Character: Sociology

and then

Christmas time just came and went. Collectively, it’s one of the most stressful times of the year for Americans. What is supposed to be a time of celebration and reflection ends up being a nightmare of epic proportions as we rush around trying to get gifts and groceries purchased, food made, schedules nailed down and our fortitude built up.  It’s often a time of feeling like we can never do enough. We can’t spend enough money on each person we love and we can’t give enough time to each person we’d like to see.

I actually had to learn years ago to pick and choose what I could reasonably do and simply say “no” the rest. People don’t always understand or accept that, but it’s self care and I had to come to a place of realizing that.

If there’s anything that will reveal your sociology in a short period of time, it’s the holiday season. We’re often thrown right back into the very environments that created us and if we were to pay attention to the feelings and actions that brings out in us, we’d get a great clue as to how the small world around us molded us to be what we are today.

Our sociology is made up of the following:
Parents, siblings, extended relatives and friends; economic class (upper, middle, lower); education (parents, siblings, spouse and self); occupation (parents, spouse, and self); Religion/Faith; Race/nationality; political affiliation, hobbies, etc.

Basically, everything outside of ourself, that impacts our life in any way, is our sociology.

Urie Bronfenbrenner created a theory called the Ecological Theory of Development. This theory includes five environmental systems that heavily impact our development: microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem, macrosystem and the chronosystem. When studying this in a psychology class I found this so fascinating because it breaks down the full idea of how the outer world impacts our inner world. It’s great information for writers to use in character development and it’s great for us to use in taking a long, real look at ourselves, and may help us better understand why we see the world (and our place in it) the way that we do.

Here is a diagram of the five systems and how they fit together.

Bronfenbrenner_Bioecological_Model

The chronosystem consists of events and transitions over the course of a person’s lifetime (deaths, divorces, marriage, etc), but it can also refer to historical events that have an effect on our current situation. To use the terminology of the “And Then” series, we could also call these transitions, our chapter headings. Those major events and moments of transition in our lives that effect and are affected by, all of the other systems. And if some of those moments are more historical in nature, they might qualify as a part of your prologue. It’s what sets up your story.

The macrosystem is the culture that you live in.

The exosystem is the link between the culture we live in and the context in to how it fits into our life. School. Church. Media, etc. This is often where our religious and political beliefs are developed. With the increased impact of social media and the internet, this “macro-system” is now very large and many more people have influence over our belief systems. An interesting thing about the exosystem is that it doesn’t have to actually directly come into contact with you. For example, if your spouse’s co-workers and work life influence his/her life, they are now a part of your full character development picture because they have an impact on your life, even if it is in an indirect way.

The mesosystem links the exosystem and microsystems. It’s how one thing affects the other. For example: How did your experience at college impact your family life? Did you start thinking more for yourself? Rebel? Come to better understand your parents? It’s the linking of the world we live in and how it effects our microsystem.

And that microsystem is our actual individual life. Our three areas of development (physiology, sociology, psychology). This is the area of your life where you are most able to live out your role of protagonist.

It’s crazy to think that so many outside factors have an impact on our inner-self, but it’s important to look at each area and inspect how it has fed into our story. What part did church play? What part does it play now? For me, church (a part of my microsystem) was a place of great wounding, but it was that wounding that brought me the most inner-healing and grew my relationship with Christ (microsystem) what it is today. I can’t fully understand the impact of one without the other.

Look at this as helping you put puzzle pieces together. Or connecting the dots in order to see a full picture. It’s looking at your story from a much larger point of view. The world impacts you in a very personal way and our goal through this series is to help you realize that the opposite is just as important… that you find a way to impact the world!

Take some time over the next few days to look at each of the areas and how they have, and do, impact your story. This will go a long way in your personal character development!

See you on Friday!
Blessings,
Stefne

Sociology

Character: Physiology

and then

I don’t know about you, but as a reader, I love having details about the way that a character looks. I like enough detail that I can picture them in my mind. And I’d rather figure it out for myself than have the character’s photo on the front of the book. Maybe I’m weird like that.

As I’m sure you know, a character’s physiology is their physical make-up. And while I have total control over my character’s physiology, sadly I don’t have much control over my own…. unless I want to shell out a lot of money to a surgeon… and then, really it’s the surgeon who is in control.

Physiology combines the following:
Gender, Age, Height, Weight, hair color, eye color, skin color, any visible defects, birthmarks or abnormalities, and the outward way in which you present yourself.

We understand why this is important in stories. What might be a little less clear is why this is important in our own character development. After all, at this point in life, how does our physiology affect our story?

