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Knowing when to call it quits; making way for new growth.

How do you know when it’s time to call it quits, when remaining on the same page, in the same situation,  turns into staying too long?  When your current project has run its course and overstayed its welcome?  You’ve been re-writing the same lines over and over, you’ve invested oodles of precious time and sunk heavy costs into your present draft,  and suddenly you hit a wall.  You wonder if you wasted your time spinning wheels to go nowhere, except perhaps, to get stuck in a rut?  You’ve been running in place for so long that you forgot where you were headed, or that you were even heading anywhere at all.  Yet, you don’t want your hard work, precious time,  sunken costs, or your investment to have been in vain, so you allow yourself to remain stuck in that dead end place- where you no longer belong. 

As writers, we go through this type of thinking every time we arrive at an impasse.  Suddenly, there are no alternate routes, no roads forward, no way out, only a solid barrier blocking the path ahead, and the choice between staying put in a deadlock, or giving up altogether. This is the message Andromeda Romano-Lax shares in her January/February Writers Digest article; Dig in or Cut yourself free.  Referring to this dilemma as “Fruit or Failure”, she suggests asking yourself how you know when to redraft or when to give up on the current story altogether, or if the work still gives you joy.   Are you learning (or growing) from this process or are you watering something that is undeniably dead?

Sometimes, changing the time period, the point of view, or voice is all you need to breathe life back into your story, while other times there is nothing you could do to save your work from its inevitable demise.  Yet, taking away the pieces that did work ; the lessons learned, the good parts- that could fit in a brand new narrative- makes the time, investment, and effort work toward your next project.   As John Green said in Paper Towns; It is so hard to leave- until you leave. And then it is the easiest …thing in the world.

Similarly, in Eddie Pinero’s ; Your World Within , he points to this idea in life with his story of a lunch date with a friend, in which he mentions feeling full, while continuing to eat.  His lunch date asks him “Why, then would you continue to eat if you are no longer hungry?”  To which he explains that he wants to get his money’s worth- since he already paid for it.  In response, his lunch date reminds him; “Sometimes we must accept the sunken costs for what they are.  We don’t need to keep paying, just because we already paid.”  

After all, we do not enjoy the meal any less just because we did not finish everything on our plates!

 His story’s message is that often we, as individuals, continue to consume that which does not help us, long after we should have stopped.  The wake behind the boat we drive, (the past that WAS), does not determine where we go next; the driver behind the wheel does.  If we take control of our story, unshackle ourselves from the current draft that is no longer working, or cut ties from what no longer serves us, accepting that something which took our time doesn’t mean it should continue to steal our time, we might discover the right time to call it quits -and move on.  Eli Landed notes in one of his Writing blogs:   never cling to a mistake just because you spent a lot of time making it.  Similarly, this is pointed to in the Best Selling Author, Keynote Speaker, Thought Leader and Entrepreneur, Bryant McGill’s message; Life moves forward. The old leaves wither, die and fall away, and the new growth extends forward into the light.

In life, sometimes individuals remain in jobs they do not like, that provide little or no joy or reward, because it pays the bills, or its the skill they know.   Likewise, people remain in situations, or relationships that should have ended long ago, because they’re familiar, predictable, and secure, and better than being alone.  But, as Mr. Pinero points out, a jail cell is also secure, and becomes familiar and predictable after a while.

So, what will it take to file that overwritten, going- nowhere manuscript into a drawer, to allow yourself to begin a new story, to start over? Just because the current narrative isn’t working, should not mean there won’t be a better story waiting on the horizon, or within you, to create.  No effort or time you put in is ever wasted.  These things are what makes our next project better, and makes us who we are, who we can become.  The time we spend working on our current narrative allows us to learn what did not work, what won’t work in our next story, as we learn what will.  As the Irish writer known as The Maestro of Failure, Samuel Beckett, said; Ever tried?  Ever failed? No matter. Try again. Fail again.  Fail better.

