Stress is the worst, but here’s how I learned to deal with it

 

Last year, as most of you probably know, I was a bit of a mess. School and extracurricular activities had completely taken over my life, and I felt like I was drowning in stuff that would never get done. It took me a fairly long while to really feel any better than ambivalent about going back to school—I was terrified that this year would turn out no better than last year, that there was no space left for improvement. Well, I was wrong. I’ve made it through a semester of junior year, which is supposed to be the most stressful time in high school. I won’t lie—it’s tough. But last year was worse.

Here’s the deal with the worst experiences ever, though. Most of us will do anything to prevent them from happening again.

As a result, I spent some quality time thinking about stress, and how I, personally, process and react to it.

So, without further ado, here are what I consider to be the 4 best methods I found for dealing with the massive stress overload that is junior year.

  1. Running
    It’s no secret on this blog that I run. A lot. There’s something about being active, and getting away—mentally and physically—from the work on my desk. Even if not everything gets done, I can say that I ran 5 miles that day. I can take an hour, hit the trails, and when I come back, everything seems a little more manageable. This one might not work so well for people who don’t like running, but… for me, running isn’t just a way of getting in exercise. It’s a form of meditation, a chance to get out of my head and stop overthinking everything. I can just be, me with the nature and the music that is inevitably playing a little too loudly through my headphones, and when I get home, I generally have achy legs, a raging dehydration headache, and a sense that I have done something that day—which is worth a lot, when it seems like it’s impossible to get anything done. Plus, exercise endorphins help to relax you and get a better night’s sleep, out of pure exhaustion if nothing else.
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  2. Baking
    On the surface, this looks like it’s just adding another thing to do, in an already over-packed schedule, and it’s timed and messy and easy to screw up… but I don’t see it that way. Yes, I get covered in flour and usually manage to get dough or batter up to my elbows, which proves to be quite difficult to clean off. Yes, it is timed, and it’s occasionally a bit nerve-wracking when you have to check the oven a million times in a five-minute span because at first everything looks undercooked, but if you leave it in too long it gets burnt. And yes, I do it anyway. Baking rarely takes any longer than an hour or two. Like running, it makes me feel like I’ve actually done something enjoyable that day. I get to follow instructions, with visible (and edible!) proof that I’ve done it right, which is one of my eternal frustrations with school—I never know how well I have or haven’t done, until I get something back with a number on it. Baking grants me that level of instant gratification, and because the instructions do often require some level of focus, it allows me to not think about everything else that I have to do. It lets me get outside of my own head a little bit. Plus, I get cookies or muffins or banana bread.
    (I should point out that finals week mostly means my house smells like cookies and bananas for the whole week straight, and we didn’t have space for all the baked goods. Unavoidable hazard, I suppose?)
    And I was able to bring in cookies during finals week, for my stressed-out friends and classmates, which was nice, and still have leftovers, which are currently in my freezer.
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  1. Journaling
    Like running, I doubt that this one will surprise anyone who has read this blog for a while, or who knows me in person. I’ve been carrying around small journals since I was little, though I only got serious about writing every day when I was thirteen or so. That need to write—not just fiction, but also poetry, and my own thoughts, even early blog post drafts—has waxed and waned, but has always been present, and lately it’s taken the form of regular journaling, essentially a continuous freewrite on the subject of what happened that day. It’s unbelievably helpful for thinking through the events of the day, processing it and de-stressing from it at the same time. It’s a nice way to end the day, especially if I can think of any good things that happened during the day, which I might otherwise forget in favor of stressing out over pointless details. In addition to journaling, I’ve also been keeping an obsessively organized planner, instead of the computer calendar I used to use. I don’t know—something about the act of writing down plans, and checking items off with their little checkboxes, is really relaxing and it makes me feel much better organized and more accomplished.
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  2. Sleep
    I cannot emphasize this enough. Sleep. Sleep. Sleep. It’s okay if not everything gets done. Sleep is the foundation of good health, both mental and physical. There is no point in pulling an all-nighter to finish a project, if the work is going to be shoddy and not very well thought-out. It might seem like the work is up to par, but trust me. If it happens after 2 am on a regular basis, chances are, the work is not my best. This is probably the biggest difference between this year and last year—I’ve started prioritizing sleep over assignments, and… it’s actually kind of miraculous. The assignments don’t all get done, but my teachers understand. My grades have gone up (reducing a major point of stress right there). The world doesn’t stop spinning if I don’t finish a minor science lab. I haven’t (knock on wood) gotten sick this year.
    Obviously, I’m not advocating for everyone to suddenly slack off on all their work. But I am saying that every once in a while, it’s okay to not be perfect, if it means getting a decent night’s sleep out of it.

