I was reading a book recently. (Shocking, I know.) Called Angelmaker, it mostly revolved around a 50s doomsday machine, although it did have some unexpected vintage lesbians, which is always an advantage in my opinion. One scene in particular stood out to me.
A character talks about a time when one of the companies from which they bought supplies made everything they sold in incredibly esoteric round bottomed containers, so they were also obliged to spend money on their very expensive clamps to hold them on the table. The narration then shows this character placing something in a rounded groove that they had built into their table.
Now, I like that thinking. Why give your money to someone else when you can make your own solutions? The thing about this scene, however, was that it showed a something very important about this character: he refused to give up when faced with a lack of options. It was pure, simple defiance. They thought they had left him no other way, so he created a way.
On the one hand, then, it's a great example of showing not telling, which we know is important. But on the other hand, it is an important message about defiance. Defiance isn't necessarily disobedience: it's refusing to take the given options.
I'm a defiant kind of guy. I mean, it's there in my story. My choices were to give up and die, or to find a way out. The way I found was not one that had been shown to me: I made it for myself. That was my rounded groove, my solution. And of course, if you're a regular reader you'll know, from this blog, how many issues I've had with my hands, how I've been limited in making suits, that sort of thing. (For the record, that's also why I have been absent, and while I'm not healed, I've managed to set JARVIS up to do some of it for me, so that I’m not gone any longer.)
And you know what? There's a crazy kind of defiance going on right now.
I don't know how many of you will be taking part in NaNoWriMo, but I know I will. Sure, so Pepper is eternally telling me that I shouldn't, that I should save my strength for the things that are actually important, and she keeps muttering that she'll tell Coulson if I defy her, that's the whole point. The more she tells me that I shouldn't, the more I want to do it. My entire NaNoWriMo journey has been formed around writing novels were supposed to be doing something else. The less time I have, the more appealing it is.
I mean, I guess it's about escapism. Getting away from my responsibilities, because I never liked them. But there's this part of me that doesn't like the two options I've got: to wait until I'm fully better, or to take it slow. Why should I? Giving in to a lack of options is not how you save the world.
You save the world by making your own options.
So you don't have time to write a novel in month? You have other priorities? Well, maybe so. But just think: can you make another option? Because if you can, then I bet that defiance in you is just itching to come to the surface. And maybe you should let it.
Your novel might not save the world, but it will change yours. Whether it's your first or your tenth, whether you publish it or abandon it, at the end of the day you've written something that he hadn't written before. And this one had the advantage of happening more quickly.
So do it. Ignore Pepper* and take the plunge.
Defy that lack of options. If you can't use your hands, then use your voice. Tell the stories you can't write. If you don't have time, sleep less. If you've got too much work, drink more coffee.**
Spoiler alert: that character's defiance ended up sorting everything out. I guess it's by refusing to give in that you become a hero.
-- Iron Man
*Don't ignore Pepper. She's usually right.
**This is terrible advice. I don't accept responsibility for anything that might happen as a result of following it. Unless it's a bestselling novel. In which case, I want 10%.