban boards, a system of columns for the various stages of multiple projects,  I found the beginnings of an answer. But thehe board was very linear –  great for an analytic personality; I do better with somewhat structured disorder (hence the name of this blog).

I let the idea percolate in my mind, until a week or so ago, when my gaze fell on a roll of wrapping paper, and something about the pattern reminded me of vines. Over the next days, that pattern and the board grew into a plan. It’s not quite done, yet, but it’s close, and suits my purposes:

A viny kind of beginning….
  • I can fit a great many projects on those vines.

  • Using just a stapler and a staple puller, I can move each work along the horizontal as it progresses through the process.

  • I’ll be able to see what’s active, and at what stage, at a glance.

  • I can add or subtract things as I please.

  • I had a lot of fun cutting and writing and laying out.

  • I indulged myself, and made something very useful.

  • And it’s fun to look at, too!

Taking shape, with plotting and drafting projects added.

Once I had my currently active projects in front of me, it was a lot easier to set up an informal schedule for that critique group, which begins in January – only two weeks away.

I’m focusing primarily on short stories, with a secondary focus of novels. For seasoning, I might occasionally toss in some poetry or an essay. Since I intend to make my experimental foray into self-publishing with two short stories, I’ll begin with these. Both have been published in separate volumes of the World Unknown Review anthology. While I’m working on that, I’ll be revising two more stories, and creating a plan for the first of my Kifo Island Chronicles novels. The novel revision will follow.

Simmering done, and Revisions in progress…

So, for all intents and purposes, here’s my tentative critiquing schedule:

Short Stories:

  • “A Splash of Red”: Semi-autobiographical dream-based fantasy; previously published here.

  • “Monday Morning Coffee”: Contemporary fantasy; previously published here.

  • “Slow Jazz Awakening”: Star Trek: Enterprise Trip and T’Pol shipping fan fiction.

  • “Peach Liqueur Love”: Near-future fantasy; might expand into a novella, eventually.

Novel:

I’m excited to finish the board, and to start moving projects along the path to completion. I’ll be posting periodic updates here, as we go along.

How about you? Are you a linear thinker, or a more chaotic one? Do you take your nature into account when setting goals? Do you have projects lined up for 2016? Let me pour you another cuppa – I’d love to know!

Done for now….and ready for 2016 action! =)


Posted in Coffee and Conversation, Just for Fun!, Life Writing, Parenting, Unschooling

A Matter of Timing: Coffee and Conversation

When I was six, my family was driving on a highway late at night. Streaks of headlights and taillights painted the dark. For the first time, I realized that each car held people living lives as important to them as mine was to me. I wanted to know what those lives were, and to share my own. So come on in, grab a cuppa, and let’s converse!

When do you find your inspiration? Is it easier for you when you’re busily moving from one activity to another, or do you need a mellower pace?

It’s been an interesting week, here in my world. My sleep schedule has been erratic, with two or three days where I only napped for two to three hours, once a day (it might even have been as many as four; the division between days got a little blurry and indistinct).

The children, both in phases of intense growth, have been quieter, more in their own spaces, occupied with their own projects. That gave me the unexpected gift of a stretch of time where my own thoughts and feelings could roll out, without interruptions, and new connections could be made.

I’m not saying that these are complete thoughts, but there is a feel of coming epiphany about them, a promise that, if I give them the time, space, and attention that they need to grow to maturity, I’ll have a new and deeper understanding of my own life.

Today, I’m thinking about time, and timing.

I’m blessed to live a life that flows along with its own rhythms, the way I described above, rather than being ruled by a clock. It’s one of the biggest personal benefits of unschooling to me – I can honor my own and my children’s changing sleep-wake cycles, as well as my Accomplice’s more stable, work-oriented rhythms.

I haven’t always had this luxury. Until my daughter was about two years old, I worked part-time at a small local day care. I loved the work, and I loved the children even more. But it required me to rise in the early morning hours, work until early afternoon, then hurry home so that my Accomplice could go off to work. I’d spend my afternoon and evening caring for my toddler and preschool-age child and in housework, then have an hour or two with my Accomplice before I collapsed into bed only a few hours before I needed to rise and do it all again.

I was generally exhausted, especially during the times I had a nursling. I tend to have difficulty sleeping when I know I need to be up and moving in the early-morning hours, so I was chronically sleep-deprived,

As you might imagine, that schedule left little time for personal endeavors, and even less for long and wandering musings.

