“Adversity reveals genius, prosperity conceals it.” Fortune cookie wisdom
When this little gem popped up in my life, I knew it was a keeper. It rings true to me. In my handy New Century Dictionary, I found “adversity defined starkly as “Adverse or ill fortune; a misfortune; a trial.” This is how we view this word most of the time, isn’t it? So, the very idea that “adversity reveals genius” – that can be a positive, creativity-inducing force in our lives seems radical and pretty counterintuitive, doesn’t it?
And yet. And yet. When I started pondering this idea, the truth and beauty of it began to unveil themselves to me. Here’s what came up:
Adversity creates friction and friction creates heat and sometimes light. When you rub two sticks together to start afire, you’re tapping the power of friction to create heat and sparks. When we write, creating friction and conflict is what propels our characters forward.
Adversity disrupts the status quo. We’ve all experienced those moments in our lives when things were perking along until some unexpected event shattered our complacency. Large or small, irritations or true misfortunes, bouts of adversity shake us up and change us. When we write in defiance of adversity or in its aftermath, we often bring new and different ideas to the page, and often deeper emotion, because we’ve been chastened and altered.
Adversity forces growth. “Into every life some rain must fall,” our old friend and fellow traveler Longfellow said (see Longfellow Illuminates). And when this happens, we are nourished by it. Just as a seed is nourished by both the sun and the rain: Without one or the other, it will never blossom.
So, if and when adversity comes our way and affects our writing – through either misfortunes on the page or off it — let’s not shrink from it. Let’s revel in its revelatory powers. Let’s turn the standard definition on its head and believe that it holds the power to reveal our inner-genius – something precious and hidden that some misfortune or trial has shaken it free.
How about you? Has adversity nourished you in some way? If so, how wonderful if you’d share your story as we all write on!