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We writers often talk of agency when creating our characters.
What is agency? Agency is whether or not a character is in the driver’s seat.
Admittedly there are times where characters aren’t in full control. Speed is an example that comes to mind. Die Hard with a Vengeance is another.
Most of the time, however, we want characters to have things happen because of the decisions they make rather than being a passive story participant that just has things happen to them or one that has little to no free will.
Free will is one of the foundations of being human. We have many stories that explore this topic such as The Matrix. In those movies, we learn almost no one has free will and Neo takes the red pill to gain free will and help free the rest of the human race.
Yeah, sometimes I like stories that involve fate, but mostly I love characters that are in control of their reality or become in control of it.
I don’t believe agency is something limited to the fictional world.
I choose to live my life with agency and I spend a lot of time thinking about whether I’m making a choice or sitting around waiting for someone to make it for me.
Sure, some things will always be out of my control. I can’t prevent getting most autoimmune conditions. Perhaps type 2 diabetes if I always eat properly and exercise, but most have unknown causes currently. I can’t guarantee I’ll avoid the flu even with the shot. I could get hit by a bus while walking on a sidewalk.
But even in the shittiest situations I have agency if I have the courage to use it.
This strike situation sucks, yet I can choose to spend my time complaining online or I can do the homework I need to do as part of my writing portfolio. I can read my books and watch YouTube videos to learn as much as I can on my own while I wait for the people who are in control of the situation to resolve it. I can speak up at appropriate times to ensure people know the truth. I can join the class action suit to get some of my tuition fees back should it be successful. I can even spend some of the time working on my novel, so I’ll be able to resubmit it. Or I could just spend my time gaming and watching Netflix while complaining that it’s unfair this happened during my one year program.
I have all sorts of options available to me because I know it’s up to me to stay motivated and accomplish my goals. My teachers don’t read my books for me. They don’t write my assignments either. They make some suggestions on how to make it better and correct me when I’m totally wrong, but ultimately I’m the one who decides if I’m going to learn.
My dreams won’t happen by me sitting around and waiting or hoping for them to.
I watched a video the other day from Caleb Maddix. He’s a 15-year-old on the top 30 under 30 list. The advice he got from several highly successful people was The Daily 5. The concept is to think of five things each day that can help you get closer to your goal.
I want to be a screenwriter. What will help me get there? Learning about the craft from books, videos, podcasts, etc. Improving my writing skills. Networking with people in the industry and people who may want my help. Reading scripts. Working on my projects. Watching all kinds of films. And probably some things I don’t know about yet.
But Screenwriting isn’t my only goal. I’m a novelist with goals that include transmedia. I took a whole course on that not that long ago. I’m also a martial artist. I also want to have kids if I find the right person to do that with.
For a long time, I was a fan of task lists. They haven’t been working for me because they either make me feel bad if I don’t get something done in a day or they create extra work for me. I also end up feeling like I’m not really living, but just checking things off a list. The other day I planned to do more than I got done, but after doing the car stuff and numerous bus rides, I didn’t feel well. My task list app wouldn’t simply move an item to the next day instead. No, it would turn red and collect all the tasks I’ve missed and make me feel like I haven’t accomplished anything this entire year. I felt like I was becoming a slave to an app instead of a person with agency. I tried the bullet journal too and I spent so much time creating pages instead of doing the things I needed to do.
So now I’m trying the simple daily five thing. I didn’t get them all done yesterday, but I don’t feel bad about it. Today, I didn’t feel well enough to handle bus trips that are much longer than yesterday’s, so I attended “class” via Google Hangouts. It wasn’t perfect, but I contributed as much as I could given the limits of technology. Normally it functions better, but I think the college Wi-fi is crap and none of us were using good quality microphones instead of built-in ones.
If that, some laundry, and some writing are all I get done today, I’ll be happy. I managed a quick trip to a grocery store for freezer bags, so my wings can be put in the freezer and for three other things I didn’t get the other day. This is partly also because I need to drive my car to put some mileage on, so I can get the wheels re-torqued. It was a short trip, but I did feel like passing out in the store, which sucks. Hopefully I’ll be feeling normal soon. I’m still coughing up some junk and I felt really weak this morning too. I need a rest before I try laundry.
It’s a day where I could probably blather on for a while, so I better stop here.
Good cheerio the nou,