Fearing Change

Heraclitus,  a greek philosopher who phrased Panta Rhei , meaning ”life is flux”, recognized the necessary, underlying actuality of life as change when he quoted; “The only constant in life is change” .  He further explained change as follows;  Nothing in life is permanent, nor can it be, because the very nature of existence is change. Change is not just a part of life, in Heraclitus’ view, it is life itself.

Our stories revolve around the change through which our protagonist progresses as she steps away from her life’s comfort and security, to chase after resolution to conflict, or to set out on a quest to find her purpose, or maybe- to save someone she loves, while saving herself in the meantime. 

Without change, there is no progression, no meaning,  and no story.

In life, the one thing we know we can count on is change.  Change is everywhere- in the seasons, in our careers, in our relationships, in our life’s chapters and in our aging process.  It is inevitable and unavoidable and it is impossible to hide from. 

Worrying about or fearing change will not postpone it, or protect us from it, or allow an escape from it. Change will come whether or not we welcome it.

In our stories, as in life, change comes in self-identity recognition, learning a lesson, metamorphosis, transformation, epiphany, coming out, rising up like the phoenix, or it may even come in quiet acceptance, or simply in finding peace. It comes with understanding our purpose, or God’s purpose for us.  Change comes with appreciation for the love we receive and the love we give.

As writers, we create characters with and without morals, with and without ethics, with and without heart, and with and without soul.  We create bad characters who become good characters, or we create good characters who turn bitter, feel defeated or who simply turn bad. We create heroes who die tragically for the cause in which they believed, or we create  underdogs who become champions.  We create weak or fearful characters who gain strength and courage, and we create enemies who become friends or lovers, or we create idealistic characters who ultimately succumb to society or family pressures, only to betray their true selves or those they love. 

In Stella Southall’s July 9, 2018 blog, she describes the manner in which writing changes us: Writing changes us. When we write strong villains we are forced to create characters with morals, values, and goals often in direct opposition to our own. We begin to question the morals of the villains in our own lives and realize they too must have values, goals and morals. Often in direct opposition to our own.

Southall points to our ability, as people, to change how we view and interpret the individuals or situations in our lives, just as the reader views and questions the motives of the villains and other characters in our stories. 

Another anonymous author used the bible to illustrate our need for change:  Most of Western history can be traced back to the Bible. The religious work was tied into the government and society since the downfall of the Roman Empire. Changes in social norm has occurred in waves throughout history since this book was pulled together. Even today, many decisions are said to be made based on the words on its pages.

Many religious texts can be said to inspire change. When Martin Luther felt something wasn’t right, he looked deeper into the scriptures and started the Protestant Reformation. That led to an upheaval that was felt throughout Europe and beyond. In the Western world, this one book has had the most impact, both good and bad.

In Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird: The main character, Scout changes when she realizes Boo Radley  saved Jem’s and her life, that Boo is actually a friend, not a man to fear, as originally viewed. 

In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby: Nick Carraway had been tolerant of other individual’s moral shortcomings before the events that happened during the summer of 1922 , but later after witnessing Gatsby’s spiral demise, Carraway felt an abhorrence to the ways of the corrupt and decadent, which changed his views about people in general: In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in mind ever since. ‘Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,’ he told me, ‘just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.’ In consequence, I’m inclined to reserve all judgmentsÉ Reserving judgments is a matter of infinite hope. I am still a little afraid of missing something if I forget that, as my father snobbishly suggested, and I snobbishly repeat, a sense of the fundamental decencies is parceled out unequally at birth. And, after boasting this way of my tolerance, I come to the admission that it has a limit. Conduct may be founded on the hard rock or the wet marshes, but after a certain point I don’t care what it’s founded on.

If a character in our story does not change, he or she is considered to be a flat character.  A character with no depth.  We can say that about individuals in life, as well.  If we are not changing, or evolving, learning and growing, we become stagnant, or flat.

A butterfly changes from her initial bulbous, not so pretty caterpillar form that crawls clumsily,  to a colorful, agile and beautiful form that glides gracefully through the air.  Additionally, one of the most well known symbols of growth, transformation, and rebirth is the mythological phoenix, who rises from defeat in the ashes to become a great and powerful form.If fear had gotten in the way of either, the caterpillar- butterfly would still be crawling around aimlessly and the phoenix would be nothing but dust.

Change is everywhere. It is all around us, like the air we breathe.  It is in the weather and in the temperature. It is in nature, our schedules , our jobs, our friendships, our addresses, technology, the time of day, architecture,  the cars we drive, trends and so much more.  

We change our minds, our moods, our feelings, and our goals.  We change our beliefs, our attitudes, even sometimes our traditions.  We change our bed sheets, the food stored in our fridge, our various filters, our recipes, our decor, our clothes and our missions. We change our thoughts, our words and our actions.

Change is constant and inexorable.  We can view it as our enemy or as our friend.  Change can be subtle or small, and it can be monumental and life-altering. We can fear it, fight it, dread it, or we can encourage it, accept it and embrace it.  We can resist it or befriend it.  Regardless, it will always be there.

There is a beautiful Healing Hearts story about the water bug who solemnly agrees to face his and his colony’s curiosity and fear, to ascend to the surface of the water to find the place from which other water bugs never returned.  While it is meant as a bereavement story, it also illustrates how change can be good for us.  When the water bug breaks through the water’s surface he couldn’t believe what he saw. A startling change had come over his body…. he had become a dragonfly. Swooping and dipping in great curves, he flew through the air.  He felt exhilarated in the new atmosphere. … and the dragonfly winged off happily in its wonderful new world of sun and air.

Facing the unknown is scary. It frightens and worries us, but change can save us, heal us, and free us.

In a 2010 blog written by Melanie Anne Phillips, she reminds us of popular main characters who changed: In Casablanca, Rick changes from the self-centered and controlling person he was to an emotionally confident and selfless individual. He had repeatedly emphasizes early on that he will “stick his neck out for nobody.”  But at the moment of truth he risks everything to help Laszlo escape with Ilsa, and takes up his personal fight for what’s right.

In E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web, we see Wilber, instead of acting frenzied (as usual) when faced with a crisis, take charge and carry out Charlotte’s last wishes, as her health declines: Wilbur was in a panic. He raced round and round the pen. Suddenly he had an idea-he thought of the egg sac and the five hundred and fourteen little spiders that would hatch in the spring. If Charlotte herself was unable to go home to the barn, at least he must take her children along. (White, 1952, p. 166)

Like the common daffodil that symbolizes change in the seasons and represents triumph of hope over despair (spring over winter), our characters, and we in life, must face change head on, rather than fear or dread it.

