Monday, February 24, 2014

Life-Changing Literature

Breath out, breathe in. I had to remind myself of the process. In through the nose, pushed out through the mouth.  Repeat.

I glanced across at my friend, noting her wide eyes and pinked cheeks.

"I had to look away," she admitted. "It was just..." And there it was again, the wide-eyed did-that-just-happen look that begged me to complete the thought.

I didn't need to. My thumping pulse bore witness of what had just taken place.

Few things have this shaken-to-the-core effect on me: a good car crash will do it--especially when I'm at fault, powerlessly watching someone in the throws of a seizure puts me in the same place, and anytime a child is mistreated in my presence will send me right to the verge of crazy.

But it was none of those.  This time it was Shakespeare.
The fandom wouldn't miss a beat. "Because: Tom Hiddleston," they'd chorus.

And they wouldn't be wrong--he was the reason I heard about Coriolanus in the first place, combed my group of friends for a willing theater-goer, and happily whipped out the plastic to cover the tickets.  

But the smug fandom wouldn't be entirely right either. Actors spin a story in their own unique way.  Through a brilliant combination of body language and vocal inflection they portray raw emotion to the viewer.  However, without a story to tell, even the accomplished and oh-so-attractive Tom Hiddleston wouldn't have gotten very far.  

This leads us firmly to the heart of the matter: Shakespeare, one of the greatest storytellers of all time.

Imagine dragging an obscure Roman warrior from the past and breathing life into his long-forgotten heroics and human foibles. Let me share a portion with you from the end of the play. (No spoilers, I promise!) After having defended Rome with his own life, Coriolanus is banished from his homeland by those who lauded his name only moments before.  In shame and great humility, he turns to the man he defeated and becomes a sword in his enemy's hand against his own people.  Desperate, Rome sends emissaries to plead their case. One by one. they are turned away by Coriolanus.  As a last recourse, they send his beloved mother, wife, and young son to his camp:

Life-changing literature.

I can never aspire to what William Shakespeare has done, but every time I interact with his works, I come away enriched, uplifted, and inspired.  He has grown me as a writer and human being in ways I can't express.

Here's my point: there is great need for writers to be readers.  Losing ourselves in a good book, play, or movie is as good a way as any to get the heart racing and the creative juices flowing.  In my quest to extend my online presence, I overlooked the importance of immersing myself in good literature, and as a consequence, my writing suffered.  Now, empowered by the immortal words of Shakespeare, I pick up my pen (ahem, laptop) and get to work.

I urge you to do the same.  Find what inspires you--people, places, high quality literature--and jump in with two feet.
And, let me tell you something, it doesn't hurt if "passing sexy" Tom Hiddleston is part of the process. 

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