Thursday, 27 March 2014

Core values and beliefs

A couple months ago, I've done some writing-related self-coaching. I was using a self-coaching book and a journal for my answers. NLP talks a lot about core beliefs and values. They drive what we do and what we don't do. I can't go into any meaningful detail about what my core values are--it's really personal stuff to reveal one's "buttons". It's a bit like showing the strings that can make you a puppet.

There's a reason why a lot of NLP is being used to sell people crap they don't want or need. Advertising is never about the product and all about the feeling or all about the underlying value (or insecurity). Romance sells the feeling of love, and can hack into our need to love and our willingness to love. It can also hack into our insecurities about deserving love and being lovable or finding somebody worthy of love.

As an example, I get angry every time I go to the local mall. The reason? There's a lot of advertisement about their pre-paid gift card. You buy the card, put money on, gift the card, and they can spend it in any shop inside the mall. So far, so common. The thing that gets me and sets my teeth on edge is the slogan they're using: "Load it with love!"

In other words money = love. Normally, I see such bald-faced crassness only around Mother's Day and Valentine's Day, and, oh, throughout the three months leading up to Christmas. But that shopping centre has made it an all-year fixture. Because love is such a strong value, it's near irresistible. Give them money to show your love. (Corollary: if you don't have money or don't give money, you don't love them enough.) This goes so fundamentally against everything I believe in, it's not even funny.

And there's the thing. The values and beliefs we hold we tend to think of as universal. It took me ages to accept that some people have different beliefs and are okay with that. Quite a few people place their priorities differently and are happy that way. As I get older, I'm getting better at identifying what's important to other people (yep, that took me a good long while).

This is also true for writers. There are writers who do not want to make a living writing. There are writers who are happy just writing for themselves and not for publication. I used to not really understand that--for me, writing is a lot about communication, and putting work out there means that gets fulfilled. By now, I get it. I know writers who are happy labouring away in their studies and offices and at their kitchen tables, and communicate only with themselves. It's not a "damn pity", as I used to think, but absolutely a valid way to go about it. It fulfills different needs from mine and reflects different core beliefs or different ways to go about them.

I think spending a while thinking about what drives us (ambition, loyalty, independence, love, peace...) is tremendously useful for authors (and other humans). What needs are we fulfilling by writing? If a writer is oriented towards money, for example, is that a tangible, quantifiable measure of success ("I'm succeeding because I'm doubling my royalties every year") or a need for safety ("I can't sleep without solid financial in place. I can't think clearly if I'm dreading the sound of the letterbox announcing an unpaid/unpayable bill"). If it's safety, which other ways can that need be fulfilled? Sometimes, these can be at odds - you might want to make money but can't compromise on what you're writing (and what you're writing is uncommercial). Dig deep and see if there's a way to fulfill the conflicting needs. Some lateral thinking helps. In any case, core values and beliefs are usually ignored at our own peril - I think quite a few cases of writer's block might have their root causes here, but that bears further thinking/exploration.

Anyway, that's me thinking out loud in between editing chapters. I've trimmed >4k out of my 127k novel and still have about 25 chapters to work through. I think I'll end up at pretty much exactly 100k. And it'l be a stronger book for it.

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