Through these four actions, I’ve gotten back to enjoying school. I no longer feel like I’m drowning in more work than I can handle. Junior year is tough, but so far it’s been doable. I certainly wouldn’t repeat what I went through last year, but I’m glad that I learned what I did from the experience.
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We Must Unite As Humans

100 Ways to Write

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Before we get started, I want everyone to know that I am safe. Thank you to everyone who has reached out to me. Even though I am not in Paris, I have learned who my true friends and family are. The ones who I didn’t even think cared that I’m in France are the ones who were the most concerned, so thank you so much for contacting me.

A couple of weeks ago, I was in Paris, and it’s fair to say that I have been constantly asking myself what would have happened if I had been there a couple weeks later. I look at pictures of the shooting and recognize exactly where I stood when I was there. Except instead of streets filled with markets and chatter, I see silence and blood.

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Where I come from (a revisit)

Hello to the world. Or at least, to the portion of the world that reads this blog. It’s been a while. I’m sorry.

I was working on a writing prompt for some creative nonfiction today when I started thinking about my “Where I Come From” piece that I wrote a little over a year ago (link here), and I decided to give that same prompt another shot. It actually astounds me how different my writing style is now, and which details I choose to pay attention to these days.

Without further ado:

Where I Come From (a year later)

I come from days in a garden fifty feet from Lake Lanier, up to my elbows in weeds and up to my eyeballs in dirt. I come from daisy chains as long as the earth and pretending at magic during lunchtime. I come from PB&J cut into the shape of my initials, from Green Gables and Black Beauty and as many books from the library as I could fit into the trunk of the car, from fairy tales to the stories I was probably too young to comprehend in full but maybe that’s why the words stuck, forcing an older me to return time and time again.
I come from watching sports-themed video games over my brother’s shoulder, holding a controller that did nothing, pretending I was in control. I come from a little chaos, from self-cut bangs when I was five, neatened up into a haircut that was good enough for school pictures by the salon my mother went to, where I still go now every six months. I come from burning my tongue on too-hot tea and soothing it with honey when I was home from school and in wrapped in blankets, listening to the Beatles and watching a movie about an selkies and storms, island lore and what the word home really means. From crocheted hats and hand-knotted friendship bracelets, from libraries and the kids’ section at Barnes and Noble, and Borders back when it existed, from long bike rides and Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies because come on, goldfish aren’t exciting enough.
I come from red glass hearts and best friends forever, from camping out in tents in the living room and climbing trees only to leap from the limbs, again and again. I come from Glo-sticks and sparkling apple cider and fondue on New Years Eve, from staying up late for chocolate mousse cake one night every summer, from never wanting to grow up but always wanting to be older, from tagging along with the years ahead of me until I was living them, looking back thinking of what I might have missed and agonizing over my own follies.
I come from casting out crabbing lines and pitching hermit shells back into the sea, from hot chocolate made with milk on the stove on rainy days after school, and lemonade sales indoors because what else were we supposed to do with all of those cookies. I come from chapter books read in a crack of light when I was supposed to be asleep, from yelling out incorrect song lyrics to the show tunes playing off of the iPod or CD in the car at the top of my lungs.
I come from sunburn and a million bottles of aloe vera, from Italian pastries and corn pudding at Thanksgiving, pumpkin pie on Halloween, and grilled okra instead of fried. I come from too many blueberries and green beans to cook on our own, from catching bumblebees and reading A Midsummer Night’s Dream too many times to count, from Hebrew lessons on Wednesdays, from eighteen-hour car rides and from seven-mile-long runs.
I come from history, fictional and not, but all of it real, from my tongue and ears and eyes and the very tips of my fingers, and the deep part of my nose where it almost hurts to keep inhaling. I come from the stories my senses weave, ragged edges and neat, frayed threads and not, clear images and hazy where some are lost to memory, but are a part of the tapestry of me all the same.