Instead of viewing the disappointment of a story that isn’t working, as a brick wall, or stalemate,  see it instead as the staircase that could lead you upward,  toward the right story, the right job you will love and feel rewarded doing, the right relationship that will give you joy, the one in which you are meant to be, and the right life you are meant to live. And of course, the right story you were intended to create.

One of my all time favorite quotes was written by Dr.Seus; Don’t cry when it’s over, smile that it happened.  Of course, while this applies to other important lessons in life, it also reminds us that whatever stage we are at in our writing, or in our lives, the effort and time we’ve invested, the piece of ourselves we gave, and the mistakes we made, are never lost to us, or wasted. They become a part of a better story, whether it is the novel we write as writers, or the life narrative we build as individuals, everything we go through or that happens to us is a crucial piece of our life puzzle, an important paragraph of our chapter, a part of who we are and who we become, never wasted or in vain.

Another way to recognize when it may be time to cut your losses to move on, comes from the author  K.M. Weiland, when she suggests three signs to look for;  1. When you are losing focus 2. You lack passion for the project  3. Your gut tells you to stop.   She says ;  Sometimes we need to force ourselves to do hard things- like edit that stupid draft for the zillionth time.  But sometimes we just have to stop.  Sometimes chasing our tails is the worst thing we can do.  There will always be more stories to write. Sometimes we need to just go write them—and let our old ideas die gracefully. It takes courage to admit, even to ourselves, that a story just isn’t working.

If you feel you’re writing a dead-end story, take a moment to evaluate your future with it. More likely than not, you’re going to keep on writing, edit your way to a fabulous book, and end your relationship with this story on a victorious note. But if it doesn’t quite work out that way—if you realize you need to move on—don’t count it as a failure. Close the file on your computer, take stock of what you’ve learned, and move on to write your next masterpiece.

This is further elaborated by Maggie Doonan, author of fiction, non -fiction and Writers Edit blog,; 

As a writer, you need excitement and enthusiasm. You need a relentless curiosity about the characters you’re creating – an unquenchable desire to spend hours at a laptop in isolation just to see where this story is going to take you.

However, if you’re sitting at your laptop for hours on end, each word as painful as a broken finger playing piano, then you might have a problem. You’re either approaching the narrative from the wrong direction or you shouldn’t be approaching it at all.

Besides, your next project could be the big one. A doozy. A real literary gem. But you won’t know until you let go of the project that’s holding you back.

And so, to further answer how to know when its time to call it quits, when staying on the same page, or in the same situation, becomes too long, when you’ve overstayed your welcome, and need to let go, I say recognize the value of the current narrative you’ve been writing, then let it go the way the winter trees let go when its the right time.  Only then, will the path forward become clearer, the climb upward will feel less painful, and the new growth taking root inside you will extend forward into the light. 

Creating a new story outside the box

Once upon a time there was a little girl who dreamed of becoming a writer and a teacher.  All she ever wanted to do was write and teach, to intertwine her love of both into messages of hope and faith, that would resonate with readers seeking resolution, inspiration, guidance or answers. She would create stories born in her imagination, borrowed from real life experiences, shaped by what if’s and stolen from broken hearts.  She would teach lessons through her stories that would nurture, heal, and transform lives. 

To create a new story, the writer begins with a character who wants something. The story will describe the character’s internal and external journey toward getting what he or she wants (or doesn’t get, as stories don’t always have happy endings, only ones that make sense, or satisfy). The author keeps her character’s struggle to get something she desperately wants in mind, as she builds her story’s framework by answering the following questions:

Who is the main character (protagonist)? What is her everyday life like?

What does she want? Is there an extenuating event that calls her to step outside the safety of her self-made box?

What is she willing to do to get what she wants? What won’t she do?

How does her weaknesses (fears, doubts, erroneous zones, and such)  prevent her from achieving her goal?

What obstacles, internal or external, obstruct her?

Does she finally overcome the obstacles or is she unable to get past them?

How is the character changed as a result of her struggle?