The only constant in life IS change, and if we take a deep breath and jump up on it’s back to ride with it, rather than fight it or fear it, we too will soar high and free like the transformed water bug- dragonfly, who found his peace without realizing he had been destined for it all along.

Attentiveness

Each time I begin to prepare my next blog, I start out with absolutely no idea about what I am going to write, so I read through writing magazines, books on the craft, novels I’ve read before, even quotes I’ve liked in the past, to find inspiration.  My next idea might even come from something I heard someone say in passing, or from someone else’s experience that captured my interest. It might even spring from a line in a song or from a simple observation of nature. 

My ideas come from everywhere, and anywhere. 

They are inspired by people, by life, by questions, ….by any or all of the above.   

However, regardless of my idea’s origin, it takes paying attention to be able to find it.

For example, this bi-monthly blog was inspired by the March 28 passage in Sarah Young’s Devotions for Every Day of the Year, Jesus Calling reading: Philippians 2:17; Mark 10:15; Isaiah 26:3 NKJV:

  To increase your intimacy with Me (Jesus), the two traits you need the most are receptivity and attentiveness. Receptivity is opening your innermost being to be filled with My abundant riches.  Attentiveness is directing your gaze to Me, searching for Me in all your moments. It is possible to STAY YOUR MIND ON ME, as the prophet Isaiah wrote. Through such attentiveness you receive a glorious gift: My perfect peace.  

As I read through this passage, the idea of attentiveness stared me in the face, like an eager opponent sitting across from me over a game of backgammon, expectantly waiting on me to make my next move.  While I understood the meaning behind the passage within that context in Young’s book- about how we are able to find peace if only we search for and truly see Jesus, this message also rings true in our writing, and in our every day lives. 

In other words, writers pay attention to find inspiration.

But, isn’t that the same in life?

Don’t we need to pay attention in order to understand our life’s purpose, to comprehend the answers to the questions we are always asking, and to truly grasp and appreciate one another.

Attentiveness

is

Paying attention

to detail,

to others,

to the environment around us,

to life’s perfect moments, 

and not so perfect moments.

It is showing we care.

Attentiveness is being mindful and observant.  It is listening, and it is kindness, compassion and it IS caring

-about others and what is going on outside our own compartmentalized boxes.

Writers pay attention to everything around them and then they find a way to describe what they’ve learned or observed, to put into words.

Anthony Ehlers, author of WRITE YOUR NOVEL IN A YEAR describes how noticing a perfect moment made him actually look at what was around him.

He says:

You can learn the craft of plot, of developing character, of refining genre — and all these are important steps to becoming a great writer — but at the heart of it, it’s really about capturing how you see the world. The beautiful, the seedy; the thrilling smile from a stranger, the polished shoes of a policeman, the way stained glass in a church makes you think of wine gums.

To emphasize this idea to become more attentive, I  borrowed the following quotes about attentiveness in writing from:  Amanda Patterson, the founder of “Writers Write”, a comprehensive writing resource company for creative writers, business writers, and bloggers: 

1.Pay Attention. Notice the quality of light, the heft of air, color of sky, faces, clouds, flowers, garbage, graffiti — all of it. Slow down and pay attention. Stop during your walks and examine a leaf. Read the writing in shop windows. Observe people getting on a bus, the bus driver, the stink of the bus exhaust. ~Judy Reeves

2. Instructions for living a life: Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it. ~Mary Oliver

3. But the sensibility of the writer, whether fiction or poetry, comes from paying attention. I tell my students that writing doesn’t begin when you sit down to write. It’s a way of being in the world, and the essence of it is paying attention. ~Julia Alvarez

4. Pay Attention – I honestly believe that the quality of a writer’s work has a direct correlation to the quality of his or her attention. I have to remind myself all the time to show up in my moments with all my antennae switched on. ~Sue Monk Kidd

5. The poet must not only write the poem but must scrutinize the world intensely, or anyway that part of the world he or she has taken for subject. If the poem is thin, it is likely so not because the poet does not know enough words, but because he or she has not stood long enough among the flowers–has not seen them in any fresh, exciting, and valid way. ~Mary Oliver

6.Writing is seeing. It is paying attention. ~Kate DiCamillo

7. The moment one gives close attention to any thing, even a blade of grass it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself.~Henry Miller

8. Listening is terribly important if you want to understand anything about people. You listen to what they say and how they say it, what they share and what they are reticent about, what they tell truthfully and what they lie about, what they hope for and what they fear, what they are proud of, what they are ashamed of. If you don’t pay attention to other people, how can you understand their choices through time and how their stories come out? ~Marge Piercy

9. All you have to do is to pay attention; lessons always arrive when you are ready. ~Paulo Coelho

10. Geniuses are people who notice things and connections between things which others haven’t noticed. ~Christopher Ricks

11. Zen pretty much comes down to three things — everything changes; everything is connected; pay attention.’ ~Jane Hirshfield

11. A writer, I think, is someone who pays attention to the world. ~Susan Sontag

Admittedly, I used to be terrible at paying attention to detail, in general.  I always tended to be a bottom- line person in my everyday, business life.  Don’t go on and on about stuff that “does not matter”,  just land the plane, pleaseDo not water the grass while the building is burning.  Just give me the bottom line.  Get to the point!

Wrong!

Sometimes the bottom line will become meaningless and weak- without the foundation supporting it, or all of the ingredients that cooked it, or the sweat and hard labor that went into it, or the adventurous journey traveled to get to the intended destination. 

Thankfully, as a writer, I have become better at paying attention to everyday aspects of life, like elements of nature. I am mesmerized by natural details like the long grass swaying in the breeze at the sides of the road, or the cracks in a sidewalk beneath my feet as I go for my run.   I am similarly  captivated by the dainty little daisies partially hidden within the lush green carpets of grass at the park, or the sun-triggered silhouettes dancing gracefully upon the pavement outside my window, or the newly sprouted buds speckling bare tree branches at the first sight of spring.  

These are the details that grab my attention and cling to me like a shadow following me on my walk, until they push their way into my story’s setting or plot. 

Similarly, just as these persuasive particulars provide inspiration for the writer’s stories and blogs, attentiveness to life’s details outside our own individual little worlds will provide collective aspiration for all of us in our every day lives. 

Jan Fortune, Editor and Author, says in her Why Writers Need a Language of Attentiveness, August 2020 blog:

Attentiveness alone can rival the most powerful magnifying lens.

In other words, it is our job as writers to observe, record and describe, as Anthony Ehlers stated in Writers Write, but it is also our job as human beings to wholly listen to others when they speak, to pay full attention to the people in our company instead of allowing ourselves to become distracted by an incoming text or a new post on social media, and just as it is our job as writers to put into words what we feel, see and learn, it is our job as individuals to exercise attentiveness, simply to show we care.   