Well, first we have to look back at our previous life chapters. How we see ourselves, from the first time we see ourselves in the mirror and beyond, has an affect on everything we do. If we think we are unattractive, that will show in the way we interact with others. If we think we’re hot stuff, that changes how we interact with others as well. If our teeth are crooked, we may hold back in speaking to new people. If we have acne, we might grow out our hair and let it hang in our face, and thus we partially close ourselves off to the world. If we’ve always believed that we’re beautiful and others have encouraged that belief, we may walk with our head held high. (That one’s a hard one for me to imagine cause I’ve never believed that! lol) If we feel short, we might try to compensate by wearing heels at all times. If we have big boobs (again, not my issue), we may be the type to show them off, or we might try to hide them.

We can literally enter into the world outside of ourselves with the belief that we have something to hide. A “deformity” to make up for. That affects us. There’s no way it can’t.

Think back to your middle-school years. The horror! Those awkward years of my life were horrible. I was literally a brace face. I look back at pictures from that time and want to gauge my eyes out so I don’t have to see them again. The braces, the feather in the hair. Good grief, it was horrible. And even to this day, sometimes I look in the mirror and tell myself some of the same things I told myself so many years ago. I especially have these moments before I speak to a group or when I’m going to be meeting someone new. If I were to let those self-defeating thoughts about my appearance get a hold of me, I wouldn’t be able to get on stage to deliver the messages that I believe God has given me. Even while I’m speaking, I’ll have momentary thoughts about what people are thinking about my appearance. It’s engrained from a long time ago and it’s a hard thing to break.

The information we tell ourselves about our looks can actually define us, if we let it. It affects how we see the world and our place in it. If we have a healthy self-image, that’s not a bad thing. If we don’t…. well, we need to make peace with who we are and the way we were created.

For example: I wear baggy sweats. A lot. It’s partly because I rarely leave the house. It’s also because I’m self-conscious about my body. I hide myself in my clothes. Being in sweats out in public makes me less likely to walk with my head held high, which means I probably miss a lot. I’m less likely to interact with people, so yes, I miss a lot there as well. If I left the house in sweats and still took the world head on, it wouldn’t be a problem. But the very fact that I am partially hiding from the world… that reveals a lot. And it’s an area of character development that I can work on. I either do something to feel better about my body through diet and exercise, or I just come to terms with the reality of aging. Whatever it is, I’m cheating myself by hiding. It’s an area that I can look at, be honest and do something to improve myself.

Your physical appearance tells it’s own story. Come to understand it. What does it say about who you are? How does your appearance effect your story? Part of growing your character is acceptance, understanding why you do some of the things you do and determining what attitudes you want to change (if any). Look at the attributes that I mentioned (gender, age, weight, etc) and honestly think about how they affect you. Is there an area that you need to confront? An area you need to accept? Do it! You’ll only come out the other side a stronger character in your own story!

Blessings,
Stefne

Character Development

and then

Once I have an over all plot, a protagonist, antagonist and supporting cast in mind, I get busy with character development. And let me tell you, I love it! Love, love, love it!

One of the first things I do is log on to Pinterest and look for inspiration. I have a jumping off point, with the plot. And knowing that piece of information gives me a general clue as to what my protagonist will be like. But it’s getting a visual that takes a bit more time.

I find a photo of a person that has a similar look to what I’m thinking. I find clothes that would fit their personality. Seriously, I go crazy. If you go to my Pinterest, you’ll see several different Writing boards, and each character has their own development board.  I also keep a copy of a the collection on my computer. Here’s an example (it was my original concept board that I created about four years ago for Gifted)

20150101_204342

The reality of character development is that it never ends. I might come up with the general make up of a character, but as the story moves forward and the character faces obstacles and encounters new people, they change. They grow. But when the rubber meets the road, if I’ve truly prepared for writing a character and come to know them the way that I should, whenever they come to a situation, I will know what they would or wouldn’t do. I understand them enough to know what lines they’re willing to cross and which lines are immobile.

Do you know this about yourself? Hopefully having an idea of your plot/purpose helps, but do you know yourself? The good? The bad? The ugly that we hope nobody else sees? At any given moment in time, at your core, do you know what it is you stand for and who it is you are? And if not, how can others know what to expect of you, if you don’t even know yourself.

Our growth never changes. Our development is ongoing. We learn from experience. We come to understand why we make the mistakes we make, and how to change our behavior so that we don’t make the mistake again. That’s development. We learn what things we believe are worth sacrificing for, and which things we should let go of.

Don’t move through life expecting to finally “figure it out”. Once you stop growing, you basically stop living. Know who you are. Be willing to learn from life and grow. Everyone around you will benefit from your personal character development.

In the next few posts, I will help you determine your own character, and how you became the person you are today!

Blessings,
Stefne

A Good Supporting Cast

and then

(To those that got an odd and out of order blog notice today, I’m sorry! That was an accident. The Open Your Eyes blog was meant to be a link, not a new blog)

Aww, the supporting cast. So much fun to write. So. Much!

