K is for Kismet

a-to-z-letters-kDefinition: Kismet – n. fate; destiny

I first discovered the word kismet when I was an adolescent in Grade 8 just bordering on the teen-age stage of “I know everything”. My grade 8 teacher was one of those teachers that comes along once in a lifetime if you are lucky. The kind that doesn’t pretend that you’re just kids, that treats you like the budding adults you are and despite the fact that he probably did know better than us in almost every situation, never once said it. On our grade 8 graduation trip we went to a rustic summer camp for a weekend a few hours away by bus. On that trip our teacher mentioned that we should keep an eye open for the word KISMET. He asked us what we thought it meant. I don’t think any of us had a clue.

On the way to the camp we passed a small abandoned boat, beached on the shore. Written on the back was it’s name – KISMET. He explained the meaning of the word and related some urban legend about the origins of the word that involved Horatio Nelson’s death and Captain Thomas Hardy (see: Kiss Me Hardy). I never forgot that word, my teacher or his unique methods of imparting knowledge that stay with you some 30+ years later.

The Greek Fates

The Greek Fates

I have always had a problem believing in fate. To me believing that we are fated to something implies that somehow we have no freewill. That word implies no matter what we do our fate is sealed. In Greek mythology the Fates were three figures that were responsible for weaving the fabric of everyone’s lives and even the gods themselves couldn’t interfere with their decisions. When the fates cut your thread, you ceased to exist.

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.'s - Cat's Cradle

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.’s – Cat’s Cradle

Now, even though I don’t believe in fate, I do believe that things happen for a reason and that universe moves in mysterious ways. I know that sounds all mystic mumbo-jumbo, but hear me out.  Kurt Vonnegut in his brilliant satirical novel Cat’s Cradle (go and read it if you haven’t) explores a religion called Bokonism as part of the book. One of the concepts of bokonism is the karass – a group of people working together, often unknowingly, to do God’s will. While I may not subscribe to a religious deity manipulating things behind the scenes, that doesn’t mean I don’t believe that people come into your life for a specific reason and that somehow your destinies are intertwined.

In the novel I am currently working on there are two characters who’s destinies are intertwined in this way. When they are apart the universe is out of harmony and their lives suffer, its only when they are together do things work in their favour. The fact that exist in different universes to start makes things even more interesting

Was it kismet that my Grade 8 teacher came into my life and planted these seeds in my head? Probably not, but I still think about him nearly every day.

J is for Journey

a-to-z-letters-j Like many things in this life, writing is a journey. Very few of us knock a home run out of the park the first time you sit down to write. Let’s face it, if it were that easy to do it would be boring. The challenge lies in mastering your craft and plugging away at it until you are actually good at. Once you’re good at it the challenge becomes repeating that success.

If you scratch the surface of most people that are called over-night successes, what you would really find is someone (obviously with some talent) who has paid their dues put their time in and plugged away at their craft. They say that it takes in the neighbourhood of a million words that need to flow from your brain to your fingertips in writing before you get any good at it. There was a book out a few years ago called Outliers – The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell which proposed that in addition to luck and other environmental factors that when they looked at successful people across all categories they found that it took around 10,000 hours of ‘practice’ before you master something. I’ll save you the math – that’s the equivalent of 20 hours of work a week for almost 10 years. From Bill Gates to the Beatles, they found that those driven and talented people didn’t really hit their stride until they had those 10,000 hours under their belt.

I’ve been on a writing journey ever since I penned my first piece of fiction in elementary school on some foolscap paper, unfortunately for me I spent a lot of the first half of my life going in circles and not knowing which way to turn. It wasn’t until I was in my early 30s that I began to wake up to my writing life and make a concentrated effort to develop it, seeking out other like-minded writers along the way. I have to admit even then it was a lot of it was baby-steps, trial and error, but all in all essential steps along the path. While I have the 10 years under my belt, I am still working on the 10,000 hours and the million words. Standing here on the crest of middle-age I can look behind me and see the path that has lead me to where I am today. Looking forward I can see I still have a way to go to reach my goals.

Thanks for being a part of this journey.