The character will follow a path called the story arc, beginning with the extenuating event that sets the story in motion. This is followed by the rising action, with every scene in the story’s progression raising the stakes a little at a time, while increasing the conflict and tension. Subsequently, the story reaches a climactic turning point at which time, from there on forward, the character will be transformed in some way (positively or negatively) as a result of her internal and external journey told through the story’s events. Consequently, the final act is in the end, or denouement, wrapping the story up, and threading together both the story’s outcome and its theme.   

In life, we create a new story when we want to start over, move on, improve our life or trash our old story.  We begin by deciding what type of story we want to create: a victim’s story or a story of empowerment. As Randy Gage, American author and motivational speaker says;  it is the choice we make that makes the difference for us.  Like the fictional stories we write as authors, we can make our own autobiography about a victim who can’t escape himself, or a story of empowerment and success. 

We know stories are not just about a sequence of events; they must go somewhere. Similarly, our own lives are not just about a sequence of events, they go somewhere and it is up to us to decide toward which direction they move. The external events of our lives do not dictate which direction we take, they merely act as triggers.  It is the stuff inside us that carves out our roadmap.

Dawn Romeo, a bestselling author, wellness and life coach, psychotherapist, and personal development trainer makes the following point;  The external circumstances of your life right now are less relevant than your internal subjective view of yourself. The way we feel and the images we hold in the forefront of our mind manifests in the life we live. Referring to something Henry Ford said to further illustrate this point , she says;  Whether you think you can or think you can’t– you’re right.

That same little girl who dreamed of becoming a writer continues to dream of writing and teaching, but unlike in her old story in which she doubted herself, fearing change and Robert Frost’s road less traveled by, never daring to step outside her safe little box, she is now creating a brand new story that holds hope for the many changes she learned will always come, and faith that she will confront those changes as a victor, leaving the victim behind, back inside the box all alone. Through her ongoing journey, she learned, and teaches her readers ,that the new story we write is no longer centered around the apprehension to step outside the box, because in the new story we create there should be no box at all.

Coming Full Circle

The Closing moments are necessarily quieter than the climactic scene, but they should be no less emotionally resonant; in fact, the denouement (the final outcome of the main dramatic complication in a literary work) is a moment that looks back to and reminds the reader of the beginning of your novel and what questions were raised there, particularly in terms of the protagonist’s internal motivation. What your character wants personally has been driving the narrative since the first page, even before the external motivation and conflict came along to parallel the personal struggle.  With the external question resolved in the climax, what remains is answering the inthrall question and addressing the effect the story has had on the character as a person, thus bringing the character arc, and the book, full circle.  

(Joseph Bates, Writing Your Novel from Start to Finish, 2015, page 194.)

In this passage, Mr. Bates points out, in essence, that what a character wants (internally) at the start of her journey, even if she does not realize it, she will strive to achieve throughout her story, through the external events she faces, until the closing moments, at which time she comes full circle, back to the place at which she started, but this time- recognizing, if not yet resolving, her internal desires or struggles.

Similarly, in life, what brings us, as individuals, full circle at the end of a chapter, a season, a year, or a lifetime, is understanding what we want and how important that is, and achieving it, or at least working toward it.  How have we changed? How much have we learned? How much have we grown, or on the other hand, remained stagnant? Have the events in our own lives over the past year had a clear, discernible effect on our lives, the same way the events in the fictional stories we write and read impact our protagonists.   Are we the same person now, in this year’s  closing moments, we were at the beginning of our journey, in the opening moments?

Bates continues ;  The way to gauge the significance ( of the effect that changes the protagonist) is by looking at the protagonist at both the beginning and end, and seeing a difference.   Be forewarned, however; the change in our fictional protagonists is not always a positive transformation; the characters may also undergo negative change. In Charles Dickens’ Scrooge, Ebenezer Scrooge evolves from a miserable, money-pinching, greedy old man to a kind-hearted and generous person, recognizing who he was, identifying who he wants to be, and choosing to redeem himself.  In contrast, in Wuthering Heights, we see Heathcliff change the other way, as he becomes  a villain in response to his unrequited love for Catherine and the misguided manner in which he decides to think and behave. He changes, but he never evolves.

