Wednesday, July 1, 2009


3 c: a balance maintained in an artistic work between opposing forces or elements

I love books that capture the inherent tension in life. For me, this means I enjoy books that show the sad and heart-breaking things in life, but also give glimpses of the things that make life worth living. I recently finished a book that missed the boat entirely on this tension and went into the deep waters of hopelessness. It left me feeling sodden, dripping and dissatisfied.

Not long ago a friend shared a writing exercise: Name your 5 favorite movies
, find the thread that links them, and that is what you should be writing about. It was an interesting exercise for me since the movies I named didn't really have an obvious link. I could only come up with four and they were Roman Holiday, Boyz n the Hood, Out of Sight and the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. They aren't the same genre - you've got contemporary, old and sci-fi. They don't have consistent plot theme - sad endings, open endings, hopeful endings. What they do share in common is that they portray that tension of good and bad, happy and sad, hopeful and hopeless. This is what I want to capture in my writing because that balance between opposing forces underlies everything we do and experience.

I want to be content living in the tension. The tension of planning and not-knowing. The tension of desire and delayed gratification. The tension of loving and disciplining children. This is easier said than done because it means living with the ache - the ache of wanting more, longing for more, seeking more - and loving the ache for what it teaches you. Not allowing the ache to be easily satisfied with the lazy entertainment options amply available in our world. Not allowing the ache to be quelled by distraction instead of being fully present. Not pretending the ache is not there. For me, that's the beauty of the tension of life.

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