For me, it’s the supporting cast members that I have the most fun with. They’re the friends that I’ve always wanted, or in a few instances, actually had. They bring the fun, and sometimes, bring on the conflict.

There’s a lot you can do with a great supporting cast. Often, they can get away with saying things that your main characters never could. I did this a lot with the character of Tammy in Salvaged. In my own mind, Tammy was Attie’s alter ego. Part of the reason she enjoyed (and put up with) Tammy was because Tammy said and did so much that Attie secretly wished she could. Tammy didn’t need to have the filter that Attie did. That made her a blast to write.

For Anne (also from Salvaged), her role was more of the positive role model and the encourager. She saw the best in everyone and was the hopeful one. Anne was who Attie went to for wisdom and to help her take the high road in difficult situations. Tammy was who Attie went to if she wanted someone to get in the mud with. Tammy and Anne were the yin and yang in Attie’s life. A fun, balance and non-stop entertainment. What friends should be.

With the predominance of social media, I sometimes wonder if we’ve truly forgotten what a friend actually is. On Facebook, we’re “friends” with anyone we wish. We’re sharing information and our lives with people who in all actuality, we often never actually would if we were face to face. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve made great friendships on Facebook, but the vast majority of individuals are people who I have never and probably never will have an actual face to face friendship with. Most of those friends are more like acquaintances, not a part of my supporting cast.

We need community. I believe we were created for it. We need people around us that will add a richness to our lives and for which we can do the same. We need a great supporting cast! And not everyone is worthy to be a part of our supporting cast.

After a fallout with a friend in high school, a very wise male gym teacher told me: “You’re probably only going to have four or five true friendships in your life, and one of those is the person you will marry.” It’s been thirty years and those words still stick with me. They are a comfort to me when friendships come and go in my life because they remind me that not all friendships are meant to be long-term. Friendships, ebb and flow. People change, life seasons change. But there will be a few people in our lives, that are the truest of friendships. They are our true supporting cast. Often, they are those people that we don’t actually get to hang out with as often, but when we do see each other or speak, it’s as if no time has passed. It’s those people who have seen us through ups and downs (and us, them) and who know us and understand our story. They are on our side. They support us. They speak the truth into our lives and don’t just tell us what we want to hear. There is a vulnerability with our supporting cast that we don’t (and shouldn’t) provide for everyone in the friend category.

I’ve learned the hard way, that sometimes, those people who we want to believe are a part of our supporting cast often play the role of antagonist. They have to be the protagonist in everyone’s story, there’s jealousy, gossip, or only find you interesting if you do as they want or are serving their needs… it’s just plain unhealthy. We enjoy spending time with them, or we want them to like us, so we go out of their way to accommodate them, but in reality, the friendships aren’t good and deep down inside, we know it. It’s okay to keep those friends at a distance. It’s actually smart. And if we’re spending time with people that pull us away from our path… we have to find a way to get back on track. With or without them. If you have time, I suggest you read this post I once wrote after having to end some friendships in my life.

Choose your supporting cast very carefully. They have some of the greatest impact on your life.

Your supporting cast members should be:

a positive voice in your life
support your life journey
be trustworthy and loyal
provide a support system

And you should do the same for them!
Take a look at the people closest to you. What role do they play in your story? And what role should they be playing? Are they different? If so, start writing a different role for them.

See you on Wednesday!
Blessings,
Stefne

friends 2

The Antagonists in Your Life

and then

Welcome back!

You’ve had the weekend to process the idea of being the protagonist in your own story. And hopefully, you’ve come to a place of wanting to propel your story forward, rather than hand your power over to someone else. As I mentioned in the last post, being the protagonist in your story isn’t about being selfish, it’s about staying true to your path/plot and encouraging the others in your life to do the same with theirs.

As I’m sure all of you are aware, in order for a story to work, you have to have both a protagonist and an antagonist. The antagonist of a story is a secondary character that tries to thwart the progress, growth and accomplishments of the protagonist.

Quite often, antagonists are characters with little to zero redeeming qualities. There is nothing to like about them and we never get a sense of their own internal struggle that has brought them to this place of trying to thwart the protagonist. All we know is that we don’t like them and we want our protagonist to defeat them.

We fight an enemy like this in our lives. THE enemy. He’s come to steal, kill and destroy. Could you get a more epic antagonist? There’s no hiding what he’s trying to do and why. The ways in which he does it can be stealth, but we can never doubt that he is at work.

