I was in Michigan this week at our annual girls’ weekend—two wonderfully lazy days spent by the fireplace in a cozy inn, catching up with seven old and new friends. We ate and shopped and laughed and it wasn’t until I got home that I remembered one friend mentioning how stressful her job was.
I have no idea what her job is. I never asked. And because I never asked, I missed a chance to connect with her in a more meaningful way.
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?
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.
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!
I have terrible writer’s block today. I’m talking the worst. I’ve stared out the window, snacked on stale peanuts, made a cup of tea and let it get cold while I paced around, yelled in frustration (just once), done two loads of laundry, and bought a pair of boots online.
All I want to do is write about being thankful. Why is it so hard? I think it’s not because I have nothing to say, but because there’s too much and no easy place to start.
It was my first time facing a group of millennials and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was serving as a panelist at the Indiana University Media School Career Day. As an alumna with a journalism degree from IU, I was there to talk about writing careers.
How would I relate to a generation steeped in technology and global influences when my college memories included snail mail, interviews conducted on landlines, an electric typewriter, and learning to “burn” and “dodge” photos in a darkroom?
I was lying face down in a dimly lit room, listening to the sounds of a harpsichord or sitar or something equally soothing, willing myself to be soothed. I’d been looking forward to this massage all week. I’d finally convinced myself that I deserved it and that I would not, under any circumstances, regret the expense. It wasn’t regret that followed me into the room, but a sticky cloud of anxiety.
Why did I drink coffee before my appointment? And why, why, why did I get on Facebook? I should have known better than to start my day wading through negative stories.
I can honestly say that I’ve never been a helicopter mom. I’ve never stayed up later than my kid to put a few “finishing touches” on her science project. I don’t schedule meetings with teachers or principals or send carefully worded “concerned” texts to mothers of my kids’ friends. I don’t have tracking devices on their phones.
For years I’ve been cool. I’ve been laid back. Except when one of my kids puts a piece of writing in front of me. Before I know what I’m doing, I’m reaching for a red pen. The itch to edit or tease something sublime from each sentence is simply too great to resist. I MUST put my mark on it.