I haven’t written much this summer. Not much on here, anyway. I did, however, write another novel (more info on that will be happening here), working title Light of the Oceans. And I got a job at an art museum. I’ll write a more official post about that, and what’s been going on with me creatively and writing-wise sometime in the next week or so.

To those of you who haven’t unfollowed me or something the past few weeks, thanks for being patient—I love you all!

Later,

Maxxe

What Does It Mean to be an Artist?

My post over on Chelsea’s blog– What does it mean to be an artist?

100 Ways to Write

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~a guest post by Maxxe at Memories on a Page~

I’ve always really enjoyed art, but up until the past couple of years, I’ve never felt entirely comfortable identifying myself as an artist. Other people would tell me that because I enjoyed writing short stories, or ceramics classes, or because I was a theater kid for several years, I was an artist. And I never believed them.

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Guest Post: My Rules for Writing (And Why You Should Have Them, Too)

Check out this guest post I wrote for Chelsea over on 100 Ways to Write!
Her blog is amazing, you should all take a look at her stuff.

100 Ways to Write

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Hi everyone! We have a new guest today from Maxxe at Memories on a Page! She has just published her first novel, Touchstones, and it will be available in stores, soon, I believe. You can check back on her blog for confirmation. In further note, I know a lot of you lovely people have been trying to get some books and stories published and I thought maybe some advice from somebody who may start becoming professional can tell you a little about the journey and how they got there themselves. I’ve definitely had troubles with book writing, myself, and hopefully like you, I’ll be able to reach the finish lines by following some simple rules. Enjoy!

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A lot of my favorite authors have spoken or posted about their “rules for writing.” In some cases, it’s the physical stuff that they need to get their writing groove on. In…

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TAG: “BOOK CREATURES OF THE NIGHT”

I saw a thing floating around on Youtube. It’s a tag, for favorite instances of things in books.
I don’t post videos on Youtube.
But I do post on blogs.
And I do like books. In fact, I like books A LOT.
So here goes.

BOOK CREATURES OF THE NIGHT:

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Vampires: No one reading this is allowed to judge this book by its name. I’m just saying. Right now. Vampire Academy, by Richelle Mead. [insert quick rant here about how the word ‘Vampire’ completely ruins the title of this book,like it does for many books, even though some *cough* *Twilight* deserve it, and about how utterly fantastic this series actually is, especially book three forwards] And, since there are three types of vampire in these books, I’m going to cheat a little bit and name TWO vampires! No wait, three. And the Spanish Inquisition while I’m at it (joking, they’re not really vampires, high-necked red capes aside). Mason Ashford, who is a half-vampire, is my first choice. He’s smarter than a lot of the other characters give him credit for, he’s funny, and he’s witty. And yeah, technically a vampire. In this series, half-vamps count. However, since I do NOT approve of what happens to him in the end, I demand a second choice, and since I’m already breaking rules by doing this with written words instead of on video, I am granting myself the object of my demand, who is also a half-vampire from this series, and that would be Rose Hathaway. She’s clever, stubborn to the point of idiocy, and will risk just about anything to save her best friend… which is probably a good thing, since it’s her job to protect Lissa at all costs.