REVISION; Well Worth the Win!

Revision is the process of looking back at our first attempt to make improvements. Nonetheless, writers are attached to their words, therefore; this revision process is not easy.  While it can be a daunting and bittersweet task, however; there is a formula to help ease some of the pain.

The writer will ADD information, relatable quotes, more suitable words, or punctuation to clarify, or better describe her message to the reader.  Conversely, she might REMOVE, or subtract words, information or phrases and more,  if they do not work, or they weigh the manuscript draft down.  On the other hand, she may MOVE information, words, or phrases that do not work where they are. Furthermore, the writer might SUBSTITUTE words, quotes, information or more, to improve the writing. This process is often referred to as the ARMS approach.

In THE WRITING HABIT, Peregrine Smith, 1991, David Huddle writes the following about revision: 

I like to think of revision as a form of self-forgiveness; you can allow yourself mistakes and shortcomings in your writing because you know you’re coming back later to improve it.  Revision is the way you cope with bad luck that made your writing less than excellent this morning. Revision is the hope you hold out for yourself to make something beautiful tomorrow though you didn’t quite manage it today.  Revision is democracy’s literary method, the tool that allows an ordinary person to aspire to extraordinary achievement.

Revision means to “see again”.  It means to look at your writing from a fresh, more critical perspective and to make necessary global changes.   It is usually performed from a larger to a smaller scale. In other words, the writer will tackle the bigger picture first, to make sure the overall content is right,  before she gets into the nitty gritty steps of editing and proof-reading.  Revision is about finding and sharpening your focus, and tailoring it to fit your theme or overall message.  It is about re-shaping your manuscript to ensure that it will meet your audience’s expectations. When the writer revises, she corrects flaws in the flow, the overall pacing, the relevance of each paragraph, chapter or idea, and she assesses the voice and point of view to make sure they are the right fit. 

In the April 5, 2017 Writer’s Digest article; 7 Strategies for Revising Your Novel, the author , Lisa Preston, points out ; the rewrite is tougher than the draft. The draft is infatuation.  Therefore, any thoughts for marriage at this stage are simply out of the question!

She continues to lay out the 7 strategies as follows:

  • Embrace the doubt, or make sure every word carries its weight- to reveal character or advance the story.
  • Read the draft in reverse, back to front.  This prevents the writer from overlooking weak areas.
  • Structure your novel, or create an outline after finishing the initial draft. This allows the writer to more clearly see the arc of the story, the placement and relevance of key scenes and turning points, and other critical areas. 
  • Revisit characterization, to fine tune motivation, goals, appropriate dialogue and relevance
  • Task your computer, or use software with tools to locate redundancy, inappropriate words, or mistakes.  Under this heading, Preston makes a great suggestion, in my view, to select a different font for the second printing of a hard copy, to help freshen the writer’s eyes to the words.
  • Read the draft out loud, to someone else, or listen to it from a recording.
  • Continue to study the craft, re-read books on writing while you give your draft a rest, or time out.

I have often thought it would be nice if we could revise our own first (or second, or third…) attempts in life the way writers are able to revise their first draft attempts in writing. If individuals could only go back in time and say or do the right thing to change the directions we took, and wish we hadn’t. If only we could go back to school and start over, we would do it right this time around, for sure!  If only we bought that dream house instead of hemming and hawing over the price for too long, or if we only took better care of our health, or spent more time with our loved ones.  If only we didn’t let things go stale in that relationship or get to the breaking point when it was too far gone to fix.  If only we could remove what we did wrong, add or substitute what we should have done right instead, to reshape the outcome.  If only there was an ARMS approach we could use in our everyday life the way the writer applies it to his manuscript drafts. 

If only…..

But, alas, unlike revising in writing, all we can do in our real life, is learn from the past, and become more mindful of the actions we will take moving forward!   All the more reason for writers to employ the power of revision in writing, the way individuals are unable to do in life!

To illustrate this further, Children’s Book Writer, Terry Pierce describes revision this way:

Revision is where writers roll up their sleeves, plunge their hands into the wet clay and then squeeze, twist, roll and contort their words until they’ve sculpted the perfect text. There’s nothing pretty or glamorous about it. It’s hard, tedious, and time- consuming. And very intentional.  But it’s a necessary (and rewarding)  part of the writing process.

In addition to the 7 Writer Digest strategies listed earlier, I’ve compiled my own comprehensive list of advice collected from different writers on how to revise:

  • Make sure you addressed the Five Ws right away; the Who/Why/When/Where and What- in the opening?
  • Confirm that your character appears all the way through the book, and doesn’t disappear off the face of the earth and that she stays true to character!  And make sure she has relevance to the story, that she adds to the story, otherwise delete her or combine that character with another.  Or change her. And make sure she changes, or learns something about herself by the end, and if not, make sure there is a reason why she didn’t. Remember, she must solve her problem herself!
  • Make sure every scene has significance, and ties into the end, moving the story forward, that each scene makes sense or matters, when the story comes together. 
  • Confirm that the story has good pacing with rising action and solid structure.
  • Make sure the point of view and tense are consistent. 
  • Replace adjectives with stronger nouns, and adverbs with stronger verbs. 
  • Make sure you have showed, rather than told. 
  • Make sure you don’t have too many “to be” verbs, such as there was, there is, there were, etc.
  • Have you used a more active voice, rather than a passive voice, such as “I ran, “  instead of “ I was running”. 
  • Make sure you resolved your theme or sharpened your focus. 
  • Have you tightened the text as much as possible, removing unnecessary words and sentences. Have you used too much purple prose?  If so, remove or fix it.
  • Is there sentence and word variety, that you have not used the same word too many times, or written the sentences in the same manner. 
  • Have you read the piece out loud or from a recording.
  • Have you had  someone or a writing group critique it?
  • Have you put the draft aside for a while ( a week, or a month) and re-read it with fresh eyes.

And don’t forget, above all, make sure first that you have a good story that will interest the reader!  None of the strategies or in this post will fix a faulty foundation!

If all of this sounds excessive, or time- consuming, it is!  After all, nothing worth getting ever comes easy! Author Roald Dahl said the following; Good writing is essentially rewriting. Pointedly, Ernest Hemmingway rewrote the last page of Farewell to Arms 39 times before getting it right!

Moreover, I repeatedly stumbled upon the following quote by William Zinsser, American writer, editor, literary critic, and teacher, in several of the writing articles I researched when putting together this blog;

   Rewriting is the essence of writing well- where the game is won or lost.

Don’t lose the game after putting in all that practice and hard work on your first attempt. Go the distance to make the final touchdown, or score the winning goal.  Do, as a writer, what we are unable to do in our real life as human beings. Recognize and employ the magic of revision to your writing. It will be well worth the win in the end. 

