On Meeting Your Heroes

Here’s the thing about heroes: they’re people. They have people’s desires and exhaustions and flaws. They can be good people, often, but people all the same. No one on this planet is Superman, even if I still think of my dad that way sometimes (I blame his love of Smallville).

I try to keep that in mind whenever I have the chance to meet someone I admire, whether for their voice or creativity or uncommonly kind heart. Heroes are people. People are flawed. Both of these things can be true, no those we consider our personal heroes can still be worthy of respect.

Last month, I had the opportunity to meet David Archuleta before one of his concerts. He’s one of those people I respect, for his integrity and for the messages he works to share through his music. During the concert, he introduced one of the songs with some commentary on social media.

He pointed out that on the internet, people usually only share the things about their lives that they are happy with-the good selfies, the weekends spent with friends, not the time spent on makeup or the quiet nights in.

I think this filtering of information is also in effect when it comes to our heroes. Parents don’t usually tell their children about their doubts and struggles as they raise them. Creative people share their successes far more readily than they do their weeks of struggling to come up with an idea. Emergency responders don’t tell the people they’re rescuing about the times they didn’t get there soon enough.

This can be good. I, for one, am not even slightly interested in seeing everyone’s dirty laundry.

But it can lead to the impression that heroes aren’t ordinary People Like Us, and that’s just inaccurate. Heroes are ordinary. They have favorite foods and bad habits and toothbrushes, same as me and probably you, dear reader.

Which leads to the conclusion that any of us can be heroes for someone.

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A Thought and a Song

It’s been my habit, from a very early age, to focus most of my attentions on music that was slightly melancholy.  Not sure why. Maybe I like minor keys. Maybe all the happy songs were about sappy romances, which I’ve never been interested in. Maybe I’m just morbid. The songs don’t make me sad when I listen to them, really. I just like them.

Sometimes, though, the world is a touch more awful than usual, and I just want to listen to something upbeat and happy. I made a music playlist for just such an occasion, and thought I’d share it here.

The most recent addition to the playlist is “Invincible” by David Archuleta, which came out last week.

Invincible is, despite its title, about not being invincible. It’s about going through hard times without allowing yourself to become hard.

We live in what future historians will likely call an “interesting time”. There are so many changes going on, so much conflict.  But there are a lot of good things too, and remembering that, as the song suggests, is its own type of strength.

Here’s the thing about words

I don’t know if anyone else’s mind works like this. I’ve never been anyone else.

For me, words are anchors to thought. They nail down a concept or idea into easily definable parameters so that that concept can be shared. Sometimes it’s hard to be sure that the concept fits the parameters the words are forming, but so far the errors are manageable. Sometimes it’s hard to assemble the words to match the concept quickly enough to engage in conversation, but again, it’s manageable.

Thinking in words is nice. It’s the simplest way to engage with the world.

Words are communication. Those who can’t use them, or who use words in a language other than the one used by those around them, have difficulty getting their thoughts and needs across.

And words are fun. The way that “right” can mean either a direction or “correct” is amusing. The different connotations attached to words like “combat boots” can lead in dozens of fascinating directions. The different ways people use words, based on where they are from and what they have experienced, those are really cool.

But it’s not the only way to think. There are numbers. Colors. Line. Melody. Thinking in those is useful and exciting too. It can have remarkable results–creative works no words could make.

And sometimes I don’t use any of those to think, not words or color or number. Thinking without anything remotely like language to nail down the thoughts isn’t not-thinking. It’s just a different way of experiencing things. Once I was thinking in that way while fidgeting with a puzzle box no one in my family could figure out. I dismantled it in a few minutes, though I still am not sure how.

The Week of Insanity

After typing that title, I have Princess Bride lines spouting off at the back of my mind.  Ah well.

This week, next week, and probably the week after that have been/will all be hectic.  Finishing my portfolio and application to the Illustration program at BYU.  Helping with my church’s Pioneer Day celebration.  Babysitting.  My brother’s birthday.  A change in medications.  One of my best friends getting home from his two-year LDS mission in twelve days (not that I’m counting).

Last night I helped operate the fairy floss machine to make sure it would work at the Pioneer Day celebration on Saturday.  I still had sugar in my hair when my family hauled me off to see Star Trek–which was amazing, by the way.