If we have a purpose from above, which I believe we all do, then we can guarantee that Satan is the puppet master behind anyone who is trying to thwart our process. The interesting thing is that some of those attempting to obscure our path might not even realize they are doing it. Unlike movies and literature, in the real world, our antagonists often aren’t even aware of what they are doing and that they are being used by THE enemy to carry out his work.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand that we all have obvious “haters” who don’t like us and don’t want to see us succeed. But they don’t actually become an antagonist in our life unless and until they are actively attempting to thwart our positive movement. It can be a hostile work environment due to a co-worker, meddling and over-bearing parent or in-law, a dominant spouse… an antagonist can wear a lot of hats and be anyone. Anyone who tries to change you or keep you from being true to yourself is an antagonist in your story. Anyone who wants (or commands) all the focus on them, is an antagonist in your story.Remember, it is anyone who thwarts your forward progress, or allows you to give up your path to help them along theirs.

For those of us who don’t tend to play the protagonist in our own life, we can easily walk into co-dependent behavior. So focused on “helping” others, that we completely ignore our own path. It is a power that we willingly give up and at that point, in an odd way, I believe we become our own antagonist.

A good antagonist will cause a protagonist a lot of trouble, even if it isn’t their intention. Based on that definition, it becomes more clear that we can be our own worst enemy.  Sometimes, we just have to get out of our own way. Start trusting more, and believing in ourselves and our path. And sometimes we have to let go of trying to “help” everyone else along their way and make sure we are where we’re supposed to be.

Part of being the protagonist in your own story is being a worthy adversary to those that the enemy is trying to use to thwart your positive growth and movement. You are in a battle. We all are. That’s why being the protagonist in your story is so important. Any time use give up your power, or your “protagonism” so to speak, you give the enemy a large portion of territory in your life. If we give up our path, and our power to move someone else along, the antagonist wins.

The enemy is busy, at all times, working to defeat you. God has given us all the tools we need to defeat him. If you aren’t standing up to take on your true role, you are losing the battle without even putting up a fight.

Sit down and look at the relationships in your life. Who is the enemy using to play the role of antagonist (there can be more than one)? Once you identify them, figure out how best to “conquer” them in their quest. Often times, it will simply be taking your power back and becoming the protagonist you were meant to be. Other times, it may require you to make some hard decisions and even exclude some people from your life.

On Wednesday we’ll take a look at those around us, our supporting cast, to determine just who it is we want/need around us, and those that are best outside of our inner-circle.

See you on Wednesday!

Blessings,
Stefne

Oh crap

Are You The Protagonist In Your Story?

In the writing process, once I have a general idea of what a plot might be, I determine who will be my protagonist.  In a story, the protagonist is the lead character. It is their character arc that is most important and it is their growth that is the focus. Occasionally you might have more than one, like I did with Salvaged, where Attie and Riley both had points of view and character arches, but for the most part a story concentrates on one protagonist.

It is the idea of protagonist that lead me on the journey of writing this blog series. Over this last year, I’ve had some setbacks and heartbreaks (like many of you have), and I realized a lot about myself. One of the things I uncovered is that I often sit back and take a secondary role in my own story. I don’t live as a protagonist. I don’t move my own story forward, I often let others dictate the way my story is being told and the direction in which it is heading.

With each situation, the reasons may be different, but the reality of it is that I allow myself to take a backseat and I give up control. In a story, a protagonist may do that from time to time, but it’s momentary. Why? Because readers/viewers have a hard time rooting for, caring about and relating to a character that doesn’t even root for or care about themselves enough to be the priority. We don’t like wishy washy characters that go whatever direction the wind blows. We don’t appreciate characters that don’t take a stand or defend themselves. And we can’t root for a character when they aren’t fighting their own fight.

When we aren’t the protagonist in our own story, that can often mean that we don’t see ourselves as being worthy of being that person. And if we don’t think we’re worthy, others won’t either. We begin to take whatever treatment we’re given. Among other things, we take abuse and disrespect because, after all, it’s not our story we’re focused on. It’s someone else’s. Or we put someone else’s wants, goals and more, ahead of our own.

There is a movie I saw several years ago and it always stuck with me. I’m going to use it as an illustration. It starred Andy Garcia and Meg Ryan. In the story, Meg Ryan’s character is an alcoholic. Andy plays her husband and is the supporting character. It’s Meg’s addictions and inner-battles that lead their story. He simply responds to what happens in her life. Does he grow or change? Sure, but most of his growth and change is in reaction to her unhealthy behaviors, not in spite of them. You pity him the entire movie. Who would want that life? Why doesn’t he do something? When will he stand up for himself and put his foot down? Why doesn’t he protect the children from the craziness? These are all questions we ask from an outside perspective. And of course, in the real world, the answers to those questions are very complex and there isn’t one solution, but I’m trying to make an overall point, not a judgment. In life, if you lived the Andy Garcia role, you aren’t the protagonist in your own story. You’re the hand-wringing, mentally tortured, secondary character whose storyline is one-hundred percent dependent on that of the protagonist. Even when he finally gets her into rehab, she is thriving and he is falling apart. He is suddenly lost, due to her changing situation. Apart from her, and her sickness, he doesn’t know who he is. He doesn’t move the story forward, she does. At every moment. He simply goes along for the very bumpy ride.

