August 13, 2017

Ghosting Is Killing Us Creatively

The greatest stories of love, conquest and adventure have one important element in common: characters in conflict. This is the element we binge on. We watch people change. We read about transformation. Conflict is the necessary alchemical process that allows for this change, but it only occurs from about transformation - a rushing wind of consciousness, the Character. 

If our stories aren't working, us writers are told to return to the foundations and take a good look at our characters. We need to know what they want and what they are willing to do to get it. Those desires dictate the action that becomes the plot and without action, everything falls flat.

As consumers, we instinctively feel when something is missing. We may not be able to articulate just why we bounce after 10 minutes of streaming that new Netflix show or why we've lost interest in our favourite characters (SUITS anyone?) but we disengage and move on to the next real quick. No explosions, blood splatters or hottie actors can reel us in once we've recognized that feeling of hollowness.

Imagine a conflict between two people that is not acknowledged. Imagine a protagonist with a dream who makes no attempt to follow through. Imagine two people who have sparked an attraction, but they won't declare their feelings or do something about it. There is no call to action. There are no stakes at risk because no one wants anything bad enough. There are no difficult conversations, no emotional through-lines, no heart-filled confessions. Nothing happens.

We can all see the problem with these scenarios, but I bet we can all admit that these are some real-life situations we find ourselves playing out. We don't show up. We don't engage. We don't respond or finish conversations. We've all become a bunch of flakes. We've lost the methods of communication and connection. In avoiding conflict and discomfort, we've lost the heart of our story.

The Art of Disappearing

For those readers happily retired from the rituals of mating, ghosting is the gender-neutral practice of completely disappearing from conversation or relationships with no explanation. Whether it stems from an intention to "be nice" or from the emotional distance texting and social media offers, we no longer feel accountable to others.

We dip a toe in and then retract. It is our prerogative to change our minds and our hearts, but ghosting is not just a frustrating dating obstacle, it's our modus operandi. We not only ghost on each other but our desires in general. We aren't clear about who we are or what we want.

Not all of you are writers, but we are all Creators interacting with Creation (people, places and things) and when our intentions are muddy, so is the world around us. It is not possible to behave in the world with insecurities abound and then approach our art/life with confidence. I think if we understood the consequences of our refusal to engage, we would make different choices.

As a writer, I observe the world and the people in it. My calling is like being a God of a mini universe; I create characters with flaws and then construct the serum for their redemption. Now the only characters I can conceive of that have no interaction with their environment are the dead. They've rightfully lost the ability to participate. But not all spectres are created equal. From the ether, here are two forms emerging:

The Wraith 

A faint trace... an insubstantial presence.
This character stays on the periphery, one foot in the world and one foot out. They present as aloof and untouchable, yet harbour deep feelings that cause them discomfort. Avoiding confrontation and argument, and thus resolution, they disappear instead of holding their ground. They may know what they want, but will never ask for it.

Ugly Truth: Your stories will die inside of you because there are parts not permitted to speak. You deny your fear, deny your anger and so expression is denied as well.
The Serum: Speak your truth. Do not tolerate the intolerable. Recognize that conflict is essential in building your character.

The Phantom

A figment of the imagination.
This character is on a constant quest for things they are not ready for. They present as confident and self-assured, playing on the realm of fantasy and possibility, but they are incapable of following through as they are terrified of being truly seen. They avoid conflict through playful non-commitment and well-intentioned or not, their word cannot be trusted. They may have an idea of what they want - but struggle with feeling worthy of it.

The Ugly Truth: Whatever you create will never move anyone because it lacks substance, as you do.
The Serum: Get real. Hold yourself to a higher standard. Risk not making others happy or being well-liked. Follow your heart, not other's expectations.

Casting a Shadow

We are drawn to characters who are clear and consistent in their desires, regardless of their moral spectrum.  In our 3D lives, we're searching for people who will show up, follow through and mean what they say. We're looking for Integrity, which actually means being whole. It means taking up space and casting a shadow.

In avoiding conflict, failure or heartbreak, we are held hostage in the exposition - waiting for something to happen. We are all guilty of imitating Casper in some avenue of our lives, but we are not ghosts. We are human. We are supposed to be in relationship with each other and it's supposed to be messy.

It is difficult to show up and have conversations with each other, to take risks and fail, but this is the action that makes us active characters, forces of nature with clear motives, able to manifest what we desire because we know what we want. This is what will bring us to clash and collaborate with others. This is how we transform and evolve.

And when we have substance, then we are seen. Then we have a shot at becoming people worth knowing.


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