Pacifism and Writing

I wouldn’t consider myself a pacifist as that word denotes an active force opposed to conflict. Someone says pacifism to me and it conjures images of 1970s hippies in their funny round glasses, long crochet jackets and ban-the-bomb signs. Energy, action, something to say which, ironically, creates more conflict. So perhaps they don’t oppose conflict; maybe injustice is the right word.

I’m all against injustice. I like fairness. I like harmony and cooperation. I’m not particularly competitive, I’ll work with others happily. I just don’t like conflict. We are exposed to it so much more these days. I’m not just talking about war, I’m talking about the daily struggles everyone faces. Social media exacerbates this – you can’t scroll through a newsfeed without being told a million opposing views, or seeing some story of injustice. People try to be themselves and receive a backlash for either conforming to society’s expectations, or going again it. I’m getting sick of seeing it. I’d leave Facebook if it didn’t keep me so well connected to my own little world.

I don’t like conflict. I shy away from it. I become indifferent. I’m passive. That doesn’t mean I don’t experience it; Jon’ll tell you we have our fair share of conflict. Marital disagreements, getting things done on time, unforeseen complications. Perhaps that’s why I see myself as a good problem solver. I dislike the unease conflict makes me feel, so I take an active stance it trying to smooth things out. In some cases that causes more conflict.

That’d be a good thing though, right? Aspiring to be a writer and being good at smoothing out conflict? Perhaps. Conflict makes me uncomfortable though and its conflict that makes a story engaging. As I’ve been working through different ideas, and reading books, I’ve come to realise that conflict isn’t the same as confrontation. Conflict isn’t the big bad bully baring down on you like confrontation (which I definitely want to avoid at all costs) and so I’m trying to embrace it.

I had a job interview the other day and was asked the standard “Tell me about a time you failed” question. I had to apologize for the cliche and answered “I don’t believe in failure”. I don’t. You have an experience, something happens, you learn from it and move on. I saw a quote on Facebook the other day which I can’t remember, or find, or saved (it’s that same passivity that gives me terrible recall) but went along a similar vein of ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’. I learn, I grow, I don’t regret (because that’s a waste of energy and you can’t go back and change things).

I worry about the affect this attitude has on me as a writer. Mix the feeling that what I have to say isn’t interesting to others with the way I say it won’t be affective as a story and you’ve got a pretty poor mould for a writer. Then I realise just how much conflict I face; living in a different country, leaving work, needing money, trying to follow a path out of desire and not necessity. The envy I feel to others and the paths they’ve taken. The decisions I make every day. The things that change, those that stay the same.

My conflict is inner and that’s what makes it harder. That’s what makes people like me writers. The need to express in a way that will be heard, acknowledged, cogitated. To explore the deepest recess of our souls and lay it bare, guts and all. That’s what I’m afraid of. Not the conflict, conflict I can do. Perhaps it is the resolution that’s the most daunting part of the story.

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