Our own change does not necessarily mean we need to achieve perfection.  Rather, it means in some way, to some degree, we grew. We evolved. Somewhere along the pages of our life story, we came to identify what we value, and we recognize how important it is to believe in that value, and in ourself, and how to nurture our passion, find our purpose and do everything possible to follow it. We learn that we are the authors of our own life stories. We are the editors, the agents, the publishers, and advocates for our own narrative.  Further, we are the protagonist with internal desires and struggles, with our own character arc to process.  We are the main character of our life story, and we are the only one in control. Do we follow the direction Ebenezer took, or take the path created by Healthcliff? It is our decision to make.

Even when we are struck by adversity, we are the author in control. As we drive our lives forward, toward achieving happiness and success, it is the failures that take us there.  Sometimes, when we get lost,  taking occasional detours allows us to get back on track. To find our way.  Again, it is within only our own control to decide between giving up, allowing fear to immobilize us, or recognizing failures as stepping stones, rather than see them as heavy weights that can drown us.

Bates says; … failures- particularly our own personal failings- often change our lives with more ferocity than our successes.  And then there is the famous quote by Albert Einstein, who said; Adversity introduces a man to himself.  We don’t change through adversity itself; we merely learn who we were to begin with, who we are now, and who we can be.  It magnifies our own character arc,  taking what was always within us,  to the forefront.  

In Wayne Dyer’s Your Erroneous Zones, he threads the ideas of choice and present-moment living throughout his book. While he discusses various “erroneous zones” or areas in which we are self-destructive, he writes; 

           Looking at yourself, in depth with an eye toward changing might be something that you 

           say you are interested in accomplishing, but your behavior speaks otherwise.  

           Change is tough.

Moreover, to further illustrate this point, Dieter F. Uchdorf said;  It is your reaction to adversity, not the adversity itself, that determines how your life’s story will develop. In other words, it is up to us alone to decide which path we follow, or even to forge a brand new path- leaving a trail for others to follow.  No one else determines this for us.  Robert Frost brilliantly illustrated this in The Road Not Taken;  

                     Two roads diverged in a wood, and I- 

                     I took the one less traveled by, 

                     And that has made all the difference.

In fiction, our protagonist faces her own setbacks and hardships, through which she loses herself, but ultimately finds herself- we hope.  Through out her story, she faces external challenges that inspire internal confrontation, reflection, and eventual resolution, as each external obstacle brings her closer to discovering her true internal values, purpose and character.  Therefore, bringing her full circle.

Isn’t this true for the rest of us in our real lives?  Aren’t we always on a quest to find our own true purpose in life, to find the true meaning of life, the path that will allow us to become better daughters, sons, sisters, brothers, spouses, parents, friends, neighbors, employees, coworkers, bosses, teachers, citizens, writers, and human beings in general? To just -be better and to make the world in which we live a better place. 

This past year is behind us.  We are in the closing moments of 2021, and although these moments, for some, may be quieter than the climactic scenes experienced throughout this past year, they are no less emotionally resonant.  What path will we take, or forge next year and in the years to come, that will make a difference?  So… what effect has our choices had on us as individuals in our own life stories, and for others, and have we brought our own character arc, in our narrative, full circle?

Many thanks to the readers and followers who have read my blogs over the years so far, and supported me in achieving my life- long dream to write and teach. Regardless of, or because of, the adversities each of you might have faced this past year, this past season,  this past decade, this past lifetime, or this past whatever, look inside yourselves and you will find your own purpose, strength, love, happiness and peace. I promise you, it is there.  It has been there all along.  You only need to set out on your own quest to reveal it, and you will come full circle, back home to the place you always belonged. 

You grow through what you go through.

In writing fiction, our characters transform in some way, as they struggle through conflict until they reach resolution, or they fail miserably, and they learn a lesson.

In Joseph Bates’ Writing Your Novel From Start to Finish- A Guidebook for the Journey, he explains that what makes a story “remarkable, even unforgettable”, is the way the “external motivation and conflict parallel, complicate, and deepen our understanding of the characters’ internal motivation and conflicts.”

