You may have heard something about the catastrophic failure of our utility systems in Texas during last week’s Snowpocalypse that left millions without power and water for days.
At first we were plucky about it. With no water for two days we gathered buckets of snow and melted, boiled, and filtered it for drinking water. When the power went out we braced for the 2-degree temps overnight, swaddled ourselves and our dogs in blankets, and were grateful for our Kindles and each other. It was unpleasant, but an adventure, and over and over we said how grateful we were for each other, that we and our dogs and loved ones were safe and had shelter, that we could find ways to get by. We checked on friends, neighbors, shared resources, offered help, accepted it when needed. We were doing okay.
But when we entered day five with no water (though grateful to finally have power back), we were over it. Our situation was arguably better than it had been—we had power, heat, gas, enough water to get by (carefully) till it came back on (hopefully), and the ice outside was thawing enough that we could finally safely leave the house if need be and look for supplies or take generous friends up on offers of water and showers.
And yet our attitudes were much worse. The situation felt harder than it had when we were in the worst of it, freezing cold in the dark and taking shepherded sips of boiled snow that tasted like dirt.
The difference in our discomfort and mind-set was acceptance—leaning in as we did at first, making the best of the unavoidably bad situation—versus pushing against, which we did as our fortitude wore thin.
While life was easier when we leaned in, fiction is juicier when your characters push against. Increasing resistance, conflict, friction all raise stakes, increase motivations, augment suffering for your characters in the very best sadistic tradition of good story.
(You can read how in the rest of this post on Writer’s Digest here.)