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By Request: Are You a Candle or a Mirror?

Vicki Hinze, My Kitchen Table

Written by Vicki Hinze

On July 21, 2014
I’ve had a lot of requests to run this article again so here it is!


c2012, Vicki Hinze

On awakening, like everyone else, I have my rituals. One of them is to read from the Bible and then to pull a quote for the day and reflect on how the two–the reading and the quote–interrelate. The quote for today is:

“There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” -Edith Wharton

There are a lot of ways to look at that quote. And I expect one sees in it what they’re looking for at the time. Today, my interpretation of it is that we’re all both candles and mirrors at different points in time on different issues and in different situations.

I think that’s a good thing. When we’re capable of creating paths (whether we really want to walk them or we feel compelled to walk them for the greater good), of doing things that need doing (pleasant or not), or we take action to make situations better, we’re the candle.

When we are the candle, we emit light into shadows and darkness and others see it and find their way or reflect it, emulating us, like mirrors. When your children mimic your actions. If you ask them for something and always say thank you, then they automatically do, too. When you treat others with respect, conduct yourself with dignity and grace, then others are more apt to treat you that way, as well. Not certain to, but more apt to. With free will, that’s the best you can do: be responsible for yourself.

When you’re the candle, you choose what light you cast. Knowing others reflect it, you should aspire to have it be the best you have to give.

When others are the candle and we act in harmony with them, then we are the mirror that reflects their light. This is why it is so important to choose those you surround yourself with carefully. If the light they cast is negative, harmful, hurtful–either inflicted directly or condoned–then you reflect it. If it is positive and constructive and helpful–either inflicted directly or condoned–then you reflect it.

c2012, Vicki Hinze

When you’re the mirror–and at times we all are–then you don’t choose good or bad, right or wrong, negative or positive, or destructive or constructive. You simply reflect.

I’m being nudged this morning to write this post, and I never question spiritual nudgings. But this reads like a lecture on life, and I guess when you get down to it, it is. Yet like everything else it does apply to writing.

Writing is all about characters–people–and if you don’t believe that, take Scarlet and Rhett out of GONE WITH THE WIND and see what you’ve got left. Since writing is about people, it is a mirror that reflects light.

Which makes the point of this that every author is a candle. And all the fiction the author produces is a mirror that reflects the light from her candle. That is a compass for authors to consider the impact of what they write. To consider the light they emit that others will mirror and reflect.

Carrying this one step further, solely into the fictional world, the characters are candles or mirrors, too. As writers, we serve them well by remembering that.

I hope this helps–and because I know someone is going to ask, I’ll just answer the why question now.

I get these nudges often, and when I do, I heed them and post. Without fail, someone who gains some something from the post emails to say so. That’s held true in all the ten years (or whatever it’s been now) that I’ve done writing posts. At first, I considered it coincidence. Now I accept that in these posts, I’m not the candle. I’m a mirror.

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