With today’s post being on May 4th, I thought it appropriate to write a Star Wars post that can be related to everyday life, both for writers and non-writers alike.
Since I have only seen the first three movies, I sat with my adult son, who is a Star Wars junkie, to have an in-depth discussion of the Force. As we talked, I realized how the Force can be applied in everyday life, and for me, the writing life. This is strictly my interpretation of the Force as it relates to our own lives and goals, and how we go about trying to achieve those goals. For the second half of this post, I will focus on writers, but the message is applicable for anybody trying to achieve a life goal.
The one thing that’s in all nine Star Wars movies and binds them together is the ubiquitous Force. If you are not familiar with Star Wars, the Force connects all living things in the Universe. It is an energy that binds the Universe, just as it binds all the Star Wars movies.
The Force is neither good nor bad. It is simply an energy that flows through the Universe. In the movies, it is how certain characters tap into the Force and make use of it. Both the “good guys” (the Jedi) and “bad guys” (Darth Vader being the best known) make use of the Force, but in different ways. The Jedi strive to be in tune with the Force, to embrace it for good. To live within it. The bad guys don’t attempt to be one with the Force but rather bend it or exploit it to advance their dark intentions.
The Light Side versus the Dark Side
Stories are written with a protagonist, and often the opposing body as the antagonist. These are also looked at as the Good Guys vs. the Bad Guys. What I find particularly fascinating about Star Wars is that rather than put the characters into such a black and white universe of bad versus good, characters are instead a part of the Light Side or the Dark Side. This concept of Light vs. Dark instead of Good vs. Evil is much more accurate in terms of real life: nobody starts out as “bad.” It’s the life experiences that points people to the Light Side or Dark Side. But even then, it’s how those characters (and us) choose to allow their life experiences define their path. In other words, it’s how they tap into those experiences as they move forward, not the experiences themselves. Darth Vader and Yoda are on opposite sides, and their use of the Force are also diametrically opposed.
Millennium Falcon, in Lego Form. This is predominately flown by Han Solo and Chewie, but has also been flown by Rey/Chewie and Lando Calrissian/Chewie
Putting it all together
In both Star Wars and real life, tapping into life experiences comes down to channeling emotions. Fear and anger are powerful reactive emotions, quickly leading someone to the Dark Side if not kept in check. Going to the Dark Side is to embrace that anger, that fear, that negative emotion. In essence, the Dark Side is seductive because it’s easy to give in to those primal base emotions. In fact, it’s so easy, some give in to the negative without ever realizing it until it’s too late. These emotions are volatile and require no discipline to control. It’s easy to be angry. It’s easy to be fearful. It’s easy to go negative. And the result is an easy way to attain power (either real or perceived) because it is drawing from bursts of dark emotions.
There is also emotional pain, which can be dangerous if not handled properly. If a person learns from what caused that pain, accepts it, and makes a conscious decision to move on, then that’s fine. However, if allowed to fester, to go unresolved, it can lead to anger and fear, driving that person to the Dark Side.
To exist on the Light Side, it takes patience and control. Discipline. To remain calm in the face of adversity. This is easier said than done and takes hard work each and every day not to succumb to the seductive Dark Side, because as I note above, negative emotions are reactive. If not controlled, anger erupts. However, if one does the right things, puts in the conscious effort to control the negative emotions that exists in all of us, the power of the Light Side trumps that of the Dark. One chooses to follow the Light Side, as opposed to those who are seduced by the Dark.
Nobody is perfect
Potential versus Achievement is a metaphor for the Dark Side versus the Light. In every profession, there are a handful who show great potential at the outset. But we’re not all Grand Master Yodas. And even Yoda had to work at it to become a Grand Master.
That’s right, extremely-talented people still have to work hard at harnessing their talent to get the most out of it. Potential for greatness is a dangerous and seductive label. Those who think potential alone will carry them to the top, find themselves on the Dark Side and end up failing. Guaranteed. The trick is to follow the Light Side and take that potential, those raw skills, and work hard honing them into achieving that potential.
The very best of the best make it look easy. However, guaranteed, each one of them worked tirelessly at their craft to get better. Great doesn’t just happen. Even though he is not a favorite author of mine, one of my favorite quotes about writing comes from the great Nathaniel Hawthorne: Easy reading makes for damn hard writing. Think about that—this is coming from one our great writers.
What can we learn from Star Wars?
So, what’s my whole point of the Force and the Light and Dark Sides as they relate to our own lives and goals? To answer that, I will discuss just one example. One I know very well. Me.
I have written in numerous posts about perseverance and how determination drove me to refuse to give up on my 50-year goal of becoming an author. Suffice it to say, rejections for my first manuscript from agents and publishers was at least one hundred.
Along the way, a couple times I was tempted to give in to the Dark Side and just chuck the manuscript in the trash and move on to a new project. A classic knee-jerk reaction after not getting the desired result. But instead, I tore that manuscript apart several times and put it back together. Eventually, a publisher sent me a contract. And my lifelong goal was achieved. But not without a lot of frustration, pain, and rejection. However, instead of letting all that negativity consume me, take me to the Dark Side, I chose to use those bad experiences as fuel. I refused to give in. And I prevailed.
Storm Trooper and Boba Fett Helmets, in Lego Form. These guys are definitely on the “Dark Side” of things
In the publishing business, rejection is an all-too familiar occurrence. To better understand how much rejection is out there, only one to two percent of submissions to publishers ever become books. That is a whole lot of rejection.
How a writer deals with rejection, taps into the experience of rejection, makes all the difference in the chance for success. If a person takes rejections from agents or publishers personally and refuses to learn from it, allows it to result in anger or negativity, then that one to two percent chance of getting published gets much smaller. They allowed the Dark Side to suck them in, and once there, it’s almost impossible to claw one’s way out. That’s because negativity feeds on negativity. I know many good writers who ended up there and eventually abandoned their goal of getting published.
So, for aspiring writers out there, to succeed in getting published, act like a Jedi. Use the Force and tap into your rejections. It takes patience and control. A lot of it. Accept the fact that rejections will come in the hundreds. Embrace it. Learn from them. If you push back on the people rejecting your work, it will get you nowhere. Don’t let rejection knock you down or out. Instead, get back up, look at your manuscript from a critical perspective, make those changes, and then send out more queries. Or, work with a developmental editor because a good editor is worth his/her weight in gold. Just don’t give up.
And when the rejections come again, rinse and repeat. Discipline.
I hope this helps. May the Force be with you!
Have a terrific day.