If we rewrote that story and made Andy the protagonist, how different would it look? Meg would still be an alcoholic active in her addiction, right? Who knows? If Andy acted as the protagonist from day one, and asserted his boundaries, perhaps Meg’s character would have sought help earlier. Or, if when rewriting the story, Meg is still an active addict, yet Andy is taking the role as protagonist, he doesn’t allow himself to be lost with her. He learns to separate himself from her addiction. It is possible for him to care for her, while simultaneously refusing to be drawn into an unhealthy spiral. If you rewrite that story with Andy as the protagonist, you get a very different story and a much more likeable character in Andy. You suddenly root for him, and you appreciate his willingness to take a stand. You might feel for him, have empathy or compassion, but you respect him in the midst.

Another example:

Rocky. I love the Rocky movies and will probably mention them often on my blog. This one isn’t hard. Rocky is the lead character. He’s the protagonist. It’s all about him. He’s chasing his goals. He’s facing his inner demons and conquering them. And Adrian? She’s the supporting character. Her life is all about Rocky. She supports him, literally sits at the gym and watches him train, roots for him, and makes sacrifices for him. Does she change and grow? Yep. But it’s almost always portrayed as happening because he brings it out in her, not due to her own goals, and plot line. Even Paulie (Adrian’s brother), who is also an alcoholic, is effected by Rocky. Rocky’s success increases Paulie’s jealousy and disdain for himself, which only makes the drinking worse.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with being an Andy or an Adrian. We all need supporting characters in our lives, but we shouldn’t be a supporting character in our own!

There’s nothing wrong with supporting those we love or with being a part of a team, and a bigger picture. We don’t always have to take the lead and there are times when we will take a backseat in order to achieve a larger goal. There will be seasons of life where our focus is elsewhere, but that doesn’t mean we sacrifice our own path or our true self. We can be the protagonist in our own life, while simultaneously being a part of a couple, family or team. But it’s when we set aside our own person, our true self, and our own wants or plot lines, that we allow ourselves to become a secondary character. Andy could support Meg AND maintain his independence and path. Adrian could be her husband’s number one fan, while at the same time chase after her own goals, rather than sit back and watch him live out his.

Are you like me? Have you realized that you often take on that secondary character role, rather than stepping up and becoming the protagonist you deserve to be? If so, you can change roles. You aren’t stuck. It is possible to live your life with passion, purpose and a clear plot line, while at the same time supporting those that do the same in their own journey. There is a healthy balance of being a protagonist without being selfish. Looking out for yourself and staying on your path doesn’t mean you ignore the needs of others, or consider their paths as less important. If being your own protagonist causes someone else to step away from their path (and thus make them unable to be the protagonist in their own story), guess what? That makes you the antagonist in their story. Ouch. And if someone in your life wants you to make them the priority at the cost of your own path/plot, that makes them the antagonist in your story. Double ouch. (We’ll talk about that more in upcoming posts)

What’s the point in having a life purpose/plot, if we aren’t actually going to live it? Or if we’re going to give others (who have their own agendas) the power to determine whether or not we move forward? What I’m encouraging you (and myself) to do is make ourselves, and our paths, a priority. Not at the expense of others, but in addition to. We can all be protagonists in our own stories, it’s just a matter of where the power is placed. Within yourself or will you give it away?

If you haven’t been the protagonist in your story, start the next chapter with a new point of view. The point of view where you are the lead character and you move your own story forward.

See you back here on Monday! Have a great weekend!
Blessings,
Stefne

Be there for others

I’ll Have What She’s Having

One of my rules for blogging is to be open, honest and vulnerable. I’m one of those sorts who thinks that faking your way through life is a cop out to yourself and an unjust to others.

I thought I’d start today’s post with a story from my life and a truth which I’m not very proud of, but many of you already know.

Here goes…

I was a huge Twilight fan.

Yep, I was. I liked the books but I loved the movies. And I loved the movies but I was in love with Robert Pattinson. Okay, maybe not in love, but deep, deep like. I’ve moved on since then, but the like was real. He actually inspired the character of Cabot in Collision, which is a long story but maybe I’ll share it one day. If I shared it today and admitted to practical cyber-stalking for “research”, I would double my humiliation in one 24 hour period.

Anyway, a few years back, and just before the release of one of the Twilight films, they had apps floating around that allowed you to use a photo of actors/characters and post your face in them so it looked like you were there with them. For fun, I scrolled through the Twilight options and chose one that would put me in the place of Kristen Stewart (Bella) and right smack dab in the middle of Robert Pattinson (Edward) and Taylor Lautner (Jacob).

I searched and searched for just the right photo of myself, and then plopped that thing right in the slot where it belonged. Then, I sat back and gazed at the photo. Me, Rob and Taylor! I gazed for a brief moment and then screamed: “I’m so ugly!”