I have a very strong auditory memory, so during times of stress like this my brain starts playing a few of my favorite songs on repeat.  Today it’s Who I Am by David Archuleta.

There was supposed to be a picture with this blog, but the technology is not cooperating.  My apologies.

Next week:  Why villains need redemptive traits.  And possibly a dragon.

On Creating Beauty

One of my favorite things about Vincent Van Gogh is that even though he was fighting his inner demons every day, he turned the pain from that battle into paintings of incredible beauty.  People might find the way he cut off part of his own ear or the way he died to be memorable, but those things matter because of all the positive things he added to the world when they could have been all negative.  That would have been the easier route.

I try to do that too, but pretending that I’m always, or even usually, okay, would be lying.

My semester at university ended last week, and now I’m home.  Changes like moving, even moving home, always strengthen my own inner demons, but I’ve managed to be pretty productive this past week despite that.  Started a new sketchbook for my reapplication to the illustration program.  Found a couple books on figure drawing and worked on proportions and structure.  Developed a project I’ll probably tell you all about when it’s a bit more outside my head.  Watched the first season of Agents of Shield.  Met up with some friends.  Drove my little brother to and from rehearsal practice for a school musical.  I might even finish unpacking before I have to pack up and leave again.

My mind is still a pretty unawesome place to be in right now, though, so I’ve been thinking of ways to increase the beautiful, good things I make.  I have a list.

1: Bake cookies.  Obviously.

Chocolate chips cookies make everything better, and the simplest recipes only take five ingredients.  Making them is a good way to expel nervous energy without having to think too hard–perfect for a bad anxiety day.

2:  Listen to music.

I have two playlists of the best songs I’ve heard:  One on Youtube and one on iTunes.  There’s something about listening to the right music that helps me get centered so I can get up and do things like eat breakfast.

3:  Read scriptures.

It’s cliche, but that doesn’t really matter.  Scriptures remind me that there’s a lot more to the world than myself, and that there’s someone watching over everything.  That’s usually enough to kick me out of circular thoughts.

When I do one of those things, I can generally get started on drawing or writing something good, though perhaps a little dark.  When I can’t, reading or watching someone else’s fiction is always an option.

What are some things you all do to get motivation to do awesome things?  Let me know in the comments.

If I Had A Million Dollars

Someone hid ten thousand hundred-dollar bills in my room while I slept. It took forever to find them all, but it was totally worth it.

Actually, Hannah Heath tagged me in the million dollar writer’s tag, and now I’m responding.  Check her blog out; it’s cool.

Ten things I would do if I suddenly had a million dollars.  

One.  First, I would probably get yelled at.  People who have money seem to get yelled at a lot.  The IRS would send ominous paperwork.  Some non-yellers would probably be extra nice to me, the way we all were in high school to the one person in class who had food when lunch hour was ages away.

Of course, that doesn’t technically count as something I would do.

The first thing I would do is work out exactly how much money I’ll need over the next several years for food, tuition, rent, medical bills, gasoline, et cetera, and set that aside.  Having fun with the money is great, but let’s be practical.

Two.  I’d get a really excellent computer.

One that’s light and thin for easy transport, but has a good sized screen and a keyboard that’s comfortable to use.  I’d get some top-notch digital art programs on it and a Wacom tablet too, because drawing with a mouse hurts after a few minutes.

Three.  Travel.

A million dollars would make it far easier to chase my dream of drawing all the interesting places in the world.  I probably would get worn out before I got to go to all the interesting places (since I think most places are interesting), but I would definitely spend a few months in Ireland.

I’d go myth hunting in Ireland, too.  Have I mentioned how great Irish myths are?

Four.  Art supplies.

That stuff’s expensive.  I’d add to my collection of Copic markers, get lots of canvas boards, various types of paints, more colored pencils, chalk pastels, and many, many sketchbooks.

There’s nothing sadder than filling up a sketchbook you’ve gotten emotionally attached to and not having a replacement on hand.  Well, there are sadder things, but in the moment it’s hard to remember that.

Five.  Novels and comics.

I would get every published work of Brandon Sanderson’s, lots of Winter Soldier comics, see if the Charmed comics are any good, and buy every Hatter Madigan graphic novel.

