I was walking my dog today when she spotted two other dogs behind us on the other side of the street. She kept stopping to look back at them, making strange little growling sounds. Since it was only twenty degrees and I didn’t want to be out in the first place, I quickly became annoyed. I tried to point her in the right direction and convince her that what was a block behind her wasn’t going to hurt her.
When I got home, I sat at my computer and felt the same annoyance. I struggled to get my writing going in the right direction and to remind myself that looking back at past events can’t hurt me.
Creating compelling characters is challenging, and writing about the real people in your life can be downright terrifying! How much do you share? Will those close to you recognize themselves? What material is yours and what is off-limits?
Whether you’re writing fiction, memoir, or blogs, you WILL face these challenges as you write about what—and who—you know. So how do you write from a place of love and integrity while remaining true to yourself? Who gets to say where your story ends and another person’s begins?
I’d been looking forward to the visioning workshop for a few weeks. It was an annual event hosted at my spiritual center and would be held after Sunday services. The day of the event I made all the necessary arrangements to be gone all day: I scheduled a dog walk, made a lunch, and took an Uber so my son could have the car for the day. I was ready to vision my new year!
What I’d forgotten to do was pre-register. As the church service was concluding, the pastor announced that the workshop was sold out. I felt myself caving with disappointment, followed quickly by outrage. It can’t be sold out! I’m supposed to go!
When I was going through my divorce eight years ago, I had a handful of friends contemplating, initiating, or reeling from their own break-ups, so at least I had company. (Granted, not the kind of company you want for dinner unless you plan to hide the sharp knives.)
What we all wanted was resolution. Not a silly list of do’s and don’ts. Real resolution—an end to the re-hashing, the second-guessing and what-ifs, a giant kiss-off to quitters, cheats, Peter Pans and control freaks, a rousing ‘up yours!’ to the judges and lawyers playing God in our lives.
In a recent blog, I asked if there was any topic you’d like me to write about. I thought it would be fun to have an “assignment.”
Dave sent me this: “I would like to hear about your biggest challenges for 2018, challenges you know that if you decided to embody and embrace, you would uplevel as a mom or writer, and allow you to give more of your gifts to the world.”
Hmmm. This is a tough request.
This month marks the winter solstice, the shortest, darkest day of the year. It’s a time to turn inward and allow the shadows to loom up and over us while we patiently, trustingly wait for the light. It’s fitting then that when I wrote last week about some of my challenges as a single mom, I heard from readers who were remembering their own dark times.
Three women shared with me why it’s particularly hard to hold the light around the holidays:
Today I want to write about something I’m pretty sure I can’t put into words. I realize that sounds crazy and it probably is.
But isn’t that the fascination behind writing–that desire to brush against the ineffable? To come as close as possible to defining the formless?
It is for me. And since Christmas is the time of year when we make lists of the things we want, I started thinking about those desires of our hearts that we don’t write down, specifically the longings we don’t realize we have until something strikes a chord within us.
Here we are, smack in the middle of the holiday season, and I’m waffling on how much good cheer I plan to spread. Too much will spread me too thin, and too little will make me feel crusty and crotchety. I’ve already told my kids that I don’t feel like buying a tree this year. “Jeez, mom, why not just cancel Christmas?” my daughter said.
See? There’s pressure everywhere to be jolly and generous, to shine brightly, to bake and shop and make polite chitchat. It’s the time of year for white elephants—the kind that come in wrapping paper or as 2-ton grievances that crush the joy out of family gatherings.
Vince Reidsma started out as just my friend Martha’s dad, the guy who kept the pool clean so we could swim all summer. Later, when I was in my teens, he was the guy from church who spent a lot of time talking to my parents as their marriage was unraveling. More than 30 years later, as one of my mom’s best friends, he has re-entered my life wearing a new hat: seasoned writer.
This poem was written by my friend Vince Reidsma, who has been penning rhymes for the Holland Sentinel every week for 27 years!