It’s a cold, cold night. The winter storm is coming. Tomorrow is supposed to be -35 degrees. I am warm inside the house. I let my dogs out for 5 minutes and then bring them back inside. They whimper because the ice is frigid. It hurts their paws.
The storm is coming.
I could worry about everything. Will my car start? Will I make it through the snow and ice? What about the storms at work? What if someone else gets Covid? What will we do? What about this? What about that?
What if…What if…What if…
2022 is not starting out well. We are stuck in a bad, bad approaching storm. Think about the economy, think about Covid, think about the supply chain shortages, think about this, think about that…..think about all the bad stuff on the news…….get all filled up with anxiety and fear. Get all angry and frustrated and all worked up.
choose to stay calm. Choose faith. Not the crazy blinding stupid faith that totally ignores the potential dangers. No the kind of faith that informs the serenity prayer.
Lord, help us to accept the things we cannot change and give us the courage to know the difference between what we can and what we cannot do.
I went to Galilee when I was 21. It was a study abroad for a summer. We took a rickety old metal bus up to the Golan Heights for the day and then on the way back, we stopped at an outside cafe. We got the wild notion to swim in the Sea with our clothes on. I still remember the joy of that moment swimming in the Sea with friends.
It really wasn’t that big, the Sea of Galilee. You could see the other side….much like a big Missouri lake. I wondered then what the disciples were so afraid of when the storms tossed their boat around and the waves threatened to come over the sides. Why did they panic? Jesus was asleep in the boat and they came to him and asked him to save them. Now, I realize that they probably didn’t know how to swim. That would be scary for sure.
Anyway, he got up and told them to have faith and then he calmed the waters to ease their minds.
We’re all kinda stuck in a Galilee boat and we don’t know what to do and we’re worried that this dang disease is gonna drown us. But remember what JFK said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
Fear causes anxiety and procrastination and arguing and in-fighting and endless stupid drama which only serves to compound our problems. It causes the blame game and finger pointing. People stop fixing things and looking for solutions. Instead, they just throw shade and throw each other under the bus in an attempt to save their own hide. Every man for himself like we’re on the Titanic and there’s only one lifeboat left.
Admit it. You’ve done this. I’ve done it too. But this time…
Relax. Stay calm. Stay the course.
We’ll get out of this.
The man who wrote the song Amazing Grace was once in a storm too off the coast of England. He tied himself to the boat and he asked for mercy. He came through the storm and gave up his profession of slave trading. He went on to become a prolific preacher and hymn writer and we still sing his songs to this day.
It’s getting colder and colder outside. I could sit here and worry myself to death about the endless possibilities of what could go wrong. Or I could sit here and write something encouraging.
I’m starting to plan for the first public event for the book Searching for Fire. There’s a lot of things to consider: sales tax id, how to use a square, how to setup a paypal account, how to setup the accounts associated, etc. Then there is the packing list for the event and books to be ordered and how to price them, etc. etc. My husband agreed to help me out on this one. It is the Artwalk in my hometown which features a wide array of artists, musicians, and literary folks, as well as food vendors from my local community. It will be on Broadway in the downtown area this Friday from 5 to 9 pm. There will be lots of arts activities for children and lots of fun things to do and see that night. I am really looking forward to it! That is also the same day the kids go back to school so we are gathering school supplies and getting clothes and such all ready for their big day too!
A book launch event should be fun – a time to celebrate months and months of preparation. In other news, the book got the first review today on Amazon and got 4 stars. This makes me super happy and I breathed a big sigh of relief. I was so fearful it would just get one star…..or worse, half a star or a big ole goose egg zero stars………which brings me to an interesting topic. …..
A friend asked me to help her with writing. To be honest, I don’t know a whole lot about the subject. I do not hold an advanced degree in English or frankly any degree related to writing. I haven’t poured through tons of manuals or expensive online classes. We got to talking. I offered to help any way I can but I got the impression that the more we talked, the more prepared she was for writing than I. She talked about Scribner and other softwares and technologies and even some theories on writing. I just listened greatly impressed by her knowledge.