Closure

More than 2,000 years ago, Aristotle, the Greek philosopher, advocated that stories must have a beginning, a middle and an end.  The story begins with a protagonist who seeks answers to her questions, or she sets out on a mission, looking for a way to save the world. Subsequently, as she makes her way through the story’s middle, and often simultaneously- and ultimately, she saves herself in some manner, along the way.

Once the story reaches its ending, our plot, and subplots should provide some kind of closure. While this closure may not necessarily be the closure our readers, or our characters, expected or desired when our protagonist set out on her journey in the first chapter, it will be the closure that transforms her or her world in some way, providing peace, or reconciliation, if not answers or outright resolution.

What exactly is closure?  In writing, we create different types of closure for our narratives; one might be structural (or narrative)  and another might be psychological (or interpretive or hermeneutic ) closure, or we may apply both to our story endings.  In Slap Happy Larry’s Writing Techniques for Geeks, the author explains it this way;  Structural closure is the satisfactory round up of plot, while psychological closure brings the main character’s personal conflicts into balance. Because it involves characterization, this type of ending is normally more interesting.  

Many times our subplots, in which the protagonist may experience internal change while on the primary plot’s external journey, provides psychological closure as a bonus.  And yes, I would agree with the Slap Happy Larry author, that type of closure is more interesting in my view, because it not only transforms the protagonist in some way, but it transforms the reader as well.

Comparably, there is Susan Lohafer’s (author of The Short Story Theory at a Crossroads) definitions for closure in writing. She writes that physical closure refers to the end of a sentence, a paragraph or the story itself, where as, immediate cognitive closure is the feeling the reader gets when she understands the surface meaning of the narrative, and deferred cognitive closure would occur more deeply, as the reader more fully understands the theme and what the story was REALLY about.  Hermeneutic/ Interpretive closure usually falls into this category. 

Likewise, in life, closure can apply to all kinds of scenarios and will mean different things for different people.  An April 2011, Psychology Today author described closure this way;  Closure means finality; a letting go of what once was. Finding closure implies a complete acceptance of what has happened and an honoring of the transition away from what’s finished to something new. In other words, closure describes the ability to go beyond imposed limitations in order to find different possibilities.

Similarly, in The Psychology of Closure- and Why Some People Need it More Than Others, Pam Ramsden, a Lecturer in Psychology, writes about closure in break ups, and other situations;  The need for closure doesn’t just apply to relationships. The death of a loved one, the loss of a job, status or a way of life are other examples of painful endings. Letting go of something that was once important can be difficult, and many people seek closure in doing so. 

She continues to elaborate further ; When we seek closure we are looking for answers as to the cause of a certain loss in order to resolve the painful feelings it has created. In doing this, we appear to form a mental puzzle of what’s happened – examining each piece and its relationship to the overall puzzle. Closure is achieved when we are satisfied that the puzzle has been assembled to our satisfaction, that the answers have been reached and it is therefore possible to move on.

It is worth repeating; as in writing, closure in our lives can mean different things for different scenarios, and it can mean different things for different people. In fact, sometimes, looking for closure might not be the best resolution for an ending.  Maybe, to explain this opposing idea in another way, in some cases, not seeking closure is the best closure, if that makes sense. This idea is explained in Alan Wolfelt’s July 2019 article, Putting the Closure on the Use of the word Closure in Grief, in which he points out the difference between closure and reconciliation when the individual seeks closure for a loss due to death. He begins his article with a Tibetan Proverb;  “If you are seeking a time when you will be finished, you will never be done.”

He further elaborates on why he feels closure is not the appropriate goal one should pursue when the loss is due to the death of a loved one;  For all too many people, closure means leaving grief behind and “putting the past in the past.”  But, do we really want to put the past in the past when it comes to the loss of a loved one due to death?  Do we really want to avoid mourning or grief so that we can move on to prevent the memory of our loved one from getting in our way? Or should the closure in this scenario be to find a way to carry our grief with us in a way that will not destroy us?

Wolfelt answers this in the following statement;   The truth is that we as humans do not get over grief. There is no shutting the door. There is no tidy resolution or total sense of completion. There is no discrete end point. Just as love goes on, so too does grief.  

As he goes on to explain, in his article, that closure is not the missing piece in this case, he points to something else to provide peace instead; Our grief comes with us, we don’t “leave it behind.” There is no closure, but there is what I call “reconciliation.Reconciliation does not happen all at once. Instead, it emerges much in the way grass grows. Usually we don’t check our lawns daily to see if the grass is growing, but it does grow and soon we come to realize it’s time to mow the grass again. Likewise, we don’t look at ourselves each day as mourners to see how we are healing. Yet we do come to realize, over the course of months and years, that we have come a long way. 

To further make his point, Wolfelt  shares a lesson he learned with regard to this concept;  One of my greatest teachers, C.S. Lewis, wrote in A Grief Observed about grief symptoms as they eased on his journey to reconciliation. “There was no sudden, striking, and emotional transition,” he wrote. “Like the warming of a room or the coming of daylight, when you first notice them, they have already been going on for some time.” 

On the path to healing, there usually is not one great moment of “arrival” but rather a myriad of subtle changes and small achievements. It’s helpful to have gratitude for every small step along the way. If you are beginning to taste your food again, be thankful. If you mustered the energy to meet your friends for lunch, be grateful. If you finally got a good night’s sleep, rejoice. 

On the other hand, with regard to other types of loss, outside death of a loved one,  and other types of closures, in which we question the ending or ourselves, and what part we played in it, closure can help us come to terms with what happened and to learn how to avoid the same mistakes in the future. This is outlined in Sanford’s Coaching Guide for Teachers; Elements of A lesson Closure, where the author describes closure in writing narrative as follows:  closure should summarize what was learned, check for student understanding, and transition to future instruction.

Closure in writing is a form of tying together the lose ends in our stories, connecting the dots, conveying the last, missing piece of our message, or placing the big red bow on the package we wrapped so carefully for our reader. It is a vehicle to transport our protagonist from the starting line of our story all the way through each chapter, to the finish line at the end, where she can look back over the course of her journey and recognize the detours she should not have taken or the ones she should have taken and didn’t, and appreciate the strength it took to climb over the obstacles in her way, and ultimately, feel transformed because of it.

Similarly, in life we seek closure for the goals we never reached, the relationships that didn’t work out, the dreams that fell apart, and for the loved ones we lost along our way. We lose loved ones when we grow apart, or when we are unable to see eye to eye, when we fail to communicate, listen, or understand, and we lose some when they spread their wings, or when they move away.  We lose others when they really were never ours to begin with, and tragically, we lose some through illness, tragedy and death. Sometimes, like the protagonist who seeks resolution, we might even lose ourselves or a part of ourselves, in some measure. 