You see, I’ve always known I wasn’t the most attractive woman on the planet, but seeing myself there between two beautiful people made my lack of beauty that much more obvious. I looked hideous! So hideous that I deleted the photo and any evidence that it ever existed.

I tell this embarrassing story to begin my point for the day: Comparison sucks, and when you stick yourself next to an ideal, you’re gonna come out feeling like garbage and believing you need a major overhaul.

As you’re coming to that place of realizing your purpose/plot, I want you to do yourself a favor: While you’re on your journey, refrain from glancing over to check out the plot of others and comparing yours to theirs. It’ll only cause you misery.

Not because they have an awesome purpose and you’re slogging with worms, but because you’ll never be comparing realities. We only see the highlights of other people’s lives. We see the pretty moments they put on social media. We see the one photo that’s been chosen out of fifty-seven attempts and then filtered, not the one that makes them look as if they have twelve chins and a blotchy complexion. We hear their proclamations of success, not their confessions of failure or setbacks.

Comparison causes you to focus on what you lack, rather than what you’ve been given. How on earth can we move forward in our own journey when we’re busy focusing on what we don’t have? Perhaps they do have something you don’t, but you also have things they don’t. And what you do have, is exactly what you need to accomplish the mission set before you.

Look, we can’t all be a Zac Efron and have amazing looks, PLUS acting, singing, dancing and basketball playing abilities, AND the ability to do them all at the same freaking time (Now or Never, anyone?). No sense in focusing on what isn’t. We need to focus on what is.

Further, I’ve noticed that self-esteem wise, other than when I’m in a picture with Robert Pattinson, I’m at my lowest right after I’ve perused social media sites. And I’m not alone. Studies show that social media causes an increase in anxiety and stress and can cause lower self-esteem. All because we’re comparing ourselves to the highlight reels of others. It isn’t reality.

We’ve all heard the saying: “The grass is greener on the other side.” First off, that’s not true. The grass on the other side has it’s issues too, we just aren’t close enough to see the dead patches. Second, if you have your plot line figured out, you should be at a point where you’re so focused on your own grass, you don’t have the time or the interest to worry about what anyone else’s looks like.

As for me and Rob, I’m not meant to be an actress. And sadly, if I was, I’d be more likely to play his much, much older sister rather than his girlfriend. So putting myself in that photo was like trying to put a square peg in a round hole. I didn’t fit. I didn’t belong. Where I would belong is behind the scenes creating a story for someone like Rob to bring to life (a girl can dream). His grass isn’t really any greener, it’s just different grass… (there’s a joke there but I’ll let it pass and let you run with it.) :)

Comparison is one of the quickest ways to derail your journey. You’ve come this far. You’ve discovered your plot line, your purpose. Don’t let an unfair comparison hold you back!

Blessings,
Stefne

Comparison

 

 

The Struggle is Real

and then

So far in this journey, we’ve concentrated on our plot. We’ve come to a place of understanding the importance of an overall plot in our lives, you’ve hopefully gained some understanding of what your plot might be, and we’ve learned how to use the knowledge of that plot to improve our lives.

But I can’t move on from this topic of conversation without giving a word of caution: be on guard for appealing things that will lure you away from your path.

And this, my friends, is where my preaching comes out. Sorry, I can’t help myself.

When we’ve discovered our path, for those of us that believe that our path is God ordained, we can not walk into it blindly. We cannot walk through our journey and forget that if God has a plan for us, the enemy will do everything in his power to stop that plan from ever coming to fruition. And if the enemy has it’s way, he will stop it in it’s infancy and before you’ve picked up momentum or build a confidence about the mission that lies ahead.

He might first try to cause confusion and doubt. Much of the time, just causing us to fear the uncertainty of our path is enough to get us completely off track. We give up before we really even start. The enemy loves that stuff.

But if he can’t succeed with fear, doubt and questions, he’ll get right down to business of putting opportunities in front of you that you feel you just can’t pass up. You know how we are, we love bright, shiny and beautiful things. And we like easy. And what the enemy offers is often shinier and easier than what God seems to offer.

Being lured away is a common thing. God gives a vision and has a plan for you, yet the enemy makes it so easy and appealing to walk away.

Sure, we justify it by telling ourselves that we’ll get back to it once we… have enough money… have enough time…when we’re older… more established… the things we tell ourselves can be anything.  But one lesson that I learned this year makes this idea of putting it off, less appealing. What did I learn? Life isn’t guaranteed.

Okay, I’ve known that before, but it really set in for me this year. Sure, I could put off doing what God has asked of me, but I’m not guaranteed tomorrow let alone enough time to go chase money or fame or “security” or love or whatever else it is that I think I need. We forget that if God has a plan for our lives, he has the provisions that we need to accomplish it. Maybe not excess and maybe not what we think we need, but he provides what he knows we need.

