At Least Give Me Hope

I can’t keep up with the newspaper on a regular basis, so today I took a stack of three unread Sunday newspapers to my kids’ Sunday school, probably about two pounds of words, at least, to read while I sat on an empty pew in the hallway for ninety minutes. But, I don’t just look at words on unmanageably large pieces of paper, I feel them.

My intentions of reading for general education about the world is usually second compared to my desire to find thought-provoking twists or tidbits of information I could use for writing.  However, I find myself thinking about people’s stories and wondering how people deal with heartache and pain and suffering and downfalls and challenges. I feel them so vividly that I often come out of it feeling exhausted. And the tragic stories always seem to resonate the loudest. This is why I feel grief right now when no one in my family has died in a car accident and left me with three injured children. I feel sorrow right now even though no one in my family has succumbed to an opioid overdose. I feel angst even though I didn’t open a baseball scoreboard business in the 1920s that failed. I feel overwhelmed right now even though I’m not seeking U.S. citizenship or asylum from El Salvador. I even felt my heart racing with fear about finding a wandering tiger beside the road. What can I say? I am an emotional person.

But some of these stories have protagonists who don’t always get their happy ending, at least not here on earth. People with real stories and life-changing moments are not just experiencing plot twists on their way to their awesome climax and moment of heroism. Some may have missed their opportunity; some may not ever find it. They don’t always get their special talent staged ahead of time that will help them ascend a mountain of difficulties and complete their character arc. They don’t often find that trusty sidekick who can at the very least offer comic relief. There are people like Donna Jean in the Disabled America section who is stuck in a vicious cycle of scrounging for edible roots on a mountain for a few extra bucks until the disability check hits and who is also hoping she doesn’t suffer another heart attack while taking comfort in hand-rolled cigarettes and a few beers and occasionally getting water from a hose at her brother’s house. I mean, where the hell is her happy ending?

I supposed I’m just a romantic; my preferences in fiction are stories that offer hope. As much as I enjoy well-written tragic endings and I have cried through books, I like the ones with happily ever after the best.  So, I pledge to my future protagonists, I will always give you hope. I may put you through the ringer, but I will find a way to stand you back up on your feet with a notion that things will get better. Because for people like Donna Jean, that’s what they might need to hear; if they hear it enough, they might believe in it. And everyone needs hope.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. —–Jeremiah 29:11

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The Delightful, Dreadful Deadline

I’ve been pondering lately about the power of deadlines. They are rather tricky blokes, aren’t they? (I’ve been reading several blogs from the U.K., the British are influencing my speech.) Deadlines can be good and bad, motivating and oppressive, and occasionally pointless or absolutely necessary. Where they become even more questionable, is when you place the burden of a deadline on yourself instead of someone else doing it for you (i.e. school, work). I would argue that self-inflicted deadlines are what separate the achievers from the spectators, the doers from the dreamers, and, yes, the crazy people from the people-who-will-call-you-crazy.

My 13-year-old daughter is about to host her very first craft fair table at a festival. Two years ago, she had a mild interest in sewing, took some classes, and, with moderate encouragement, decided to make multiple somethings to sell. The idea started without any deadline to shoot for. First she piddled with a few Teddy Bears and tote bags, but after making self-designed stuffed monster pillows for Christmas gifts, she found her niche. She signed up for a festival booth at the beginning of summer, made almost 40 monster pillows and several sets of mother-daughter aprons, designed a booth with Dad, and now we are five days away from show time. Oh, and she came up with a name for her product (with a little help from me); the monsters are called “Pillow Frights.”

Pillow Frights. Get it? Instead of “fight”? I had to explain it my husband. (shaking head)

This morning, I inquired about her preparations:

Me: On a scale of 0-10, how hard has this been to get ready?

Hannah: 10

Me: Really? That bad, huh?

Hannah: If I hadn’t signed up, I would have picked another fair later on and had more time to get ready.

Me: Oh, please. You would have done the same thing. Aren’t you proud of yourself?

Hannah: (awkward smile) I guess.

Me: Well, I’m proud of you!

I am absolutely convinced that signing up for the festival is what made her move. It made her sit her cute little butt down at her sewing machine, turn on some music, and SEW. Did she have to? No. But without it, I think she would have chosen other (electronic) pastimes instead of buckling down to get it done. A later festival would have just shifted the work over by a few months, but would have still been a painful “10.”

Don’t we all do that? Whether set in stone or tentative, deadlines move us.  Outside of work or school, I have to set rigid deadlines or sign up for events or competitions with end-dates. I know each time I meet with my very, very helpful beta reader, we both have two chapters critiqued. I look for free short story competitions with submission deadlines to help motivate me to write regularly; otherwise I might just edit my novel until doomsday. I know when the next #Pitmad is on Twitter, so I have a date set to have my manuscript ready to go in case any brilliant agent thinks my book sounds amazing—I’ll be waiting.

And the reason I haven’t cleaned out my dried-up tomato garden yet is because I haven’t set a deadline. Oh sorry, it’s not on the calendar, guess it will have to wait.

Got any self-inflicted deadlines looming? Tell me about them! (After you look at this awesome picture of Hannah and her Pillow Frights!)

My Inner Critic is a B–

I debated about writing a post today for the word “critical,” because, truthfully, that word describes me so well it’s uncomfortable. I treated the word as if it could get too close to my personal bubble; it might even pop its little head inside and say, “Aha! I found you!” And then I’d have to let the word in and try to smooth it over into another word like “patient” or “forgiving” which takes a lot of effort.

Of course, I’m talking about my inner self-critic who is forever critical. She never seems to be quite satisfied with my work or my progress or my decisions and, most-especially, she’s disappointed with what was not accomplished by the end of the day. She’s not happy after a shift at work if I didn’t have time to walk every ambulatory patient or get to sit down during a discharge and take my time, or didn’t get all the charting done by 10 a.m. She’s not happy that I haven’t published a book yet and that my writing doesn’t sound like John Green or J.K. Rowling. She’s not happy unless the house is spotless and the dog has been brushed and walked and the laundry caught up and dinner is already in the Crockpot. She’s not happy until lunches have been made before the kids even come home from school. She’s not happy with the state of my purse or closet. She’s a bitch, really. Why is she even around?

I know the advice out there—the same advice I would give anyone else with a thunderous inner-critic—don’t listen to it! Be kind to yourself. Be gentle. Be forgiving. Do your best and that’s all that’s expected of you.  Yada, yada, yada.

But the inner-critic’s messages fall into my head so easily. And changing what falls into my head into something else takes time which inner-critic says I don’t have. With that, I must go set up the Crockpot and finish the dishes and catch up on laundry. And walk the dog. And publish a book.

By three o’clock, preferably.

 

BTW–my inner critic didn’t want to hit “publish” on this one, but I chose not to listen.

Supporting a Good Word

You know what’s odd? I wrote a 71,000 manuscript for my YA novel (yet to be published…yet to be accepted by an agent, actually), and searched for the word “shimmer.” I had no doubt the word was used at least once. And I needed inspiration for my blog. But the search function spit back, “The search item was not found.” How disappointing. Such a great word—makes you want to look at whatever it is that is shimmering, doesn’t it? Whether it be undulating water or a taffeta evening gown or freshly shampooed hair or even a car with a spotless wax job. Nope, didn’t use it. Maybe it’s because my protag is a 17-year-old male, and shimmer not a dude word. At least as a 29-year-old woman, I can use it in my blog today. (Oh, did I tell you I stopped aging at 29?)

The shimmering crown of diamonds and sapphires sat upon Queen Emily’s head as she greeted her guests.

There. Nailed it!