Exploring those mysterious, underlying forces fueling a writing life

Posts tagged ‘challenges’

Pushing Boulders

I had the speech all prepared.  I walked into the conference room with my group of six fifth graders, ready to console them when the principal would turn down their request to go on a field trip to visit the Mark Twain House. I had already been told that morning it would be a “no”.



They call themselves the Mysterious Manning Society.  We started off with fourteen students, all interested in being part of a book club that met once a week during their lunch time.  I offered three choices of books based on their interests and we settled on The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

When we first started reading the book, I mentioned that the author had lived in Hartford (less than a half-hour drive from the school) and his house was now a museum. We all agreed it would be cool to go visit at the time, but didn’t pursue the idea.

We are now down to six members who have persevered through fence painting, Tom and Becky’s engagement, Injun Joe, runaway pirates, and Tom attending his own funeral, stolen treasure, and courtroom drama. The idea of visiting the museum had morphed into more than just an idea.

I explained to them that it was an unusual request – a field trip for only six students.  We would have to persuade the teachers, the principal, the curriculum director, maybe even the Superintendent.  But why not try? My consolation speech already began taking form in my head.

I was going to tell them to think of themselves as a river – the water that flows downstream to a destination.  The principal and others were the boulders in the way. The water does not stop, it simply finds a way around the boulders.  We would not get to go on the field trip, but we could always pick a day during the summer and tour the house together.   It would be a life lesson, a teachable moment for handling disappointment.

I was the one who learned a lesson. In perseverance and persuasion.  See for yourself:

The Mysterious Manning’s Society’s Magnificent Mark Twain Adventure Presentation

How could anyone say no after that?

The field trip is booked.

The river didn’t go around the boulders.  It pushed the boulder aside.


Me, Myself, and I

SCBWI-NE recently announced their next “Overcoming Challenges” program to be held in October.  I was fortunate to attend the program a couple of years ago when Brian Lies, Mary Newell DePalma, Jo Knowles, and Barbara O’Connor entertained the audience with their discussion of the challenges they face as author/illustrators.  They talked about the difficulty balancing writing time with marketing/promotion and family time, their fears of public speaking, of meeting deadlines, the fear that no one would show up at their book signings, the lack of attention from their publishers.  And I thought to myself – what nice challenges to have.

Then I thought about the challenges I have, someone who hasn’t landed that book contract yet.  Three in particular came to mind – they are ME, MYSELF, and I.

First let me introduce you to ME.  She is the melting pot boiling with ideas.  Incredible, monumental, next-best-seller ideas.  ME gets so fired up she can hardly be contained.  She just itches to get at the keyboard to get those ideas out of her head and onto paper.  The problem is, she doesn’t know where the keyboard is.  She doesn’t even know where the ground is.  Her ideas are so great, they’ve already won her that SCBWI grant, a place on the New York Times bestseller list, as well as a Newberry Award, a lucrative film deal and of course, the admiration of every person living on the planet.  She needs either a lobotomy or MYSELF to get started.

MYSELF can be clever. MYSELF will trick herself into getting out of bed at 5AM and churn out a few pages before ME and I wakes up.   MYSELF will even have those moments during the day when she consciously sits her butt in a chair and actually writes.  She will glide along for a while, but MYSELF easily tires.  She tends to stop after only forty-five minutes. She likes to let ME go for long walks to think and dream because it gives her the break she hasn’t really earned yet.  MYSELF is also rather short.  She can’t see past any of the road blocks that appear out of nowhere.   That is when I takes over.

I sucks.  I doesn’t need to see over any road block.  I designs them.   I is the disparaging critic, the discouraging nay-sayer. I doesn’t think she can tell a story that is engaging, though-provoking and entertaining all at the same time.  I can’t manage to write a simple sentence without condemning it to the delete key. I can’t finish a paragraph without rewriting it five times.

I would rather go for a long walk.   ME, of course, has no objection to that.  MYSELF recognizes nothing is getting accomplished, but she tires of all the negativity, so she goes along as well.  Besides, there’s always tomorrow and MYSELF will set the alarm clock for 5AM and try to write some more before I wakes up.  It’s not the most productive writing process, but at least by the time ME, MYSELF and I finally publish the novel, we’ll be quite fit.


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