If the enemy has his way, we run off and do everything but what keeps us on our path. And he wins.

I freaking hate that!

So, when the enemy starts dangling those things in front of you that make it appealing to walk away or postpone, remind yourself of your path. Weigh the costs. The last thing you want to do is take a “quick” or “momentary” alternative route, and then years later feel like you’ve missed out on something.

Stay true to your plot. No matter the sacrifices and no matter the doubts or fears. Stay true to the vision that stirs your spirit, and though the road may be a little bumpy, you won’t regret the journey.

For reflection, here are some scripture references for staying on your path:
Psalm 16:11- You have made known to me the path of life
Psalm 17:5 – My steps have held to your paths; my feet have not slipped.
Psalm 23:3 He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Psalm 27:11- Teach me your way, O Lord; lead me in a straight path
Psalm 119:35- Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight
Psalm 119: 105- Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.
Prov 4:18 – The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.
Prov 5:6 – She gives no thought to the way of life; her paths are crooked, but she knows it not.
Isaiah 42:16 I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths, I will guide them.
Jeremiah 6:16- Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it.

Blessings,
Stefne

On course

 

The Big Picture

and then

Welcome back, and I hope you were able to gain a little more understanding as to what the plot of your life may be. If not, don’t worry about it. Just as it happens when I write, the more I learn about a character and the more situations I see them in, the more the plot reveals itself.

While God may know our plot even before we are born, we sure don’t. It takes life experience and a bit of paying attention to what’s going on around you to start seeing it all fall into place. So, if you haven’t figured it out yet, keep up the search!

Contrary to screenplays, which have very little room for exploring a plot, in our lifespan we have the freedom to feel our way around a bit. We can take different paths and try on different experiences, but even in those situations, if closely examined, you will more than likely see a common thread or motivation.

So how does this revelation help you? Well, it helps in a lot of ways. Most importantly, when you have a clear direction of where it is you want to go, you are much more likely to be able to create situations that help you get there. Like I said in the last post, if I know my plot is to draw people to Christ, I can choose a lot of different ways to get that accomplished. As I’ve done so far, I can be a part of a church staff, I can write stories that draw people to Christ, I can speak to groups, I hope one day to make films… there are a lot of ways to fulfill my life’s purpose.

Once you know your plot/motivation, use that information to help you make decisions through life. I will use myself as an example. I want to help people find emotional healing and a personal relationship with Christ. I recently had to make a decision on what to pursue as an occupation. While my biggest dream and goal is to make inspirational films that fulfill my plot, that isn’t in the cards right at this moment. Since I couldn’t choose that, I knew I needed to choose something else that would still allow me to follow the plot line of my life. I’ve had a political background and a sales background. Either could’ve worked but would’ve made me less likely to fulfill my purpose. I finally landed on becoming a Licensed Counselor. The occupation combines my talents, many things that interest me, AND keeps my plot line in focus.

Let me give another example. Last year I had a novel that I’ve written just sitting on my computer. I had several options in front of me with regards to what to do with it. I could hold on to it; I could try to find an agent and publisher – which could take months or years, or never; I could self-publish it; or I could simply release it on my blog. I thought about all of my options and none were bad, but when it boiled right down to it, I knew that Gifted was a story that had the ability to truly help people. If my goal is to help others, why would I wait years to do it? I went ahead and released it on my website and ended up being correct. There were several young people who wrote to tell me that the message contained in the story was just what they needed.

When you take the situations of your life and throw them up against your plot line, it’s pretty easy to see what will keep you on that path and what will lead you away from it. It takes persistence and a willingness to not only be honest with yourself, but to make tough decisions.

And while following a path can often mean you have to make tough decisions, it also means you have a better shot at reducing chaos in your life. Things either fit or they don’t. It’s a yes or a no. All you have to do is get better at saying no to others… and to yourself.

A clear plot line helps you prioritize your time and activities. When it all boils down to it, what’s worth going against it? Anything? I know that I’ve found that I might really want something and eventually get it, but if it doesn’t fit into my life path/plot, it doesn’t take long for me to figure out that the thing I wanted so badly isn’t actually that fulfilling or enjoyable. Just one more reason why it’s best to often get out of our own way and let The Author have His way.

Continually ask yourself, “Does this fit into my plot line? If not, just like a writer would, scratch it.

Just knowing the place you want to be ends up shining a bright light on the path you should take in those spaces between … and then…

See you on Monday!

Blessings,
Stefne

Lose my soul

 

 

What’s the Point?

and then

When a writer sits down to create a story, they often ask themselves: “What’s the point?”

For myself, when writing Collision, I had an idea for two separate characters from two very different worlds. I knew I wanted to put them in close proximity to see what would happen, but no matter how interesting that sounded, it wasn’t a story until I figured out the point.