As I close my blog series for 2020, I think back on this past year and the endless challenges, sadness, tragedies, adversities, divisions and losses we all faced.  And yet despite all of that, I also see the strength we each found within ourselves to somehow make it through this year.  As each one of us started out at the year’s beginning, we were unprepared for the villain that would threaten us and our life stories.  This evil thief and murderous villian would alter the path before us, in an unprecedented, permanent and life-changing manner.  Yet, like our heroes in the narratives we write and read, we persevered through the story’s arduous middle in spite of Covid-19, and we remained supportive of one another’s struggles along the way. We finally arrived at the end of this 2020 story, where we stand now, together in the final chapter, in which we seek our own peaceful closures, to help us transition to future instruction, in the year ahead.

The COVID-19 virus attacked all of our lives to varying measures and degrees. There is not one single individual who was not affected in some way by this horrible, villainous virus. Some suggest there is a reason this happened to us, and others say it is a lesson from which we all must learn- if we want to follow our creator’s plan- to seek and share love and peace amongst one another. Closure, in my view, is about finding that peace. Whether it comes in some form of definitive text book closure, or it comes as reconciliation of our grief, we seek closure to not only survive, but to find a way, somehow- to thrive again. 

As Wolfelt said; You don’t get to go around or above or below your grief. You must go through it.

Again, it is my view that closure will be different in different scenarios, and it will mean different things for different people. Whether your closure is to learn a lesson, say good-bye, accept the end of something or to get through tremendous grief, it should bring peace and hope for new beginnings and possibilities.

The author of the April 2014 Writing Center article; How to give your paper closure, said this about closure:  There’s satisfaction in order, thoughts falling into place and clicking shut, but maybe it’s best if you don’t shut the door too tightly, or at the least, don’t slam it. Obviously you need to finish what you have begun, but leave the paper open just enough so we can get a glimpse beyond the ideas that you address, the big questions and ideas your paper borrows from. The world is too big to have the last word on anything. You want to end strongly, but there is a limit to what you can put into your paper. There will always be new questions; in fact, all answers will lead to new questions. When you’re about to leave, try ending with some of the world’s possibility in your conclusion.

As writers, our story is not ready for submission until we complete what we started.  We engage our readers from prologue through epilogue, and we leave them feeling changed in some way. Likewise, in life, individuals desire closure because we need to find peace, and to heal, and we need to find some way to accept the ending of something so that we can move on, somehow.  At the same time, we look to the promise that our larger, more encompassing story isn’t quite over yet even when we feel as though it is.  There will be resentments to get over, guilt to let go of, broken hearts to mend, and new conquests to take on.There will be more questions to answer, other journeys to travel, and future chapters to write.  

As we each write our own endings for 2020 and we look ahead to the coming year, we must do our best to look for peace no matter where it is hiding or how difficult it is to find. We must not give up or put it off. Our losses each year, especially this past year for so many,  help define who we are and enrich our own life stories. Each loss’s lingering impact on our lives will remain with us forever. Finding closure is finding peace, and learning how to carry our losses with us, in a healthy and hopeful approach.

As we mourn this past year, and we write our own closures, we will rise up like the Phoenix and embrace the future unfolding before us. Whether we inspire our readers in our stories or we encourage or support one another in our lives, we will close this chapter of our lives peacefully and hopefully, as we await a brand new, better beginning in 2021.

Wishing all of my family, friends, acquaintances both old and new, and my blog followers and readers a peaceful, healing and blessed holiday season, whatever that holiday may be, and the happiest and healthiest new year ever. May ALL your days be merry and bright and bring you purpose and whatever closure is meant for you, and may God bless us all. 

Hope to see you all back here in 2021, in my new beginning.

Viewpoint

In writing our stories, we share our experiences, perspectives, or a message, in some format that will resonate with our readers, or our audience.  Whether the type of work is non-fiction or fiction, we share either facts or perspectives. Yet, we are careful to distinguish the differences, and to keep each in the lanes they belong.

It is in the viewpoint, which refers to the mind of the character, or narrator, sharing the story, that the reader is told the story. It is in this point of view (POV) of the creator, that the reader immerses herself, -in the world the writer creates for her.  It is through that viewpoint, that the reader learns to whom the story belongs, and the message the writer attempts to deliver, as well as the value the story holds for the author, and to her as the reader. 

Here are some of the basic types of viewpoints to consider in writing:  

The Narrator point of view:   an independent observer tells the story from an omniscient, all -knowing viewpoint.  This viewpoint places the reader further away from the story, as it is told from a distance, by an outsider who claims to know what is in the mind and heart of each character in the story.  

Next, there is Third Person point of view:  which draws the reader closer to the storyteller, through the point of view of a (or multiple ) character (s) in the story, in which the writer uses “ he, she or it” pronouns.  

Then, there is Second Person viewpoint:  which creates an invasive or prying intimacy in the narrative, in which the storyteller instructs or dictates to his reader. An example would be writing a recipe; “ First, you add three eggs, then you add two cups of milk, etc”.

Finally, there is my favorite; First Person point of view:  told from the “I “ perspective,  drawing the reader closest to the story-teller, directly into the writer’s mind and heart. It is in this viewpoint that the reader will relate most intimately with the character from whose viewpoint the story is shared. 

As the authors of our stories, we have control over how we create and convey our viewpoints, and with whom we hope will find meaning in them (our audience).  We get to decide from which point of view it makes most sense to relate our facts, in non-fiction,  or share our emotions and thoughts, in fiction, in order to get our point across, or to deliver our message.  

Think in terms of every day life, and the different viewpoints currently flittering around us like birds in flight. The way we see things drives the way we formulate our opinions, which further drives how we share our perspectives with others.  We share what we know, or how we feel, or at least that is how it should be, and not what we believe is in someone else’s mind, unless we are writing from the omniscient viewpoint, which I will elaborate on more in a bit. 

The story could be told from a single character, or from multiple-characters, one at a time. Be forewarned, however; when writing through multiple character point of view, it is imperative that only one character shares her point of view at a time.  We must never allow characters to tell the story through multiple viewpoints in the same sentence, paragraph or chapter, as this would be too jolting and confusing to our readers. 

In addition to basic types of viewpoints, there are other elements of viewpoint to consider, as well. For instance, when the narrator of the story shares facts, rather than emotion, he is writing from an objective point of view.  Conversely, when he is incorporating a character’s thoughts and emotion into his story, he is writing from the subjective point of view. He will construct his viewpoint around how he feels, and how he wants to make his reader feel in the process.  

