The Soothing Power of “Material”

Fiction writers have a secret weapon for dealing with stress.  All the ugly messes in our lives can be reconfigured as part of a character or situation in a future story.  When my life is not going well, reminding myself that “It’s all material” can bring my stress level down in a nanosecond.  I can take the garbage and turn it into something fun.

Right now, I am in the middle of a snit fit with the woman who’s the current President of a sports club I belong to.  She missed the memo about group process and has been handling the job more like a Medieval warlord than an elected Board (of which she is but one member).   The dynamics are fascinating, and it would be downright funny except she’s messing with one of the most sacred of club traditions–the annual Christmas party.

The whole situation has had an interesting educational impact on me.  I’m noticing things about leadership and managing that I’ve not worried about much in a couple decades. Today it was a short article about mentoring that clarified the difference between “advice” and “feedback.” ( Advice is imparting knowledge to encourage wisdom.  Feedback is proving information to illuminate a blind spot.

I have been trying to give “feedback” about some of her unilateral decisions.  She will have none of it.  It’s not third grade resistance either–more like Third Reich.

So….time to file it as “material.”  If she ruins the Christmas dance, there will be another one next year.  But in the meantime, I’m observing a ton of great detail for some pain-in-the-butt character in some novel or screenplay down the road.

This experience has brought me to  aw– of how oblivious a person can be to reality.  It’s given me a first hand glimpse of a a person concocting story after story of “why we have to do this my way” as each old reason is dismantled.  It’s world-expanding to learn that someone with that much education and life experience can be that obtuse.  I can use it all–with gusto (and a lot of the details changed!)

But then comes the whammy that goes beyond being a writer:  I probably have some kind of blind spot in my own life–and am not being any more forthright in looking at that.

That, too, is “material.”  I am so lucky to be a writer.  So much material!