Have I talked about Hatter Madigan?  It’s a spin-off from The Looking Glass Wars, both novel and comics by Frank Beddor, which turns Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland on its head.  It’s great.  Imagine the Mad Hatter as a royal bodyguard.  No, scarier.  But he isn’t terrifying because he’s so clearly on the side of the light.

Anyways.

Six.  A decent guitar tuner.

The one I have is pathetic.

Seven.  An engagement ring.

In case I find someone I feel inclined to give such a thing to and have the guts to initiate such an exchange of jewelry.

Probably something silver with abalone inlay.

Eight.  Past that, what does a Dragon (or girl) need?

I’d get flowers for my mom’s garden.  Pay to get the kitchen floor back home redone.  Nice things for the people I love.

Nine.  Donate to the art program at my old high school.

I mean, it was a good program.  But there’s always room for improvement.

Ten.  Tithing and other donations.

In my church, we give ten percent of all our income to go to building chapels, helping missionaries, various humanitarian works, that sort of thing.  It’s a way of giving back some of what we’ve been blessed with.

But even after all that, I’d still want to donate to specific causes.  Like the group at my university that wants to cure asthma.  Other groups researching treatments and cures for cancer, mental illness, fibromyalgia, and other diseases and disorders that are making life difficult for far too many people.  And probably a group working to get clean water and electricity to areas that don’t have it.

Donating may not be the most original of uses of having lots of money, but I don’t actually want that many things for myself, past a healthy life and chances to make art and stories and learn about the world.  Why not help people when I have that?

Okay, I know I’m supposed to tag someone and keep this going, but I’m a rebel.

Happy Good Friday and Easter weekend, and if you don’t celebrate those, happy weekend!

Home

They say home is where the heart is.  I don’t know about the rest of you, but my heart is inside my chest, next to the lungs and the ribs.

It isn’t necessarily the place you were born, since a lot of us are being born in a hospital these days, or the place you grew up in.  I moved around a lot as a kid, grew up in lots of places.  Home isn’t always the place you live now, either.

It’s a lot harder to define.  Apparently Dory will be looking for it in the upcoming Finding Dory movie.

In the last Fablehaven book, Brandon Mull wrote, “Some imagine the difference between heaven and hell to be a matter of geography.  Not so.  The difference is much more evident in the individuals who dwell there.”  I think that applies to homes as well as heavens–don’t parents aspire to make their homes a heaven for their families, or at least a haven?  So home can mean being with the people you love, who love you, so that wherever you actually are you feel comfortable.

What about those of us who can only take a certain amount of social interaction, even with our favorite people?  What about the people who can’t be with their loved ones?

Harry Potter thought of Hogwarts as his home, not because of the castle or the lake, but because it was a place where he was allowed to be himself without being called a freak.  Until it came out that he could talk to snakes, anyway.  The Doctor takes his TARDIS with him wherever he goes, so even if his home planet isn’t around anymore he still has a home of sorts.

I think a big part of a home is being able to feel safe.  Which makes even my own bed not at all homelike if there’s a spider in the room.

Have you ever felt homesick, even when you were at home?

I was a weird kid, and an even weirder teenager, and so even though my family was (and still is) pretty great, I thought about what a home was and what I considered home to be a lot.  I decided that I had many homes, though they were homes at varying levels.

There was the house where I lived with my family.

There was my grandparents’ house.

There were church buildings, which I love even if I don’t love big congregations.

There were the art classrooms at school.

There was my best friend’s house.

There was this bit of wild high mountain desert outside my neighborhood.

And even when I couldn’t get to those places or be with the people who helped make them homelike, I still carried home in my backpack, locked in the pages of a sketchbook.  I found home in making art, in hearing my favorite music, in stories, in peach ring candies and Starburst jelly beans and Star Wars.  I figured that any place could be homelike, with time.

I’m hoping that’s true of university campuses.  I’m definitely more at home than I was my first few weeks.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t miss home.

Maybe that’s part of being human, missing things.  Even if you can go back to the home you remember, it isn’t the same.  Either home’s changed or you’ve changed, or both in the case of Frodo Baggins and the Shire, and you have to adjust.  It would take some serious warping of spacetime to get you back to exactly the way things were before you left, and you’d lose all the things you’d gained in the leaving.