In non- fiction work, using objective fact -providing, the creator’s goal is to introduce factual material, without incorporating his own narrow perspective into his message, so that his audience might come to its own educated conclusion. In doing so, the non-fiction communicator conveys his trust in his audience to form its own point of view toward his subject matter, while he remains mindful of the reader’s ability to not become fooled by his (the creator’s) viewpoint, but to become informed. 

In contrast, when writing fiction, the writer deliberately attempts to fool his reader because the reader desires to be fooled.  The reader wants to live temporarily in the fabricated world created by the writer, where she can travel to places she has never been and may never go. The reader relates to the protagonist in a way she can’t in her real life.  She finds comfort in the story where she has the potential to overcome feelings she has a hard time handling in her own real world, and even in some cases, where she can believe in happily- ever- after, fairy tale endings.

When the story-teller writes from a single –character viewpoint, he shares only incidents that character could experience directly, or occurrences the character conjectures from his observations of the actions of others, or through the character’s reactions during conversations with other characters through dialogue, but the character must never pretend to know first hand another character’s experiences, intentions or thoughts.

In real life, as we have witnessed these last few months during this highly political season, this problem with viewpoint is a flaw human beings have yet to figure out. Consequently, that is precisely why it works so well in our fiction, and the reason it is important to get that viewpoint right.  It is our duty as creators of our own stories, to protect the sanctity of sharing only what we know directly, and not what we think we know is in someone else’s mind.

Unless, of course we are writing in the omniscient point of view.

The omniscient point of view is described as the “God-like” view of “all knowing”. In this view, the author shares perspectives of a character, or characters, in his story without living as a character in the story, himself. He remains neutral or detached from everyone in it, while knowing exactly what is in each character’s mind. 

Jerry Jenkins points out in his blog article;  A Writer’s Guide to Point of View, that writing from this viewpoint makes sense in non fiction, while it should be considered carefully when used in fiction; 

In nonfiction, the Omniscient narrator is common and makes sense

because you’re an expert trying to teach or persuade, and so you adopt

a posture of knowing everything and telling everything.

Unlike the goal of the fiction writer, the message deliverer of non -fiction, or of any factual communication, should not be to trick his audience into emulating his point of view or to thinking the writer’s own viewpoint is the only right perspective, that the world he creates is the one and only perfect world in which to live.  

While we define the omniscient point of view as all knowing, and God-like, and this works in the stories we create, it does not work in real life. No one is God-like, and no-one should attempt to fool his or her audience into believing his or her viewpoint is the only one that matters.  

In my blogs, I often compare and contrast writing stories creatively, with creating and shaping our own life stories.  While it is not my goal to force my viewpoint on anyone, or to convince my audience that my viewpoint is the only right one, it is my objective to open the reader’s mind, to subject readers to another possibility worth considering.  

In the end, by creating the most appropriate viewpoint for our stories, as the writer, and by identifying the viewpoint from whom the story is told, as the reader, and by distinguishing between and understanding different viewpoints and how they come to be, we writers and readers, in this incredible dance partnership of literature and of life, will become better at creating the viewpoint that will best tell our own story, and in believing the story we are told.

The Ebb and Flow of the Tide

In one moment the tide flows toward land, toward stability, and in the next moment it ebbs away, out to sea, toward uncertainty.

I remember when my children were little, how I’d watch them wait for the right moment to leap forward, for the exact instant when the wave before them would expose her vulnerability so they could take her on.  But, I also remember thinking if they weren’t mindful of the ocean’s great power, they risked getting caught in her grasp and pulled out to sea.  Therefore, it was important they learn how to distinguish between the wave they could ride and the wave they could not.

In writing, authors create scenes that surge ahead like waves crashing upon the beach, propelling the plot forward. Writers follow those scenes with sequels, to afford our characters the chance to catch their breath, to think about what just happened or what could happen next. To reflect inward, to contemplate and to change.

Our stories, and our lives, are threaded together by strands of action and reaction, scenes and sequels, rising and falling. Our plots depend on this for survival, and so do our lives. Just as the sea depends on the balance of its ebb and flow, to prevent flooding or disparity, our stories rely on the scene and sequel dynamic.  Action and re-action.  Something happens and consequences follow; sometimes good, sometimes bad. Our characters sort through those actions and consequences by way of thought and emotion, before they engage in the next scene and start all over. 

Like the characters in our narratives who fight their way through the current, rather than float lazily through their conflicts or succumb to the undertow, we individuals learn to expect, and manage fluctuation and change, the back and forth of easy times and difficult times, the moments when things may go our way and the inevitable times when things will not. We learn to understand and appreciate the necessary influence of balance and change, to recognize and respect the changes of the tide, and the ebb and flow of the ocean, and of life.

A foolish person would challenge the rising and falling of the sea, and yet floating lazily with inactivity or taking a passive approach can as easily throw him off course like a piece of sun- bleached driftwood tossing about in the surf, with no direction or probability of finding a way to safe ground, of finding that firm piece of land to which he might anchor himself.

Our stories, and our lives, are about movement, then stillness. Activity, and rest.  Conflict, then resolution.  Turbulence, and peace.  Cause, and effect.  Contemplation, and decision.

Or vice versa.

It is all in the ebb and flow of the tide.

Our characters, like people, grow more in the stillness that follows movement, within the sequel period, post- scene, during the internal dialogue or narrative, where they ponder inward and make decisions.  It is in the deepest and most quiet layers of our minds that peace and resolution await us, rather than in the busy, noisy moments of activity.

Rushing in to greet us, the tide teases, and fools us, before she turns away, leaving us as quickly as she descended upon us.  We watch her in awe.  We admire her.  And we fear her. We deliberate.  We dodge.  We fight. We stand strong against her wrath on stormy days and we lay back and glide when the weather is sunny and calm.  We decide. We act.  We can be knocked down by her force, or we can gather the courage from within, to choose the wave most suited to take us back to shore.

Our characters overcome obstacles throughout their stories, as individuals  do through out life.  They make mistakes and they learn or they don’t learn and they flounder. They might drift aimlessly out to sea, or become trapped in a rip tide, or on the other hand, they might learn how to leverage the right wave that will transport them home.

We rise above the surface or we drown.  We succeed or we fail.  We change, or we remain stagnant.   We gain faith or we become stuck.  A story without scenes bores the reader and a story without sequels leaves our readers empty and shallow.   Each scene should include tension, suspense, stakes, conflict, or decisions to make, and each sequel should follow with reflection, success or failure, peace, resolution or change. The scene/ sequel relationship offers our readers insight, inspiration, a lesson, and growth, like the tide that deposits sorted seashells, trumpet whelks,  and glittery sea glass as treasures in the sand.