He further says the events in the story, through which the characters persevere, “must come into direct conflict with whatever it is they want or value”.  Bates asks; “ What would the outcome be if the character achieved his goal, or if he failed to achieve it?”

We, as individuals in real life, transform through our adversities and struggles.  As Steve Harvey says in his video with Joel Olsteen; Let Them Go, July 1, 2021 ; “Every pain leaves a gift”.

“You grow through what you go through”.  We struggle through the loss of loved ones, the end of romantic relationships or friendships we thought would last our lifetime, the closure of our career- or a job we loved,  or through any decision which might alter our path.  This is a part of life.

Real life. 

Rather than allow conflict or struggles to break us, or weaken us; just as the writer orchestrates the transformation of her characters in her story, the individuals in life, as Harvey and Olsteen note in their video,  should recognize and embrace adversity as a blessing and a lesson. 

In Bates’ novel, he likens the author to a sort of “God”; 

An author is in a precarious position as a kind of “naughty God”We ought to feel connection to our own characters, and hope on some level they will succeed, even as we’re the very ones making their lives difficult.”

This is not to imply God makes our lives difficult; he merely lays the ground work and allows us to find our own path, and if that journey is obstructed by challenges along the way, we should keep faith that in the end, wherever we land, it will be the destination God intended for us.

The fictional story we create, as writers, mirrors the non-fiction lives we live as human beings.  The writer creates the conflicts through which our characters journey, as the characters grow stronger with each success, or failure.  They embrace their successes, and they learn from their failures, which allows them to grow.

According to Dr. Wayne Dyer, internationally renowned author and motivational speaker, individuals who recognize the difference between living life according to the demands of their egos (looking at adversity as a negative), compared to the no-limit individuals who value the “divine I am-ness inside us”,  recognize adversity as opportunities for growth and happiness, rather than as set-backs or dead ends.  

He said the following, with regard to adversity and failures; The no-limit person uses his rejections and failures to reframe his thinking, or to go on to try other things. In other words, the individual who understands that the challenges he faces are meant to strengthen him,  recognizes the blessing he receives from facing that difficulty.  He feels blessed to get through it, and to come out on the other side as an improved, learned or better person because of it.

Our characters will possess some degree of clear wants, goals, ambitions or a quest, in order to grow.  We, as individuals, experience adversity when we desire a relationship with our families , our friends, our co-workers, our neighbors or a romantic partner. We experience adversity when we have a professional, educational, or personal goal and something gets in our way. 

Bates says “ A character with no clear want can’t ever be in a state of conflict (because there’s nothing to be in a conflict against), and a character who’s not in a state of conflict has no opportunity to change, as there is no conflict to resolve.”

As I have stated in the past, as so many writers teach, writers write to question, to explore, to discover, to share and to reflect.  We write to connect with our readers, to mirror the complexities in our lives, and to help our readers recognize the blessings and lessons we all gain from those struggles. 

Just as our fictional characters grow through their conflicts and struggles in our made up stories, individuals in real life have the power to grow emotionally, mentally, spiritually, intellectually, and even physically, as we face adversity, and come to understand and appreciate just how much, and how blessed we are to be able to,  grow through what we go through. 

Unfolding Your Wings

Many individuals spend their days living inside a self-made, protective box where they feel safe and comfortable.  Afraid to face uncertainty, they remain imprisoned by fear. 

This is one of the reasons I love to write; to explore and to confront the unknown, to discover, and to take bold risks outside the box. To challenge the many types of fear that imprisons each one of us.

Ray Bradbury once wrote; Jump, and you will find out how to unfold your wings as you fall. This brings to mind an old friend’s recollection of the way he learned to swim.  Despite of, or because of, his fear of the water, his father picked my friend up when he was about five years old, and tossed him into the lagoon at their summer home.  My friend  remembered screaming as his dad yelled; ” Use your arms, and kick your legs to stay above the water!”.  My friend said it worked. He never needed a swim lesson, or was afraid of the water again.  It was the first time he learned to travel outside the safety of his own box.