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Dhampirs aren’t true vampires, you say?
Fine, then. Arianna, from Kiersten White’s Paranormalcy trilogy. In a world of characters who each have their own (occasionally very) annoying traits, prickly Arianna might be the most endearing. Which is weird, considering she hates the main character at first. You know what? I hated Evelyn at first too, so maybe that’s why.

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Werewolves: REMUS LUPIN, from Harry Potter, which is by the lovely Joann Katherine Rowling, though I don’t think anyone needed me to tell them that! I want Lupin to be my teacher. Although I don’t know why we would need a Defense Agains the Dark Arts teacher at Westminster… Maybe that’ll be a Jan-term option for next year? I wouldn’t complain.Prisoner_of_Azkaban_cover

Zombies: I don’t read much in the way of zombie books. So my options for this one are pretty much limited to the books of that category that I have read. Which is, in turn, pretty much limited to The Forest of Hands and Teeth, by Carrie Ryan. I didn’t ADORE this book, the way that I did many of those that I’m naming in this post. But I did legitimately like it. So I’ll go with that. And the character for this would have to be… probably (spoiler alert) Gabrielle. She’s a mystery, and honestly, more of a plot device than a character, but I’m definitely not saying Travis. He’s… meh. Okay.

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Ghosts: Silas, from Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book. (yeah, I’m pretty sure he’s not a vampire, regardless of what the internet seems to want to tell me). If he is indeed a vampire, then I guess this defaults to Elizabeth Hempstock, also from The Graveyard Book, mostly because I would like to point out that she shares both a name with one of the main characters in The Ocean at the End of the Lane (Lettie would be a nickname for Elizabeth, right?), and Lettie’s kind of magical-ish, and Elizabeth was falsely accused of being a witch… and anyway, Lettie and Elizabeth, whether they’re secretly the same character or not, also share a last name with Daisy Hempstock, who gets married to Dunstan Thorn in Stardust, also by Neil Gaiman, and Stardust takes place a very long time before Ocean, which I think takes place before Graveyard. So by referencing Graveyard, I can plausibly-ish reference three Gaiman books at once, which is ALWAYS a plus in my book. Heh. Geddit? Book? And I’m talking about books?

details_Graveyard         oceanstardust-book

 

I also wanted to give this to Hector Bowen, from Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, but I’m not sure he’s actually a ghost…

Anyway. Onwards.

Witch/Warlock/Spellcaster: This one undoubtedly goes to the characters of the Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss. I wanted to give it to Simmon. I really wanted to. Simmon is one of my two favorite characters in the book– my favorite being Auri– and he has been a book-crush of mine ever since I read the book. However. Devi is simply straight-up baddassery in its purest form, which happens to be female and magical and a little bit unstable and also pure academic genius.

notwA strong second choice here, from a different book, would be Tsukiko, from The Night Circus (Morgenstern). She might be my favorite character, in a book that is FILLED with my favorite characters. That said, pretty much any character from that book is my favorite character. So.tnc

A third choice here would be Belgarion, from the Belgariad series. Or possibly Pol. Pol is great. But I think I have to restrict myself to only two in this one… sorry.

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Fairies/Fae: I could conceivably have given this designation to a lot of characters, between Kiersten White’s Paranormalcy books, and the Throne of Glass series, by Sarah J. Maas. It could also go to Blue, from Faerie Wars, by Herbie Brennan. I could also make a serious case for Auri, from The Name of the Wind, but I think that that one MIGHT be cheating. Just a little. So it’s a tie between Aelin Ashryver Galathynius, from Throne of Glass, and Blue.    throne of glassfaerie

Demons: I don’t read many books with demons in them. Demonkind, sure. There’s one book. Brave Story. By Miyuki Miyabe. In which case, this goes to the Lady Onba, because she’s terrifying but also adorable, and you can’t help but love her as a character while simultaneously be really, really repulsed. And that’s what makes her memorable. That’s why she’s even on this list.
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Angels: Neil Gaiman strikes again (and Terry Pratchet strikes, too, because they co-wrote this book) with Aziraphale, from Good Omens (recently made into a radio production, which was pretty great, and if you read and liked the book, you’ll like the radio show. Terry and Neil make cameo appearances. It’s wonderful). Aziraphale is an angel who sometimes makes the wrong choices, and then feels bad about it. The whole point is that he’s definitely not infallible. He’s very, very fallible. But he’s also wise, and on the much older side of things, and a little bit outdated, much the way that an angel should be. He’s kind of a lot like Giles, from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, in pretty much all of these respects. Not that Giles is an angel. Anyways. Next category.

