The Power and Importance of Compassion in Literature

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I’ve been thinking about compassion lately. It’s impossible not to, with everything that’s going on in our world. Terrorist attacks, increased racial tensions, insensitivity toward other minority groups, and the most vitriolic U.S. presidential election I can remember (notice the timing of this post, fellow Americans?)… From a social perspective, 2016 has been a bleak year, and I’m deeply worried about where we as a society are heading.

But let’s not discuss politics. Instead, let’s focus on a topic that I think many of us will agree on: the power of compassion in literature. By compassion, I mean moments when characters show kindness, mercy, and similar qualities. These actions can draw us closer to those characters, move us to tears, and make those stories all the more memorable. And during these turbulent times in our world, finding – and writing – stories that demonstrate compassion may be more important than ever.

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More Changes Are Coming to the Blog (Plus, Why I’m Excited About the “New” Direction)

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Some of you might recall that I’ve been struggling with blogging after a crazy-busy August. Not with ideas or visitors, but with time and energy. This week, I’m feeling the best I’ve felt physically and mentally in the past two months, but I only have one post scheduled instead of two. So, in a way, the results of that “burnout” are starting to show.

I’ve also been thinking about the time I spend on this site. I already cut back on my blogging schedule earlier this year because I couldn’t keep up the aggressive pace I’d set. Back then, I figured, “Blogging twice a week should be fine.” And for a while, along with writing every other month for DIY MFA, it was.

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What Do Your Favorite Stories Have In Common?

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“What do your favorite stories have in common?”

This was the question that fellow writer Elizabeth Rawls posed at her blog last year. I loved the topic so much that I wanted to respond right away, but I couldn’t. Figuring out what your favorite stories have in common is like playing a writer’s or reader’s version of a strategy game. But once you put some conscious thought into it, the answers can be rather enlightening.

Today, I’d like to share Elizabeth’s activity along with my own thoughts on developing a stronger grasp on the shared elements in our favorite stories. As you’ll find out, those commonalities may have a greater influence on our work that we might think.

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Happy New Year – and Here’s to 2016!

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Happy New Year, everyone! I hope you had a enjoyable and safe end to your 2015; and would like to wish you the best in health, love, and creativity for 2016.

Also, I know I keep thanking you, the readers, for helping to make this blog what it has become… But, honestly, YOU deserve so much of the credit. Thank you for commenting on each post, sharing your thoughts and ideas, and sharing the links on your own blogs and on social media. Most importantly, thank you for your enthusiasm, encouragement, and thoughtful feedback. You put a smile on my face every day I’m here. 🙂

I used last year’s Happy New Year post to sort of “wrap up” the 2014 highlights for the blog and for me personally, and to look ahead to 2015. Since I was happy with the final product, I’ll do the same again for this year’s:
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The Cotopaxi Challenge: Eleven Favorite Adventure Stories (+ Lessons From Each)

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Original photo courtesy of Tim Kressin and the Wondercamp Team (seen here: http://blog.cotopaxi.com/hornstrandir-iceland/).

You may have heard of Cotopaxi before if you’re a fan of camping and outdoor activities. This backpack and apparel company based in Salt Lake City, Utah creates innovative products that fund health, education, and livelihood initiatives to help alleviate poverty in underdeveloped countries. And for their customers, Cotopaxi hopes to inspire adventure. Take a look at their blog The Llama Chronicles, and you’ll see what I mean. The company shares travelogues, tips on outdoor sports and activities, recipes for campsite meals – even American road-trip routes inspired by adventure novels.

I confess that I’m not an “outdoorsy” person, though I relish walking and spending time outside. But when I recently came across a special blog project by Cotopaxi, I knew I wanted to take part in it. Here was their challenge:

Share in a post on your blog your favorite adventure story, along with what lessons you’ve learned and you continue to carry those lessons with you since.

Now, I thought it wouldn’t be hard to pick an adventure story to write about. But then I reviewed my bookshelf, and realized I’ve read a LOT of adventure stories over the years. (No wonder I’m currently writing one of my own.) This led to me hemming and hawing over the usual novels I talk about here and other choices I love but aren’t highlighted as often… and finally decided, “You know what? I’ll write about ALL of them.” 🙂

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#1000Speak: We Are All Paris, Because We Are All Human

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The 1000 Voices for Compassion Movement (also known as #1000Speak) began in January 2015 as a way for bloggers to spread messages of compassion. Participants may join in on the 20th of each month or as time allows, and either write about the month’s prompt or a related topic of their choice. Regardless, these Voices write with one unified purpose: To remind others that, despite the lack of compassion that rocks our world at times, compassion for ourselves and others does exist.

I wasn’t sure if I was going to do #1000Speak this month. Life offline has been hectic lately; and when your attention is pulled in so many different directions, it’s hard to put in the time and thought that a post like this deserves. However, I can’t get last week’s terrorist shootings in Paris out of my head… which means I need to write about it, one way or another.

This may be shorter and more stream-of-conscious (i.e., “rambling”) than past #1000Speak posts. So, please bear with me as I sort out my thoughts here. Continue reading

#1000Speak: On Tolerance, Diversity, and the Influences on One’s Worldviews

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I don’t consider myself a strong debater, so I tend to avoid politically charged discussions. Even my horror about the church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina and my admiration for the United States Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of same sex marriage wasn’t enough to help me summon enough bravery to share my views about tolerance. That was before a recent conversation angered me, and compelled me to commit.

It was the day after the SCOTUS decision on same sex marriage. My parents had invited me over for dinner, and somehow the topic came up. One of my family members said this in response: Continue reading

#1000Speak: On Writing Poetry From A Place Of Compassion

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Earlier this year, I took part in 1000 Voices for Compassion (a.k.a. #1000Speak) and posted articles about self-compassion and examples of compassionate actions in books I’ve read. It was one of the most enjoyable and rewarding blogging experiences I’ve ever had; and I knew before I had even finished drafting my second #1000Speak post that I wanted to write more in the future whenever my writing schedule allowed. Today happens to be one of those days.

This #1000Speak post is a little different from past ones. It’s a story of sorts, one that balances the personal with the universal. It’s about inspiration, sadness, and healing. It’s a story about the power of compassionate writing, the necessity for it in our world, and the impact it can have you as a writer.

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#1000 Speak: On Self-Compassion

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Today is February 20, 2015, the day when 1000 Voices For Compassion makes its mark. Bloggers all over the globe have committed to posting articles today to celebrate compassion in all its forms and recognize the importance of such acts in our lives and the lives of others. If you’re interested in reading more articles by our movement, I encourage you to visit 1000 Voices of Compassion’s Facebook group or search the hashtag #1000speak on Twitter.

I prefaced my #1000speak lead-in article, “Acts of Compassion in Literature,” by saying I’d been debating two possible ideas before deciding to pursue both. Originally, “Acts of Compassion in Literature” was going to be today’s post. However, as I worked on this second piece, the topic struck a deeper, more resonant chord than I’d expected. Then again, the idea of self-compassion had already been on my mind recently. So, I decided to switch the order of the two articles, and in hindsight I think I made the right decision. Continue reading