Exploring those mysterious, underlying forces fueling a writing life

Posts tagged ‘challenges’

The Unfinished Glass

I have been remiss.  I have allowed other responsibilities crowd into my writing time – work, grade school, divorce, kidney stones (not mine), more work.  I haven’t been writing.

This weekend came at the right time – two and a half days in Narragansett with my writing sisters to find my way back to writing, write, walk on the beach, find sea glass, and relax.  IMG_2925

Waking at 4:00am with a migraine and spending the next three hours praying to the porcelain gods was not part of the plan.

Thankfully, my sisters took care of me and didn’t kick me out – they only quarantined me to the downstairs bathroom on the chance it wasn’t because of the migraine.  I was feeling well enough by noon to go for a walk on the beach.

The writing was still not getting done, but at least I could find more pieces for my sea glass jewelry business*.  A successful search for sea glass requires a combination of intent, strategy, and luck – much like writing.

First, there’s intent, setting a positive mindset that allows you to see what others walk past without noticing – I will find the sea glass (the words).

There are places along the shoreline that have a greater chance of producing those small bursts of color gems.  You go where you know you will find them , those small rocky patches in between stretches of sand. It’s that place, like your writing space – that little cherished nook where you know the words will flow. Sometimes you need to just sit still and breathe, wait and clear away the thoughts that block your view (your flow).

Unfinished glassThen, there is the guiding force of luck. Luck guided me towards this large blue piece, a rare find.  But it’s edges were still sharp and the bright blue had yet to turn into the mottled, frosted hue. I knew could take it home and tumble it myself, but that would be denying the process. It needs to simmer, like some stories, and tumble around some more before it’s ready. I tossed it back into the sea.

It takes time for the ocean (the writer) to take a shard of glass (an idea), toss it, tumble it, break it up (the writing) and transform it into a polished piece of sea glass (the published novel).

It takes thirty years for sea glass to properly form and about ten years for a novel. I’m only on year five, the process on-going. But not so much this weekend.

My generous, compassionate writing sisters allowed me to forego a specific writing goal this weekend – no word count, no set number of pages. However; they insisted I write at least a haiku:

4AM on knees
to porcelain gods I pray
gods have spoken: rest




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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