Maybe that’s why I made the connection:

My life is better when I focus on timing than it was when I was focused on time.

A hyper-scheduled life doesn’t give me the space and environment I need to spend in my own mind. I ‘m the introspective type. I’m never as happy when I can’t delve into the ideas that swirl in my mind; things gather and things get cluttered, distracting me because I don’t have the time to attend to them.

And when I can’t do that – I get cranky. Impatient. Less pleasant to live with, and less able to find the lovely amidst the chaos.

All those things add up to not feeling peaceful, not being able to see possibilities, not being able to easily adjust to the changing landscape of my life. I have less int4erest in connecting with anyone, even my Accomplice and the children.

For me, timing is the thing.

I have creative surges (and, often, corresponding nighttime wakefulness) at the new and full moons. If I ‘m on a tight schedule, I won’t be able to give myself to those surges the way I can when my life is a matter of flow.

The wellspring of my personal peace comes from this creativity. A large part of that is my writing, of course, but it goes far beyond that.

It takes creativity, to resolve the tangled places that come with being a family, or being of modest means, or any number of other areas. I can make a more peaceful life for all of us, from these surges. I can reach out to you, and the world, with the ideas born in these times.

I may not always have this freedom to allow my life to flow as it will. I can’t know right now what the future will hold; clocks might become more important in my life for any number of reasons.

But, even then, I will try to remember this, and build in time I will hold sacred for my creativity, for sinking deeply into my own thoughts, and letting thoughts and feelings arise as they will, because I’m a better and happier person when I allow myself this time.

How do you honor your need for time? Does your current life support your need for creativity? If not, are there small steps you can take to get closer to ideal?

I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences!

Posted in Coffee and Conversation, Just for Fun!, Life Writing, Writing in Freedom

I Was Just Thinking….Coffee and Conversation

When I was six, my family was driving on a highway late at night. Streaks of headlights and taillights painted the dark. For the first time, I realized that each car held people living lives as important to them as mine was to me.

I wanted to know what those lives were, and to share my own. So come on in, grab a cuppa, and let’s converse!

And thinking and thinking, and then thinking some more. And yet, if you ask me what I’m thinking, I’d be very hard-pressed to express what, exactly, I’m thinking. Much of it is beneath the level of language…like I’m standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon on a moonless night, aware of the ledge and the vastness beyond, but not able to describe the shape and size and scope of it.

Something’s changing; shifting inside me. I feel a depth of possibility opening in front of me. I’m oddly excited, for reasons I can’t quite name. I’m anticipating whatever’s to come, at the same time I feel a little apprehensive at how I’m going to change…

Because I know that I am. I can feel it coming. Hiding from it would only make me miserable.

Have you ever felt this way?

I can’t say much more than this- that I’m on the brink of something, something big. I may go quiet for a while; this blog might change and shuffle. I may make changes- small and larger – in my life. Almost for sure, my priorities and focuses are going to shift.

I can see the shape and shadow of it now. In time, it’ll solidify into a bona-fide reality.

From the nebulous, the concrete.

Maybe it’s a December thing. I’ve been reviewing my quarterly and annual goals, and considering what I’ve accomplished, what remains, what still matters, and what can be let go or set aside until a more opportune time. I’m begining to formulate a rough plan for next year and beyond. I’ve also been doing some intensive research and learning on several topics, and that’s feeding into what’s shifting in me and the way I see these things.

When I was younger, I tried to rush these times. As soon as I had the feeling, and it pointed toward a certain direction, I’d fly off that way, without further thought, unwilling to be dissuaded, even if I knew I was utterly unprepared. And, more often than not, I would fail, and tell myself that I wasn’t meant for anything more or better than that.

Now I wait. I stand on the shore, ans watch the tide of change rising. I keep learning, even when I start to see the direction I’ll be moving. I use that vision to clarify what I need to learn, and then I plan some basic steps that will prepare me to move forward – the same way an expert surfer waxes her board, dons her wetsuit, and checks the weather conditions before she gives herself to that perfect wave…

I’m poised, but not idle. I’m watchful, and energized, and making ready.

If you’ve had that sense of coming transformation, what do you do? Do you dive in? Turn around and go back to your comfort zone? Lose yourself in preparations? Something completely different? Drop a comment in the box below, if you’re so inclined – I’d love to chat!

