Every Obstacle Is An Article:
Things Going Wrong Can Help Writing

Is this building ruined or an opportunity for artwork? (I took this picture in Penang, Malaysia)

“Bad companies are destroyed by crisis. Good companies survive them. Great companies are improved by them.” -Andy Grove, former president, CEO, and chairman of the board of Intel Corporation.

Recently, I began reading The Obstacle is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph by Ryan Holiday. The book stresses that challenges are opportunities to improve and that they shouldn’t be taken as “this is not so bad,” but rather, “I can make this good.” An easy example of this would be an actress drawing emotions from her own previous experiences. As she sobs on screen when her character’s grandfather dies, the actress thinks back to when her real-life grandparents passed away. When she has a romantic scene, her current off-screen relationship comes to mind. Had the actress never lost a loved one and never been in a relationship, and been unable to channel any similar enough experiences, the scenes may have come off as unauthentic.

The student who was forced to study in high school often surpasses the child who could get away without it when they both reach college. They gained the skills they needed from the early struggle, while the other children had to learn it later. The person who was super skinny as a teenager can easily become overweight when metabolism slows. Meanwhile, somebody who needed more exercise in the past has healthy workout habits to last them a lifetime.

Writing also improves with the more experiences you have had. Sometimes, negative experiences can give you the best material. The first Medium article I ever posted, The customer is NOT always right, was inspired by frustrations I had when I used to work in retail. I may not have enjoyed it, yet it gave me ideas.My sassy tone in the article may have been a little harsh, but the venting relaxed me. We’ve all had times where we’ve wanted to vent about our problems. Instead of bothering your friends, you can write it down and it can make you feel just as good. The bonus is that you might get a few good lines out of it.

This isn’t to say that you can only write about events that have happened to you. In fact, my last article, Permission for Imagination, discussed that very topic. This also isn’t an article claiming “everything happens for a reason,” or a “you just need to have faith.” I’m saying you have a much more active role on how you handle obstacles that are thrown at you.

I recommend you look at the current challenges in your life and wonder, “Where is a future writing piece hidden in this?” When disaster strikes, have your first thought be, “This is great material!” Realize that you can get mileage out of mayhem. Don’t be destroyed by crisis. Let the crisis inspire you.

“Oh how blessed young men are to have to struggle for a foundation and beginning in life.” -John D. Rockefeller.

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