Monday, November 21, 2011

Thanksgiving Gifts in a Michael Hauge Onion Sauce

What, you ask, does Michael Hauge have to do with Thanksgiving?

Two weeks ago, Lisa posted here Michael's parting question from his seminar: "I would do anything to complete my goal. Just don't ask me to do ______, because that's just not me." He said our first answer would not be the real nut keeping us from our goal. Rather our first answers would be planted in our protective identities and it might take some digging to get to the essential root of what keeps us from accomplishing our goals. (Insert collective groan here)

As we prepare for the feast of Thanksgiving, I've been thinking about gratitude and what I'm thankful for. I've come to realize that there is room for identity and essence even here. My first answer when I ask, Keely, what are you thankful for this year? is pretty standard identity stuff: my job, my friends (you all rock!), my family.

These are all true, don't get me wrong. But they are also surface answers, protective answers, easy answers to share at the thanksgiving table before moving on to the main course.

So where does the essence come in? For me, it's when I peel back the layers of the onion by asking why.

Why am I thankful for my job? Beyond paying the bills, this job over the last nearly eight years has engaged my brain and my heart. It has challenged me, nurtured me, provided a safe space to grow and learn and grow some more.

Why am I thankful for my friends? Because when I had a really bad day last week, they rallied around me, offering support without telling me I was silly or lacking or to "just get over it."

Why am I thankful for my family? Because being in their space makes me feel - everything from grief to rejoicing to kooky humor to love. My family is present moment hijinks and long ago baggage and future hopes and dreams.

So there you have it. Thanksgiving gifts in a Michael Hauge onion sauce. As writers, that's what we're supposed to do, yes? Peel the layers of our characters' protective identity onion away until we reach their essential core? (yes, yes, this metaphor would be even better if onions actually had cores...maybe on the rewrite...)

What are you thankful for this season? What are your characters thankful for? Identity vs. essence: Is it either/or for you? An onion of many layers? Or do you make sense of it using some other construction or metaphor?


  1. Thanks, Keely. I've been enjoying all the Michael Hauge inspired blog posting that's been going on, both here at the R8 and elsewhere. So there's something I'm thankful for! Aside from the usual identity-directed stuff. :-)

  2. I am thankful for returned security and the strength to hold on until it returned. ;0) And a husband who allows me to be me and loves me even at my worst.

    I have much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving!

  3. Your Q (What are your characters thankful for?) really caught my eye!

    When I think about it, my protagonists are all eventually grateful for change. Sure, change can be one of those surface answers you mentioned. In each case, though, those protags of mine have undergone specific change, just as I, who hates to rearrange my furniture because I crave the consistency of having everything the same, has ended up leading a life that means I have to move frequently. But I've been better off for that change--those moves--and my protags are always better off for embracing their change, too.

    Which sparks another Q: are my protags thankful for change because I am so I write 'em that way, or am I thankful for change having seen how change can theoretically benefit my protags?


    Now you got me thinking, Keely. And I'm always thankful for that!

  4. These *are* thought-provoking questions, Keely! I think my characters are grateful when I stop torturing them--which is pretty much when the book is done. :-) I like the identity/essence concept, which I'm thinking is basically inner conflict, but takes it a step further. I definitely plan to use it.

    Happy Thanksgiving, Rockville 8! :-)

    -Kathy A

  5. I have so much to be thankful for. The really important things are family and friends, but it's been a good writing year as well.

  6. Christa - it's fascinating, isn't it - the moebius strip that is us and our characters. Where do we end and they begin? How does what you write influence you and how does that in turn influence what you write? Yum!

  7. Kathy - thanks for the holiday greetings and right back at you! I remember reading a short story in which the heroine is an author whose long-time hero comes to life to take revenge on all the s*** she's put him thru over the years. I would be very afraid if any of my characters came to life with vengence in mind...

  8. Anita - Amen, honey! Good family and friends are what it's all about in the end.

    Happy Thanksgiving and thank you for stopping my the R8!

  9. Keely - I'm thankful for people who love me just as I am. The ones who can handle letting the identity slip to see the essence. The ones who allow me to see the same.