 

Posted in Blogfest Entries, Coffee and Conversation, Life Writing, Parenting

Let’s Talk About Bullying, Part Two: Coffee and Conversation

When I was six, my family was driving on a highway late at night. Streaks of headlights and taillights painted the dark. For the first time, I realized that each car held people living lives as important to them as mine was to me.

I wanted to know what those lives were, and to share my own. So come on in, grab a cuppa (we’ve got coffee, tea, milk, and water today), and a snack (little chocolate covered donuts, Wheat Thins and a variety of cheeses; grapes, apples, peaches, and oranges, today).

Comfy? OK, let’s get to it, shall we?

Have you noticed that here are all manner of anti-bullying messages in the world right now?

Last week, I began a conversation about bullying, and invited your responses (it might not have been the best idea to begin on an American holiday weekend that followed Canadian Thanksgiving. Note to self: Check calendar, before beginning a multi-part blog series!).

If you’d like to catch up, the link above will take you to last week’s post, and the premise for this seven-part series. It’s also fine to jump in here, if you’d rather. I’ll post a running list of previous posts each week, as well, so that you’ll have options.

My goal is to initiate and engage in a meaningful, respectful dialogue about bullying – what causes it, where it fits into our culture, and what we can do to eliminate it.

I welcome diverse or dissenting opinions. My one caveat:

We’ll be discussing bullying here, but not bullying one another. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Usually, these are based upon life experiences, personality, priorities, and maybe our mood when reading and responding. I welcome that – we can’t learn from one another if we won’t consider one another’s perspectives.

Please express your opinions with respect – as you wish from those who don’t agree with you. Comment moderation is turned on for new folks, and deleting of comments is a right I reserve, and hope not to need.

Last week, I talked about my personal doubts about the effectiveness of the anti-bullying campaigns that have sprung up in recent years. I ended by saying that addressing bullying itself ignores the roots of the problem, and that I think we need to be doing more. This week, I continue with some thoughts on the causes and effects of bullying. So, back to that question:

What causes bullying, and what can we do about it?

Bullies often are, or have been, bullied themselves.

  • They may feel invisible or powerless in their environment. When someone’s home environment is too controlled, or where there is an absence or lack of affection and regard, they may attempt to compensate by forceful acts that demand attention – even if that attention is negative. Bullying can bring a sense of power and importance, especially if a person doesn’t know any other ways of filling these needs.
  •  They’ve learned that those who have or snatch away power can wield it to get their own way – by insult or force or threat if necessary. They’ve felt the sting of blows, insults, and threats, and they’ve learned their lessons well, as a matter of self-preservation.

  • They may lack empathy, or an understanding of how their actions affect those around them.  Without this awareness, they may bully others throughout life, with no true understanding that that’s what they’re doing (Sheldon Cooper on The Big Bang Theory is a prime example).
  • They may lack the coping skills or impulse control to deal with strong emotions, so that they burst forth in unintended attacks on others. The heady rush of exhilaration that results from releasing  hostile emotions and  impulses they’ve kept cooped up can make even a normally mellow person feel invincible, and that can be a seductive experience.

When someone has been the victim of such treatment, or not helped to develop adequate preventive social skills, they may carry it forward throughout their lives.

Damning bullies, without acknowledging the causes of their behavior, does nothing to address the underlying issues that created the problem.

Complicating the bullying landscape is the fact that not every person will  become a bully in the situations described above. Some people are groomed and indoctrinated (whether intentionally or not) to perpetually become the victims of abusers.They’ve been told they’re getting better than they deserve so many times that they’ve absorbed the judgment as their own, and seek out connections that support this assessment, and their need to be punished and controlled – by partners, others in their lives, or by life circumstances.

Sometimes, what results is a dangerous combination of the two – a person who is a bully with those who are more vulnerable than them, and a victim of bullies themselves.

Consider the child bullied at school, then goes home and torments a younger sibling or a pet. Or an abused child who grows into an adult who is abusive to their own children, but,at the same time, extremely vulnerable to being dominated in social situations with other, more forceful, adults, including their own parents, with whom they may still have a dysfunctional relationship.

Whichever point on the bullying spectrum an individual occupies, it’s not the type of social dynamic that can be easily reshaped with a few hours of training, slogans, and public-interest advertising campaigns.

Maybe we need to start noticing what’s happening, in our own relationships and in the wider world, if we want to shift our culture from this type of interaction. Maybe we need to do better at recognizing bullying when we see it – not only the obvious and overt, but also the more subtle forms that might not easily be perceived as bullying, except to the one being dominated, who feels helpless, and has little or no power to do anything about it.

