Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Tools to Reflect upon

So in my last blog entry, "It's All in the Title", I spoke of the universal meaning behind my blog title, "Challenging Barriers". Life can present to us so many different challenges and barriers we must face, stand up to, and/or get around. But we also have a variety of tools for us to use as a form of aid. What I call "tools of hope" are not the carpentry kind, they are not
but rather people, services, exercises or any other kind of outlet. I referred to one of my "tools of hope" being writing. But it could also be painting, playing a musical instrument, reading...... the list could on. I suppose a "tool of hope" could be carpentry or building in some manner, but I'm meaning a more spiritual or emotional tool that helps us work through stuff as opposed to the actual hammer.

 All of these independent "tools" are great, but quite often people more need "tools" to connect us with support in some way. Although I suppose those connections can also manifest themselves through independent "tools".
(If this is confusing at all, I think you'll come to an understanding soon enough.)

Over the course of the next while (perhaps beginning in the new year) I've decided to write into my blog a series of posts that will shed some light on some of these "tools of hope". There are quite a few in today's society, all over the world in fact, but I can't write about them all; so I'll just write about those closest to me. One's that I know about or have been part of in some way. It's funny, I used to think that when volunteering or donating one should keep it to him or herself. It was and is supposed to be about giving and not receiving any type of personal gain or pat on the back. Now I think differently...... it should still not be about personal gain, but it should include things like learning, sharing, growing and maybe even inspiring others to extend their own hands. There's no other way to do that than to talk about it. And I suppose there's nothing wrong with a little pat on the back.

Through these posts I'll share my thoughts on these wonderful "tools", provide some information, add a link for you to visit if interest strikes, and maybe just bring about some awareness of those that try and offer help where needed. With the craziness of the busy lives we tend to lead I don't know if people are always aware. Perhaps they, you, and me, need to be reminded. Also, as it turns out, this happens to be a great time of the year to begin reflecting upon something like hope.

So I hope everyone enjoys the magic of this beautiful season, share it with family and friends, and give a little thought to all those wonderful "tools" out there, some of which you'll be able to read about here.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

It's All in the Title

You don't know this person; but this person represents a lot of things.

This is someone with a learning disability;
This is that boy in school that got bullied every single day;
This is the woman who just walked away from an abusive relationship;
This is that guy who recently lost his job and can now barely afford to keep the roof over his and his family's head;
This is a student who just failed her first class and is afraid to face her parents with the news;
This is someone who cheated on their spouse and is now afraid of losing the best thing they ever had;
This is that teen who was told, "No, you can't come home."
This is the genius disguised as a homeless bum because he can't catch a break.;
This is someone who has been told he won't live to see his child grow up because he has Cancer;
This is someone who is afraid.

The other day I was talking to someone about my passion for writing, a subject I can go on and on about. I told him how I not only enjoy scribbling down the stories playing throughout my head but that I also felt writing to be very therapeutic. I told this person that through writing I believe we can learn, grow and heal; and exercising the imagination with pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) can be good for the soul.
At this point of the conversation I was asked about how I came to choosing the title "Challenging Barriers". The explanation I gave was this: As much as writing this blog may have sprung up from my brain injury, and as much as I litter my posts with stories about my life and my opinions, Challenging Barriers is only a teenie-tiny bit about me. Challenging Barriers is a universal thing I think everyone feels or goes through or lives with.

The image above is accompanied by a list that can go on and on. (just like me talking about my writing) We all have our Challenging Barriers. They are all different, and in some ways, all the same. We have to leap frog them, go around them, beat them back....... acknowledge them....... and sometimes even embrace them. And I say them because I mean them, as in more than one. Because I'm not just talking about a disability or illness, I'm also referring to the ones mentioned above and those that aren't there, like someone who juggles two jobs to make ends meet and also lives with constant migraines or someone feeling all alone.

Some of our barriers we are able to shake and walk away from, some drift in and out of our lives, some change, some we live with forever. But just as we have, in some form or another, those Challenging Barriers in common....... we also share something else. That something else is depicted in that imagine above, in that "someones" hands. It is hope. And that idea of hope is transformed into an object we can use, or something that we do or have in our lives. That hope gives us light, clarity, happiness, and strength. It allows us to face, stare down, and deal with our barriers.

