What is your dream? What do you feel led to do?
I've already stated in this blog that I long to be a writer.
There are people out there, however, that believe I should be content to "settle down" or "grow up" and get a “real job” (as if one could be found between the cushions of my couch). Apart from the fact that I can’t find a “real job,” I do find that people with this attitude are dreamless people. They believe dreams are for children and sleeping. They are doctors of pragmatism that feel it is their duty to cure creative people of this pressing disease called Hope.
They are the ones that would tell the 95-year-old woman, "Why do you need to finish college? What's the point? Is it worth it?"
If you aspire for more, avoid those types of people. They will only kill your hope and destroy your faith. They do not understand people who want to step out of the line to search for something more. To quote Mark Twain, “Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.”
Don't you have enough to fight against within yourself, namely your own feelings of insecurity and doubt? You don’t need to surround yourself with people who are in the habit of squashing your dreams. They are people who are content on being do-nothing successes. They've never failed because they've never tried.
On the other hand, you shouldn’t be too harsh with these types of people either. More than likely, they are still mourning over the moment their dreams were shattered. A company of quitters is a miserable bunch who, in their own way, say to themselves, "We may not be happy, but at least we are not alone."
But I am not satisfied being in the company of quitters. I much rather walk alone toward my goal than to stay behind with those who have given up.
So, if we can't avoid these types of people, what do we do?
We pity them. And wherever possible, we help them. Perhaps all they need is someone in their lives to glue back the pieces of those dreams. So I close with Theodore Roosevelt's wonderful quote:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
I think the general consensus in America is that television is an inferior, and perhaps even a detrimental pastime for our nation's children. (There's no official statistic with this, I'm just basing this on anecdotal evidence, really). There's sort of a common theme around parenting land, and probably beyond, that television is an entity that needs a LOT of heavy parameters and regulation and time limits. Like, don't let your toddler watch any before the age of two, or limit your kids to 30 minutes a day, or maybe only on the weekends.
I get the feeling that television is sort of treated on the same scale as junk food. And this is nothing new. If you've read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl, the Oompah-Loompahs go on a huge tirade against television. Essentially "it rots the sense in the head! It kills imagination dead!" and so on (It's a long poem, so click here to read it - it's pretty funny.)
My wife and I have had discussions about this quite a bit in our marriage, and over the years, we've come to our own consensus about television. And now I'll share it with you.
Well, as in all things (including books), there is good television and there is bad television. When our kids watch television, we like them to watch shows with not only good content, but also a good aesthetic. What do I mean by that? Well, we want the shows to be morally clean and teach a good lesson, but also have a good story, good dialogue, if it's a cartoon, good animation. We do not want them to watch shows that will encourage them to be obnoxious, mean-spirited, or too-obsessed with trendiness and pop culture. And, if the plot is just inane or incredibly shallow, we don't like that either.
It's really this: we recognize that television and movies are just another form of art in the modern western world. And actually, much of my graduate schooling was spent watching/analyzing films and television and learning to write for them. Wouldn't it be a little hypocritical if I then banned our children from watching because it was so detrimental to their well-being? So, there's my bias, I guess. But, in our society today, television and films are ubiquitous. And, short of an apocalyptic societal meltdown, that's just the way it's going to be.
So, back to Roald Dahl's assertion that television "kills imagination dead." Well, I don't really agree. I think that if that's the main thing that your child does for entertainment, then yes, it probably will. We have a phrase that we like to use around our house: "No more screens!" Because kids do seem to easily gravitate toward them and it's up to us as parents to help them learn self-control. It is usually the lazier option for all of us just to switch on the television and mindlessly wile away the hours in a semi-vegetative state (I've been there, especially when a new baby comes along and everyone's sleep-deprived), and that's a horrible habit to get into.
But I would argue that even reading too much can be detrimental to a child (but admittedly, this is not as much of a problem nowadays). And so can too much "playing pretend" if that's all that the kids do.
I know that when I was a kid, watching certain TV shows would light a spark in my brother and me to go and play. If we watched a G.I. Joe cartoon after school, we always wanted to play with our G.I. Joe toys afterward, or we would run outside to play Army. My girls are the same way, although, with Netflix, it requires vigilance on my part to make sure they just watch one or two shows and not an entire season worth's of episodes in one sitting.
Animation (which is primarily what our kids like watching) can make a child interested in drawing or painting. Watching a documentary on wildlife allows a child to see animals that they would never see in the real world (we have limited funds that make travel and even zoo admission not feasible). Often, we watch travel shows to make our kids aware of the diversity of the world in which we live. Even some reality shows can be good - Shark Tank gives them a perspective of what it would mean to become an entrepreneur and cooking shows always inspire them to want to help cook or bake something.
Mostly, though, a good movie or television show can enable children to see a new perspective, or visualize something in a beautiful, well-crafted way. It's a relatively new medium that I believe is getting better and better as more artists and writers embrace it. I say, don't banish it for your children, but make sure that they are only watching the best of it.
Although, just know that the pull toward My Little Pony will be strong and fierce if you have little girls like I do - allow it in small doses and eventually they will come to see the asinine plots and mediocre artwork for what they really are and shun it themselves.
Meanwhile, the theme song is still stuck in my head.
So, this past fall another author and blogger, Simon Goodson, graciously contacted me because he wanted to write a review for my book, Scar of the Downers, on his website. If you want to read the review, you can read it here.
He also interviewed me and posted it on his website this week, which you can check out here. Feel free to roam around his website. Check out his books and other interviews and reviews.
It was great gesture and I appreciate it.
And in other news, I signed the contract for book two and will soon enter the editing phase!!! When I receive more information, I will pass it on!
And in other exciting news, it's finally snowing!!!
My semester is finished and, sadly, so is Christmas break. It has been a whirlwind of a fall and I am NOT anxious to get back to the day-to-day. But as Bilbo wisely observed, “the road goes ever on.”
It takes us to a new year, which includes more schooling...
...writing, and who knows what else. There are a few things to which I am looking forward.
Firstly, I’ve finished the second book to Scar of the Downers and will hopefully begin working with an editor shortly into this new year. I’m excited about this book as it digs deeper into the world of Crik and Jak. New people are introduced, new creatures are discovered, and the story grows darker and more dangerous.
Secondly, I am (slowly) editing a play I wrote nearly ten years ago with the hope that I (or my wife) will be able to direct it this year. This, however, is in the very early stages. So we’ll see what comes of this.
Thirdly, I hope to be more faithful in posting on this blog in the coming year. Teaching several courses at my local college became the focus this past fall, which contributed to the neglect of my blog. But now that the holidays are over, a renewed sense of determination and attention has gripped me. If I can think of a topic, I will write about it. If I can’t, I’ll rehash an old one.
Though this isn’t necessarily the last thing I’m looking forward to this year, it is the last thing I’m mentioning. So lastly, my play, The Last Rose of Innod, will be produced by Family Theatre in Columbus, Georgia this March. Although I will probably not be able to attend, I am grateful they are putting it on.
Overall, I’m trying to look at 2016 through an optimist’s eye. I’m trying to see the good that will come this year. (To be honest, it’s quite tiring. Not sure how they do it.)
Anyway, winter is now upon us and I’m looking forward to the snow.
Scott Keen is the author of three young adult fantasy novels, Scar of the Downers, Rise of the Branded, and War of the Downer King.