Moreover, the non stop cycle of creation, like the ebb and flow of the tide, reminds us there is always something happening behind the scenes, something meant to be, even when our characters, and our readers, do not readily recognize that.  Even when this idea is so far over the horizon that individuals cannot see it.   

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, wrote in Loss and Gain, the following;

When I compare

What I have lost with what I have gained,

What I have missed with what attained,

Little room do I find for pride.

I am aware

How many days have been idly spent;

How like an arrow the good intent

Has fallen short or been turned aside.

But who shall dare

To measure loss and gain in this wise?

Defeat may be victory in disguise;

The lowest ebb is the turn of the tide.

In his poem, Longfellow points out that peace and happiness often come from sorrow and difficulty. From his own losses in life, Longfellow gained an insight and strength that found it’s voice in his poetry. His words live on not only for their verse and tempo, but for the courage and hope they inspire, even in the face of anxiety, indecisiveness, fear, sadness, suffering and failure.

In Loss and Gain,  Longfellow writes about disappointment and regret, of longing, and the wisdom we gain through humility and patience, of the hope that comes when we are able to develop faith in ourselves, grow confidence in one another and believe in something much bigger than ourselves.

While it is okay to stand at the ocean’s edge, watching in awe as the ocean’s waves tumble toward us,  we must remain mindful of her tendency to knock us down, and silence our urge to dodge the wave we have the capacity to take on.  We must resist the undertow lurking beneath her that threatens to destroy us every day, and we must take our chance on the most fitting wave with the most potential to transport us toward safer ground.

For, it is in the ebb and flow of the tide, in our stories and in our moments, and in our lives, that individuals build strength, develop patience, discover potential, become confident, overcome weakness, and let go of fear.  And it is in the changing of the tide that we decide when and how to steady ourselves between the most turbulent of breakers and the calmest of swells, where the resolution and peace for which we have been searching eagerly awaits us,  like the mother watching her children stumble and fall only to rise back up again, each time more confident than the tumble before.

Then, at the end of the day, as the sun sets in the sky, and the children’s fingers are wrinkled from being submerged in the ocean for so long,  the mother wraps her children in towels, and in love and fulfillment, while the ebb and flow of the tide behind them continues on. 

Trees in the way.

A few weeks ago I had a tree removed from my back yard.  After years of standing in our way, cluttering our space outside, the tree’s sudden disappearance made way for me and my family to enjoy the outdoors we have always loved so much.

Hogging every inch of the tiny patch we were allotted out back of my townhouse, that tree stood only within two feet of our back porch- until one day the president of our townhouse board committee asked me if I would like the tree taken down, to which I answered, resoundingly;  “YES!”

Often, the course we choose in life is influenced by the obstacles in our way, whether or not their placement is our own doing, someone else’s fault or they are there because of their natural existence.  Regardless of the reason for those barriers, it is up to us as to how we react to them; whether we find a way to work around them, or remove them entirely.

During the process of writing we draft until our manuscripts are ready for submission, cleared of  flaws and clutter.  A word that does not belong, a sentence that has no importance, or an idea that has no significance could jeopardize our manuscript’s chance for publication.  Despite our project’s potential, it risks getting discarded like an empty water bottle drained of further purpose.

In writing, we are told to “kill our darlings” (cut out the flabby parts that distract from our story),- certainly not an easy thing to do.  We writers love words. Each time we revise our drafts we cut out a piece of ourselves until we end up with a tight, well-toned manuscript, void of hodgepodge; ready for publication. 

In life, as we travel through our covid-19 virus days, ..weeks, ..and months, counting the time until we are once again free to do the things we used to do that made us happy, we have become more aware of the obstacles in our way.  Although we have seen them before, knowing they exist, those roadblocks never stood out as they do now.  Before, in our other life, the life we lived before March 2020 came crashing down upon us, those hurdles were just there, and there was little we thought we could do about them.

Until now.

Like writing first and second or eighth drafts which we edit and revise, individuals have the opportunity to change their own life stories, to clear out the obstructions cluttering their own space.  Time, for instance, is one of those obstacles in the way.  There are no extra minutes in the day to call a loved one we haven’t seen in a while. There is no time to become technically savvy enough to stay in touch more often through streaming services.  There is definitely no way we could we rise a little earlier in the morning each day to exercise, prepare a healthier meal or take a class to improve our lives.   And carving out a little more time here and there to help a neighbor, volunteer or attend mass is out of the question when there is so little time already.

Similarly, the lack of money, communication issues, and worries are among many road blocks too large to push aside.  Donating to the local charity seems impossible when we have bills to pay.  Taking the family on vacation is out of the budget when the mortgage or rent is due. 

But, wouldn’t it be wonderful if we COULD get creative, cut out some flab here and there, “kill the darlings” that distract from the quality of our life stories, or tidy up the disarray that blurs our possibilities.

So many hurdles  to overcome, so many obstacles in the way.   It’s nothing we did.  Just trees in our way.

Likewise, these past few months since the pandemic caught us all off guard, sickness, deaths, lockdowns, isolations, loss of jobs and businesses, wrongful deaths amongst countless others gone unnoticed, rioting, looting and police-bashing have become additional obstacles in our way, all of which prevent us from engaging in honest dialogue, and subsequently attaining and sharing peace and unity amongst us.  They have become blinders robbing us of our sight, barricades imprisoning us, stumbling blocks cutting us off from the freedom we took for granted, and roadblocks in the way of the happiness we forgot we have the power to maintain or create.

It is time now for us to remove the blinders, get rid of the clutter in our space in order to allow us to see our potential more clearly.  If we have the ability to write, to create a piece of art from a blank page that has the power to resonate with others, then we have the ability to remove the obstacles in our way.  We only need to see them for what they are and to build upon our strength to know when it is the right time to cut them down, or to “kill our darlings” and revise.

The tree that once stood in our way, preventing my family from enjoying our summer space, year after year, was my own fault, despite its natural existence. Had I known it would be as easy as asking a board member to remove it, we could have enjoyed the outdoor freedom we love so much, and felt deprived of for so long, a lot sooner.

No point in blaming myself, or for any of us to blame ourselves or others.  It’s the direction we take now that matters. It does not need to be anything we did or didn’t do.  It’s what we do now that counts.

After all, they’re just trees in our way. And trees CAN be cut down.

Look inside. Find your true home.

When contemplating a topic for this bi-monthly edition of my blog for March/April, I stumbled across James Scott Bell’s suggestion in “ Plot and Structure”;  All writers should periodically take a good look inside themselves.   He explains that we should create a “personality filter” through which we might generate our plot ideas. To this point, I would go further to suggest individuals in general could benefit from this idea to look inside themselves to identify his or her true values the way writers look inside for ideas. 

