It’s the first Wednesday of the month again, time for a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.
OPTIONAL JULY QUESTION: What is one valuable lesson you’ve learned since you started writing?
MY ANSWER: There are so many, it is hard to choose, but I think the most valuable one is: you can find story ideas anywhere. When I started writing, I hoarded my story ideas. I was afraid – don’t laugh – that someone would steal them. I’m not afraid anymore. I have so many ideas, I won’t be able to write all my stories. Maybe someone else will use some of my ideas. I don’t mind. After all, I steal story ideas too, but my stories based on those stolen ideas surely are different from anyone else’s stories based on the same ideas.
One of the ideas that is floating around, especially in the fantasy genre, the genre I write in, is patriotism. A number of writers touch on this theme. In one of my published novels, Eagle en Garde (out of print for now) the protagonist is a patriot. Many of his choices are dictated by his love for his country and its people. But do I have the right to explore this idea?
My relationship with patriotism is complicated. I believe that patriotism is not a clearly defined concept. I think I’m a patriot. I live in Canada. I love Canada. My country celebrated its 150th birthday just a few days ago, on July 1st, 2017, and I feel warm and fuzzy inside just thinking about it.
For many years, I’ve been a subscriber to a classical music series by our Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. Every year, I try to attend the first concert of the year, because the Orchestra starts every season with the Canadian anthem. Everyone in the audience stands up. People sing together. It’s a very uplifting experience. I love it.
I don’t usually pay attention to commercials on TV, but one of them caught my attention in 2000 and still holds it. It’s the famous commercial for Molson Canadian beer. I don’t drink beer, but I love this clip. I always smile when I watch it.
My problem with all this is: I wasn’t born a Canadian. I’m an immigrant and I lived half of my life in Russia before immigrating to Canada.
Years ago, CBC ran a contest for the best ending to the phrase: “As Canadian as…” The winning entry was: “As Canadian as possible under the circumstances.” That phrase applies to me, but can I really consider myself a Canadian patriot? Is that okay to be a patriot of a country that adopted me, not a country I was born and grew up in? Shouldn’t I be a Russian patriot instead? Because I’m not and never have been.
I’m Jewish, and Russia has never been nice to its Jews. Canada is. Canada has been very nice to me. It gave me all I wanted and all I needed to fulfill myself as a woman and a writer. Is it right to be a patriot of a country because it is a good place to live? What about countries that are not so good, countries where life is tough? Could my heroes be patriots of such countries, while I myself am not? Can I write about such patriots convincingly?