What’s the point of putting these two together? What question am I trying to answer by doing so? Until I could answer that overlying question, I didn’t really have a story to tell. I had some cute scene ideas, but even the scenes didn’t have a point so they didn’t necessarily add anything to the story.

It’s no different for your life.

In order to truly live out your story, you need to know the plot behind it. You need the bigger picture of your story and it needs to be clear. An unclear plot is just as bad as no plot line at all.

The big question is how to figure out what it is.

I’m going to ask you a series of questions (similar to those that I ask about when developing a fictional story) and I encourage you to take the time to sit down and thoughtfully answer them. This may take some time, so don’t try to do it in your car or while your kids are playing in the next room. Set aside some time and honor it.

I’ve created journal paper for you to use in the following activity, if you would like it. Click here to print.

Write the “Chapter Headings” of your life. [From your time as a child to present, a “Chapter Heading” is a milestone or defining moment in your life. No more than 8-10] Think deeper than wedding, kids, new job, etc. Some examples from my own life would be: Being called “stupid” by my teacher and taking on that label. My parents divorce and the rejection of my father. The loss of Karim and Phiona. The dream that launched the story of Salvaged.

For each “Chapter Heading”, answer the following:

1. What was the reason for choosing that as a defining moment? What was it’s significance in terms of how it altered the course of your life?

2. Was this a positive or negative chapter in your life? If it was negative, what was the cost? Examples: You became bitter. You built a wall. You became fearful, etc. If positive, what were the rewards? Examples: Built your self-esteem. Fed your faith. Built a stronger relationship, gained independence, etc.

3. What were the good and bad consequences that came from that chapter? Examples: Lost a job, got a promotion, got married, got divorced, etc.

4. What was required of you in that chapter? Examples: Hard work, dedication, surrender, forgiveness, independence, loyalty, the conquering of a fear, withdrawal, action, etc.

6. Did you enter that chapter willingly or were you forced due to circumstances? Explain.

7. At the completion of the chapter, did you wish you had handled it differently? If so, what would you have done differently?

8. What part did faith play in each chapter? Do you think the presence or lack of faith influenced the events of that chapter?

9. How did your personality style influence what happened in the chapter? (If you aren’t sure of your personality, I suggest you take the Myers-Briggs test here.) Were you true to yourself or did you change or hide your true self?

10. How did your spiritual gifts influence what happened in the chapter? (If you aren’t sure of your spiritual gift, I suggest you take the test here.) Were you true to yourself or did you change or hide your gifting to suit the situation or others?

10. During that chapter, were you listening to your inner-voice or ignoring it?

Almost done….

11. Which chapters were most rewarding? Why?

12. If you could relive any chapter(s) what would it/they be?

13. If you could do anything for an occupation what would it be and why?

14. What tends to motivate you the most?

Once completed, look over your responses. Circle the words that reoccur. What idea or theme do you find throughout? Do you see commonalities in your successes and failures? What got your heart beating fast? When were being most true to yourself? Those are all clues as to what your underlying plot point might be.

As you might have noticed, you’re pretty much telling your life story, and you’re doing it under a bit of a microscope. I did this myself and that’s how I came up with my plot – to be used by God to help people heal and to find a more intimate relationship with their Creator. Now, the avenues in which the Lord does that and the “audience” to whom it is focused have changed from time to time, but it was easy to see the common theme. I’ve been in ministry, a writer (blogs, books, scripts), a speaker, and am currently working towards being a counselor. All fall in line with my overall “plot” and I didn’t even plan that!

I have a dear friend who lost her son in a car accident. I’ve never had her walk through this process but if I were to write her as a character, knowing what I know, I would say that many things prepared her for the loss and how she would use it to literally save the lives of others. She sits on boards and speaks to students about the death of her son and organ donation. She has suffered a lot of pain in life and I would say her overall plot is to help others understand that you can triumph over loss and pain, and how to handle grief. How she does that may look different depending on the situation, but that is the core of who she has become.

I have another friend who I would say is my encourager. She has been an encourager to me and others for as long as I’ve known her (and I’m sure beyond that). I know it is her heart’s cry/plot to encourage others in times of despair and to help them rebuild the broken places of their lives. It comes up in every conversation and it seeps out of her marrow.

For Kei, (Collision), it was to serve others. For Riley (Salvaged) and Skyler (Gifted) it’s to protect those they love. For Ashling (Gifted), in spite of her doubts she’s to fight the literal evils of the world.

I suggest you use the next few days to pray and ask for God to reveal your life theme/plot. Ask for wisdom and insight, He’ll give it.

Then, meet me back here on Friday when we discuss how to use this new information to better our lives. What a perfect way to start a new year!

(If you haven’t read my new novel, Gifted, head over here to read it for free!)

Blessings,
Stefne

Whats the Point

 

 

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