A value can be defined as a person’s principles or standards of behavior; one’s judgment of what is important in life. They are the beliefs and ideas that guide individuals in their thought processes and behaviors, and have the ability to help people understand the difference between right and wrong.  Value is meaning or worth, or lack thereof.  A value can be positive or negative; demonstrated in the belief that family is important or that people are generally caring and good, versus the belief that individuals are powerless to change their own fates or personal situations or that the world is unfair and everyone else’s viewpoints are wrong.

Dig deep. Explore.  Roam around inside your heart and your mind for a while.  Pay close attention to what you see and feel there.  Is it something you are proud of; then embrace it and share it with others.  Spread it amongst us.  If, on the other hand, it is something you know you should change, do something about it. 

Writers know what they will do when they find something they do or do not like inside, or when they find something they want to understand better or see more clearly.  They write about it. 

Andy Stanley, a pastor, writer and communicator who has produced tons of sermons, often preaches about this idea; “The value of a life is always measured in terms of how much of it is given away”, meaning the extent to which we give ourselves to others determines who we really are. Just as writers put energy into dissecting what interests us, or what drives us toward sharing a message or lesson, individuals should spend time looking inside themselves for their own values.

“What do you care most about in this world?”  How could the author write without having the courage to explore this question, and then, more importantly, to face or share the answer, even if there is no answer.  It is the things for which we are most passionate or curious that give life to our greatest stories (think “theme”). Similarly, it is the values human beings hold most dear that guide them through their daily thoughts, words and actions and influence how they ultimately behave and treat others.

In so many ways, writing is connected to life, which is the reason I interweave my writing lessons with life lessons in my blogs. Looking inside ourselves as writers to find our next story is no different from looking inside ourselves as human beings, to figure out and acknowledge what it is we most care about in life.

In L. Frank Baum’s Wizard of Oz, it is the protagonist’s  quest for a place to feel safe, loved and accepted, and her eventual recognition that it was right there all along, the place from which she started her journey,  inside her own heart, that would always be home.   

Similarly, in the The Greatest Gift,  a short story written in 1939 by Philip Van Doren Stern, on which Frank Capra produced and directed Its a wonderful life, we recognize the value of family, friendship, and love of and from others.  After all, “ No man is a failure who has friends”.

Unless we determine what it is that we truly value as a writer; what fascinates us, interests us, infuriates us, confuses us, drives us, we will struggle to develop a plot that  connects in a meaningful way with our readers, and similarly, unless we as individuals open the door to our soul, to evaluate who we really are and what we value most or more importantly, what we should value most, we will never become the best we can be.

As Andy Stanley says, with regard to leadership, in his The American in the Mirror sermon, our nation will never be greater than the Americans in the Mirror.  It is who we are inside that allows us to succeed as caring and complete human beings, or on the contrary, sets us up for failure. 

So, I say; Take a deep breath and dive deep, look inside.  Be brave. Do not hide from anything you find there. Rather, confront it, acknowledge it, inspect it and if it is something that needs to be changed, do something about it.  Face it and fix it.  Put others first if it is something that is getting in your way.  Or, if on the other hand, you are one of the rarer individuals who realize what you find is what should have been there all along, embrace it.  Nurture it. Grow it, then share it with the rest of us.   Spread it between and over and around us.  Let it cover us all like a blanket under which we are able to come together as one, feeling united and safe.

One does not need to be a writer to ask these difficult questions of ourselves, or to spend the time exploring within our own minds and hearts in order to find and face what we do, do not or should value, to uncover an idea for a story.  There is no better time than now, for individuals in general, to follow James Scott Bell’s suggestion to look inside, when our world has suddenly become unhinged, to take this journey. Perhaps once we have each spent some quality time there, on our journey inside, and we have made our own discoveries, we will recognize our true home, once we return.

First lines

“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”  This was the first line in George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-four, 1949).  Readers understand from this beginning that something must be out of balance; something must be wrong.

Clocks do not strike thirteen.

In writing, as in life, beginnings are everything. Whether we are meeting a protagonist for the first time in chapter one of a new story, or we are meeting a new colleague at a mandatory company meeting, first impressions are…well,…. everything!

And, these first impressions are shaped within…. about 2- 5 seconds.    There are no “re-do’s” in first impressions. 

First lines  mean everything in writing.  The goal is to bedazzle the reader.  Strike her with something so out of the ordinary or unusual that she MUST read on to find out more.

And, this is where I must leave you.  At this new beginning for 2020.

This is my new first “re-beginning” of a bright new year of blogs, after taking a hiatus for far too long last year!

I apologize for the last few months of absence, as I was pre-occupied with other areas of my life.  I know that is no excuse, yet it is all I have to give.

I offer the promise now, to continue with my blog posts every other month from here on through the rest of this year.

And that is my first line of this year; my beginning, for this bright new year ahead of us…. the start of a BRAND NEW decade, which I know will be filled with promise, and hope and faith, and above all else, the absolute love of reading and the unending desire to write… and learn and live…..

Noise

In our stories, as in life, we “write” ups and downs like eager adventurers on a never-ending ride at life’s amusement park, taunted by the noise of life ( both the external clamor surrounding us and the internal racket in our heads), by which we are goaded upward one minute and knocked down the next.  But, unlike the confused and fearful individuals who scurry away from the turmoil, the writer seeks out life’s noise in order to study it, understand it and ultimately to embrace it. 

The writer’s  creativity depends on her ability to see up close the elements that make life’s noise necessary, and the sounds that give it its rhythm. 

In writing, our narratives depend on the intricacies of life that make living difficult for so many, seemingly easy for others, sad for plenty and happy for some. Writers borrow real life moments from the stories that surround them, from the instances that have the power to connect individuals to one another, and the emotions that could unite people as one.

A writer does not limit her task to providing all the answers, but to the job of creating a desire in readers to ask the questions. To want to know, and to want to care.

Without the desire to place oneself right smack in the heart of life’s noise, or to stop long enough to listen to the analysis  within, the writer may end up with nothing but unfinished pages.

Without life’s noise to dissect, there is nothing to write about. 

Without a note, the song won’t get written.

Without the desire to listen, writers, like individuals,  remain deaf to the very things that make life worth living, and to the stories we were meant to create and to read.

Every now and then the noise outside us, and within us, grows so loud that it becomes difficult for the writer to finish her pages.  It overwhelms us, so we shut down.  We tune ourselves out or take a break. We run away from life’s commotion, and from ourselves, and from one another.

Then, with faith and time to reflect and to realize why we need the noise, after a while, when the silence grows too big,  the pandemonium suddenly  begins to drift back to us, and we welcome it. We have come to recognize  the value of the individual sounds that created it and we start  to listen again.  And to write again.

And if we are open and brave enough, to live again.