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Aliens: Daemon Black, from the Lux series, by Jennifer L. Armentrout. No question about that, not at all (unless we’re counting Pernese dragons as aliens, which I guess technically they are, in which case it would be Canth, for reasons, but…)Daemon has his issues, and starts out as a moody, smart-aleck-y not-very-nice person. But as the series progresses… He stays that way, but we the readers discover his sweet side as Katy, the main character, does. It’s like meeting a real person. You get to know them better, but that doesn’t change the way that they are. And it doesn’t necessarily forgive it. Daemon makes mistakes, colossally idiotic mistakes, stupid hormonal-teenage-boy-with-a-combo-of-testosterone-AND-alien-superpowers mistakes. And sometimes that really screws life up for every character in there. But he’s also a person, and he knows he’s making these mistakes. And yeah. Between the genuine character development, and the witty dialogue… He makes the cut. Undoubtedly.lux

Superpowered humans: I’m not sure how much I like this particular one. What defines “superhero?” What defines “human,” in bookworld? *sigh* whatever. It goes to Emma, from Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Really, it goes to just about every character in Miss Peregrine’s, including the TERRIFYING wights (not so sure about hollowgasts. Also not so sure about the second wight we actually meet. I don’t like him much as a character. But Golan? Pardon the language, but… Hell, yes).

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Also… Do Elantrians count? From Elantris? By Brandon Sanderson? They’re magical-ish… But only ish. Eh, I don’t know. But this book is one of my all-time favorites, and the cover looks cool… so I’m putting it on here.

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I really want to mention Graceling, by Kristen Cashore, too. I think Katsa is a decent contender for this one. Maybe Po as well. And Fox. And you know what? Even Leck is a good CHARACTER. Not saying much for his personality, but still.graceling

Descendants of the gods: I’ve actually got three for this one, two being PG 13 versions, and one being a very not PG 13 version. The first is Annabeth Chase, from Percy Jackson (but not really Heroes of Olympus). She’s smart and generally sassy/badass, from age 7 onwards. Love her.

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The second for this is…basically any of the characters in the Kushiel’s Legacy series, by Jacqueline Carey                      (either the Phedre trilogy or the Imriel trilogy. I’m not such a fan of Moirin’s books). I don’t think Joscelin is actually descended from a god, but he’s probably my favorite character… SPOILER ALERT Hyacinthe practically IS a god, so I don’t know if he counts… Phedre, Imriel, and Melisande are amazing. Kushiel’s Dart and Kushiel’s Scions. They’re amazing. I LOVE THESE BOOKS I LOVE THESE BOOKS I LOVE THESE BOOKS. That said, there’s definitely a “squick” factor in that the sex/violence can be a bit gratuitous. They’re definitely not for everyone. But I fell in love with the storyline and the characters, and I just kept going, and I’m very glad I did.
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And then you get Option Three. Fat Charlie Nancy, from Anansi Boys, by Neil Gaiman (Most people who know me know that I pretty much love everything of his that I have read. Heck, you can probably tell that from this post). Fat Charlie is not a perfect character, the way that a lot of protagonists, or characters in general, often seem to be. He’s got his social issues (he occasionally tries to eat wax fruit. Whoops). But that’s what makes us feel for him. The whole book is about his figuring out where he belongs, and how best to tread the line of absurdity, which is really what Neil Gaiman is all about, which is why I love him and his work so much.