That’s what we’ll be exploring next week…until then, please enjoy your refreshments, and join in the conversation – it’s better with you than without!

Posted in Coffee and Conversation, Life Writing, Parenting, Unschooling

Let’s Talk About Bullying, Part One: Coffee and Conversation

When I was six, my family was driving on a highway late at night. Streaks of headlights and taillights painted the dark. For the first time, I realized that each car held people living lives as important to them as mine was to me.

I wanted to know what those lives were, and to share my own. So come on in, grab a cuppa (we’ve got coffee, tea, fresh-pressed apple cider, milk, and water today), and a snack (the kids and I were fantasizing about maple-bacon cookies a while ago- let’s just pretend we have some, OK?).

All set? All righty then – let’s converse!

Have you noticed that there are all manner of anti-bullying messages in the world right now?

Each is purportedly designed to protect children from bullies, and to prevent their becoming bullies. Personally, I don’t think they’re especially effective, long-term, for many reasons.

Over the next weeks, I’ll be sharing these reasons, and inviting your responses. My goal here is to engage in a meaningful and respectful dialogue about bullying – what causes it, where it fits into our culture, and what we can do to eliminate it.

I invite you to join in, even (maybe especially) if you have diverse or dissenting opinions.

My one caveat?

We’ll be discussing bullying here, but not bullying one another. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Usually, these are based upon our life experiences, personality, priorities, and maybe our mood when reading and responding. I welcome that – we can’t learn from one another if we won’t consider one another’s perspectives.

Just please express your opinions with the same respect for those you don’t agree with as you wish from those who don’t agree with you. Comment moderation is turned on for new folks, and deleting of comments is a possibility even for frequent and valued visitor-friends (though I think my bloggy peeps are an awesome and considerate group who really won’t need any moderating).

OK, so, now that all that’s been said, shall we talk about bullying, and why I have reservations about the current batch of anti-bullying propaganda?

Anti-anything campaigns are, by definition, fighting against something. That’s not only a waste of energy that could be put into finding solutions, it’s also, in this case, feeding the hostile us vs. them dynamic that creates bullies in the first place.

Mother Theresa was quoted as saying: 

“I was once asked why I don’t participate in anti-war demonstrations. I said that I will never do that, but as soon as you have a pro-peace rally, I’ll be there.”

She knew a few things about getting things done. She knew that being against something shifts the focus to a struggle to get rid of it. She knew there was a better way – looking past the thing she wanted to end – in this case, war – and seeing what could be created to address the problem at its roots, before it could spread.

Working toward a peaceful world will limit wars. Working toward creating more peace in our own lives, and encouraging others to do the same, will reduce bullying. Anti-bullying campaigns, on the other hand, are focused on the actions and attitudes that fall under the umbrella label ‘bullying’ – and, sadly, they often seem to miss the deep roots from which the problem grows.

This isn’t going to be an anti-bullying series.

I think we need to do a lot more than equipping kids with tools to defend themselves and others against bullies, or defining what types of behavior are bullying, and telling kids not to engage in them.

Because what we’re saying, when we tell kids how to deal with bullying behavior, or how to advocate for others about bullies, is that bullies are a fact of life, and must be dealt with, one way or another. We’re accepting bullies as part of our collective culture. At best, we’re giving kids a fire extinguisher and the knowledge to use it effectively.

What we aren’t doing is being sure they can use it, in that moment of panic that accompanies an attack on themselves or someone else. Like the person who freezes, holding the extinguisher and unable to trigger it and aim it at the base of the flames of an uncontrollable fire, we’ve given chldren tools that may not be at all useful in the moment they most need them.

We’re also giving the children who bully a few hours of ’empathy training’, in an effort to encourage them to see the other side of bullying, to understand how their actions are affecting those around them, and to then stop their bullying behaviors.

But, again, these campaigns act as though bullying is the root of the issue, and as though a day long assembly, complete with handouts, guest speakers, and role-playing, can eradicate the circumstances that have led to these behaviors. As I said, I think more – maybe much more – is needed.

What is that more?

Well, that’s what the rest of this series will be about. A hint: it goes far deeper than the moment where someone targets someone else for bullying…

What do you think about anti-bullying campaigns? Do you have children in school? Have they participated in an anti-bullying campaign? What was their opinion of it, if they did? Yours?

I’ll pour your refills, pass round those imaginary maple-bacon cookies, and listen.