Writing to me………..it seems the one main element that you have to possess is an unusual one. It is not flashy or super sophisticated with all sorts of advanced technologies. The element that seems most crucial to me is this…………courage.
Now, hold up, before I go any further…….I don’t want you to think I mean this kind of courage.
I mean you gotta have courage like this…….
Do you remember being a kid at the public pool and your friends dared you to jump off the high dive? You look up at that behemoth of a diving board and the tall ladder leading up to the top and you sorta gulp. But you say, “Sure! Let’s try it!” And you follow your friends to the line waiting at the tall metal ladder. One by one, the kids climb up the ladder. Some of the kids have done this before and take running leaps off the top board. Other kids are like you and they slowly climb the ladder hesitantly and then carefully and slowly walk to the edge to look over and at the far, far distance down below. Yikes! You think to yourself that you would prefer to take the chicken exit but you have seen what happens to the kids that bail. Some of them get chuckled at and some of them never do gain the courage to overcome their fear and jump. And yet, you’ve seen others…….over-cocky and maybe a little arrogant types that over turn their jumps and end up doing painful belly busters. You don’t want to do that either.
It’s your turn. You’ve been waiting for this and your friends are counting on you to try. You climb the ladder rung by rung with a nervous feeling in your belly. Maybe even your mom has stopped watching from the poolside cabana chair and is now standing and watching you. She’s squinting into the sun. Her hand is over her eyes as she watches you above. She wants you to try but she’s also deeply worried about you and ready to jump in at a moment’s notice to save and protect you.
Your feet feel the hard nubbles of the concrete slab of the high dive. You’re very aware in that moment, feeling the adrenaline in your body. Pools of water surround your feet as you look at the edge. Then you slowly walk step by step to the end. You look down for a little while, enough time that you won’t look like a coward. Your heart is pounding now. Your breathing is a little jagged. You step a few paces back and then……
You run off the ledge to freefall. And it is terrifying and exciting at the same time. Your eyes are wide open and you straighten your body out to execute the jump just right so you don’t belly buster. The last thing in the world you want to do is belly buster cause that is embarassing.
And you close your eyes and hold your breath right before you finally hit the water. And it is the best feeling in the world when you come up for air. You realize it is not so hard as you thought it could be. You realize that the biggest obstacle you faced was dread.
We have nothing to fear but fear itself.
And you maybe even chance going off that high dive a few more times that day.
Anyway…….that’s the kind of courage it seems to take to try to create and show something rather than spend lots and lots and lots of time writing as a hobby but never going any further.
So, honestly, I don’t know a lot about these new templates, and theories, and ideas, and software, and techologies and all these great classes to take on writing. But I do know that eventually you gotta act.
As I was writing earlier this year, I kept two fortune cookie fortunes on my desk. The first read,
Luck helps those who help themselves.
The second read,
The simplest answer is to act.
A long time ago, I had a good friend in the military. He was a decorated war veteran and served six of seven year-long tours in Iraq and Kuwait. He was an Army officer and retired a Lt. Colonel. When we would travel together and I would drive, he would get super frustrated with my driving. I would be polite and always let people pass me or cut in front of me as we traveled around the Washington DC Beltway. He would always look at me and say this mantra of the military:
He who hesitates is lost.
I just figured he was an angsty type of driver but turns out he was trying to teach me a very valuable lesson that I picked up on later in my 40s.
Just act. Don’t waste your life never acting.
Writers by nature, tend to be very introspective and thinkers. They think a whole bunch before they finally make a decision to move. They remind me of the Ents in Lord of the Rings. There’s a certain quote by John Green that sums up their behavior well:
Writing is a profession for introverts who want to tell you a story but don’t want to make eye contact while doing it.