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Devils: Oh, this one is easy. So, so easy. Lain Coubert, from La Sombra del Viento, which is my favorite book in Spanish, and I LOVE IT SO MUCH. i love it enough that I have read it in both English and Spanish, and I have quotes from it written on my walls, and it just says SO MUCH about books, and the way that it’s possible for people to feel about them, and the way that I feel about them, and… I should stop gushing now, and actually talk about the devil, shouldn’t I?
Lain Coubert is actually a character from the book that the book is about. It’s not his real name. I can’t say a whole lot more than that… but his story is harsh and painful and also incredibly compelling, and is probably the main reason I love the book as much as I do.

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I wish I had more space on here for the protagonists, or for the regular humans, or for the mythical creatures. Maybe I’ll do one of those at some point. But for now, I have over 1900 words of text in here and I should probably stop, and go read something, because I would happily spend pretty much all of my time doing exactly that.

The Morality of Mortality and Other Potentially Depressing Ideas

 

I’ve been reading a lot in my nonexistent spare time (In other words, I got sick and read seven books over the course of two days because I didn’t really have much else to do).

The seven books consisted of two series— I highly recommend both of them, by the way. Series one: Throne of Glass as well as its two current sequels and the five novellas that go along with it, by Sarah J. Maas. Series two: the Night Angel trilogy, by Brent Weeks.

The series really aren’t all that similar in any regard beyond the medieval settings, the physical descriptions of all of the big, evil monsters. There are fancy swords and disguises and swashbuckling warriors because—oh, yeah. There is one other similarity: the protagonists of both are assassins. They’re not really known as good people, and they don’t always do good things, and they definitely don’t come out of it unscathed.

And that got me thinking.

When I write, the struggle that my characters face is rarely life-or-death, at least not in a crazy, sword-swinging, action-y way. Maybe that’s why I like reading those books so much—it’s completely out of the realm of what I might normally encounter or write about.

But in the case of both books. They make no show of glorifying violence, or even death. Any time that real blood is spilled, not just a practice dummy broken apart, it really matters. And the emotional scars stay with the characters just as long as the physical ones.sarahjmass

I tend to just write about the emotional scars. Not so much the physical ones (that might change in the book I’m currently writing. Not sure yet).

But I realized something when I was finishing up the Night Angel trilogy. They might not glorify death, but they certainly do make it seem commonplace, almost without the reader even realizing it. And, it’s even more commonplace in the world of books in general. Authors use a sudden death to shake things up a bit.

And that kind of disturbs me, though I’ve been guilty of this several times.
Because the idea of death, or mortality in general… well, it’s manipulative. I’ve never been in a life-or-death situation, thankfully. But people I know have come close, some have come way to close for comfort. Some have even not come out okay, or have not come out at all.
A sudden death does shake things up, a lot. A sudden injury does the same thing. It can even invoke serious changes in a character.

But I’m not so sure that it’s the best plot device out there.

Certainly, the idea of impending doom, or of suddenly-realized-morality is probably the most obvious catalyst for personality change. But there are other ways in which a person’s character can change. And I don’t think that those are discussed often enough. nightangel
We authors tend to block ourselves in, with the idea of “________ must happen to cause ______ to happen, and that will mean _______ in the long term.”
It’s a basic outline. Outlines are helpful. But usually, when looking for a HUGE change that they know needs to happen, a writer will select a death. A beloved character, maybe.
But that is, again, manipulative. It’s designed to do what reality TV does—take your emotions and your but-what-if thoughts, and make them a (literary) reality. And I’m just wondering… how ethical is that? There are so many emotions out there to write about. So why despair? Is it so very awful to know that good things happen too?
Well, when it comes to literature, maybe it is.
Because happiness is an emotion that we never want to experience by proxy. We want it directly. Despair, on the other hand…
It’s easier to read about other people’s pain than it is to feel our own.

That said, there are some really good books about it. And what makes those books so good? They have their light points. Because that’s something else I’ve figured out.
Nothing is ever so stark that there is nothing happy left over. And reading the sad books with happy bits and pieces can help remind us of that.

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