Some of my "tools of hope" are: family, friends, and writing........ and chocolate ice cream helps too. :)

I believe we are all stronger than we give ourselves credit, but we also all need a little help sometimes, or even just an ear to tug. If you don't feel like you have that, I'm always here, pretty easy to find. I don't mind being one of your "tools" when dealing with those pesky Challenging Barriers.
Because Challenging Barriers are just that, challenging; not the end of the road. And no one should have to face the challenge alone.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Sprinkles On a Page

There are a lot of things in my life that I am proud of, and that includes the written word I share though this very blog, articles, short stories, my novels..... it could on. Writing for me is a very personal thing, whether it be a fictional story or my expressed opinion, I'm sharing parts of my inner soul.
Now I said that I am proud of a lot of things, but they are all on my own made up scale, some meaning more than others. When it comes to writing I refer to my first published novel, "Chronicles of a Girl". But let me back track a bit and give you a brief history.

Creativity has been part of who I am for a very, very, long time. In my younger years before entering high school I enjoyed the art of storytelling and I did manage to occasionally put pen to paper and churn out a book; never published, but a great literary piece non-the-less. I present to you "Donneedon Adventure."

It was loosely based (at least the title) on an educational television series I was watching in school at the time, (called "Read All About It") but mainly it chronicled the tale of my best friend and I and the adventurous stories we put ourselves through in the neighborhood we grew up in; with a space theme to it. I also wrote "I Hate Johnny" and "Land of the Pips".

Once I moved into high school though, I put my storytelling pen away and focused on school work. I thoroughly enjoyed two classes, Media English and Art. I loved the essays we got to write after reading "Catcher in the Rye" or watching "Good Morning, Vietnam". And drawing in art class was a form of expression enjoyed so much that I tried to carry it
over into my college years. I liked creating visual images with my pencil, an outlet of the ideas I manufactured in my brain. Achieving my "Graphic Design" diploma though never quite turned out to be much in the way of a career down that path. I tried, but it was hard for me with all of this new technology that seemed to be part of the design world. My schooling was just on the cusp of things I guess and I never got much of any educational training in it...... but to face facts, the technical aspect of it was just too much for my little brain to handle.

So, that summer I spent my time visiting with my Grandfather, in the little town of Sutton, where I currently live. I began volunteering down the road from our house at the historical Red Barn theatre. (Sadly it caught fire and burnt down in 2008) I say that I began volunteering because within weeks it turned into a job that lasted eight years. Working in stage production and being part of this creative world was something I became hooked on very quickly. I was involved in helping to set decorate, set design, collect and create props, and I learned a lot about lighting and sound and all that neat theatre stuff! I even got to sit back stage and operate some puppets for a show one time. Something else I really enjoyed was that for the first time, not only was I participating in the creative process, but I got to see the outcome it bestowed onto people. The laughter of the audience, the reviews, and the Q & A sessions we did for the few children shows we had.
Another thing the theatre did for me was rekindle my enjoyment of writing. Part of my job was to read through the scripts to get an idea of the show. I began thinking that these stories could, or should, have this in it or that placed there. I thought, I could write something like this.

That path lead me to try and join a summer school course for script writing, but not enough people signed up, so it was cancelled. I was disappointed but not discouraged, and after some thought I decided to enroll in a Creative Writing program with the Stratford Career Institute. Because this two year program was done through correspondence I managed to graduate within one year and a few months. I was really into the lessons on "Scene & Structure", "Theme & Strategy" and "Characters & Viewpoint" to name a few. After I graduated I began writing articles and short stories and my ideas were all generated from personal experiences and growth. Some things were published, quite a bit were not. But it was all a growing exercise for me, which I needed, and I don't regret the path I've taken at all.

I started out writing "Chronicles of a Girl" as a short story about a young girl going through tough times and overcoming things, and like my creative path, it grew. My main character, Chloe Anderson, took over (so to speak) and when I was done I had a two hundred and seventy five page manuscript in front of me. I had ideas for a follow up (which I just released) and even a third. (working on it)
I may have jumped into the publishing world a little too quickly and I got myself caught in some rocky terrain that I had to work my way through, but I think it was worth it..... for me anyway. Some big bumps were overcome but I am sure there are more still out there to deal with, and I can only handle them at my speed and in my way, not anyone else's; although advice from others always helps.
Growing and learning, for me, never gets old.
Before I published my second book I was told that maybe I should learn from those rough patches that I encountered, before, during, and after my first book and forget about the continuation of the "Chronicles..." series and start fresh. While I definitely learn, or try to learn, from EVERY rough patch, I cannot forget about Chloe Anderson. She has a story to tell, I have a story to tell, I am her Ghost Writer, and I cannot turn my back to that. I'm ready for any difficulties that may come at me, just as she is. At the core of it, unseen in the pages, "Chronicles of a Girl" is the "chronicles of Mark and his creative path". Every thing I do, every page I write, every word I utter, has a sprinkle of me.

I think none of us should give up on our dreams, to turn away, and force our "sprinkles" into another direction. We all have a talent, something we can do that we enjoy and are good at, and it should be, at the very least, considered. So don't give, because I'm not going to.