So, my main point with this extended post is just to encourage you to act. To use another metaphor…..a pilot can take a brand new plane onto the runway and wait for the go-ahead from air traffic control. He can study all the manuals, memorize all the control panel buttons, put all the latest technology into his plane, learn each and every possible idea about piloting, perfect each and every detail of his manuevers, etc. But eventually, he is going to have to make the hard decision to move forward and race at breakneck speed, barreling down that runway, hoping and praying that those wheels come up and those wings start to lift. He’ll pass the point of no return. He’ll have to do it. The sink or swim point. Fly or crash and burn in a blaze of fantastic but embarassing glory. The belly buster.
Just do it.
Eventually you just gotta do it and when you do, you will want to try again. And remember, a plane doesn’t fly until it reaches a point of intense pressure. To fly, to defy gravity……..that is a worthwhile moment. So, if you are facing a whole lot of pressure writing…..well, maybe that is just you getting prepared for lift off.
So, that’s my cheap and unsophisticated two cents on writing. It’s not fancy. It’s not long enough to turn into an hour long class but it is authentic and real.
And finally, as a side note, the last thing I would add is take the pressure off yourself. There’s so much pressure already on you from daily life……why add more to yourself? Remember to have fun with writing. Make it playful. Just write for the sake of telling a story to yourself or maybe to the one person out there in the whole wide world that might read your stuff.
Don’t write to be successful. Don’t write for fame and fortune. Don’t write for riches or fly b******. Just write for your own enjoyment. It show s in your words when you enjoy what you are writing. Some stuff we try to write to impress others often comes across later in reading it as pretentious and stuffy and just full of it. Don’t believe me?
When I first started to write poetry, I wrote short but decent stuff with meaning like this:
They say you gotta sit in the dark a long while before you see the light,
Hell, I’ve been sitting here for years and yeah, I guess they’re right.
Well I’s seen a share of sadness and a couple shares of doubt,
But I suppose a seed’s got to be buried before it will start to sprout.
See, that one wasn’t too bad and it was authentic and from the heart because I played at writing poetry then. However, things changed a few years later after I had failed a couple of poetry contest submissions. I figured I needed to be more aloof and more intellectual and more big city and more of what I truly am not. And so I wrote this one:
Thoughts on Writers and Figs and Such Matters
Kindred soul, I heard your muffled cry in the library stacks.
The rhythm of your fragile heart still beats within,
rustling the yellowed pages of this forgotten book.
I have found your anguish.
Your essence escaped life on the winds
waiting for love’s embrace.
You lived and breathed like a golden songbird
buried beneath the sands of time in a locked box waiting for a key.
for your sake, how I wish your discontented hand settled on a plump ripe fig
so many years ago in the distant past.
But then, I would have never felt your spirit.
Ok, so………..this second one is not terrible but is admittedly a little over the top. Too emo and a little on the weird side in my opinion. I wrote it to impress poetry authority figures rather than write the things I really thought and felt about the world around me. It’s stiff and awkward and frankly, I haven’t even read The Bell Jar all the way through…….just some passages here and there, some Wikipedia, and some Cliffnotes online. Not authentic. Not good.
So be yourself. Be playful with your writing.
and to finish on a high note, one last quote from the great Elton John.
You could never know what it’s like
Your blood like winter freezes just like ice
And there’s a cold lonely light that shines from you
You’ll wind up like the wreck you hide behind that mask you use.
……Don’t you know, I’m still standing better than I ever did,
Looking like a true survivor, feeling like a little kid.
That’s my point from Elton John’s Still Standing (and I bet you’re now thinking of a piano playing gorilla from the movie Sing lol). My point is be brave as a writer but also be playful at it like a kid and willing to show and share your authentic voice.
Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.
Ok, that’s all I got. It ain’t much but it’s from the heart. That’s it for tonight, folks. Have a great night and keep writing and creating.