The writer journeys outside the box each time she sits down to create a new story.  She breaks through walls, plunges into unknown territories, and travels to far away places (mentally, emotionally, spiritually and intellectually)  she has never been. She delves deep inside the minds and psyches of individuals who are nothing like her, and like her ,and she bares her soul to strangers each time she places words on the page. 

Bradbury’s advice to go outside oneself, to take risks, does not only apply to the aspiring author in us.  His words ring true for individuals in real life, as well.  Sometimes, we need to charge straight toward fear, like a boxer throwing jabs, crosses and hooks at his larger than life opponent, until he knocks that adversary out cold.  Only then will the boxer claim his victory.

We, whether as writers or individuals in real life, can not claim our own victory over fear until we confront it head on, and knock it out cold.

Ray Bradbury also described the writer as the following; We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.  Writers observe the world and then we share what we learn, but we are only able to do that if we are not afraid to put what we have been filled with, onto the page, to share our vulnerabilities, our conclusions and our stories with others.

Author, editor and mentor, Bonnie Hearn Hull wrote in the August 2021 edition of The Writer,  about our fears of failure; Being bad isn’t failure.  The only way you fail is by stopping (OR, I would add, never starting, never taking the chance).  No one can judge a blank page, but no-one will be entertained, inspired, or changed by it, either.

Writers take risks all the time.  We put ourselves out there, allowing ourselves to remain vulnerable to the judgements of our audience, to both those readers who admire us, and to those who criticize us.  We do this to release what we are filled with, to spill it out, to come face to face with our questions, our doubts, our anxieties and our fears, as well as those of our readers, in order to share our journeys and our victories with others. 

In life, individuals may become stuck within the dark confinement of those self-made boxes. They are afraid to tear down the walls they so carefully built over the years, which prevents them from seeking brighter opportunities outside. They might remain in dead-end relationships because they fear being alone.  They stay in jobs with no opportunity for growth because they do not think they are good enough to find anything better.  They live in the same house or neighborhood they’ve long outgrown because they are afraid to start over somewhere unfamiliar. 

Like the writer who faces the blank page, bravely and creatively filling it one word at a time, individuals should face their unknowns, by tearing down the walls of their box, one heavy brick at a time. 

In Michael A. Singer’s The Untethered Soul, the journey beyond yourself, Singer says; In order to grow, you must give up the struggle to remain the same, and learn to embrace change at all times.   He discusses in his book, the tendency of individuals to remain imprisoned within the walls of their psyche.  That is what the dark house we built is.

While Singer discusses the journey toward achieving enlightenment for the individual, this also applies to the writer, as she attempts to lead her readers as close as possible to the borders of their own protective walls, with her story.

Similarly, Jane k Cleland, author of Mastering Suspense, Structure and Plot, says about the fear of failure, in her September 2018 Writers Digest article; The fear of failure feels as if your soul was in the crosshairs of a sharpshooting sniper.  That is how scary failure feels to a writer.  Cleland calls it the I’m not good enough fear. 

Cleland’s advice to the writer is to Shush your internal critic and summon forth your inner muse.  This idea bounces off Singer’s advice in his book to individuals in real life, to journey deep within yourself to become the witness to the noisy, non-stop chattering mind inside who acts as a barrier between the true self and one’s ability to achieve awareness.  Your muse can be found within, Cleland says, Its been there the whole time; all you need to do is trust the process and believe in yourself.

To further elaborate this point, freelance writer Maria Walley shares in the September 2018 WD publication, Author Brene’ Brown’s  discussion about the power of vulnerability;    The ability to be vulnerable is a key ingredient to achieving success, happiness, and thriving at human connection.   Walley says, We must be able to genuinely bare our souls in our writing. 

This takes guts and it takes going outside the safety of the box we created for ourselves. It takes confronting and opposing our egos and our fears; Our ego isn’t evil; it serves its proper role of protecting our vulnerable selves, and yet unless we challenge our ego, and expose ourselves to risk, we won’t create as writers and we won’t fully live as human beings.

Walley says; Essentially, leveraging vulnerability is how we take our communication to a level that transcends clever wording, while challenging  readers to take the rare moment for reflection

We write to learn who we are. We write so our readers learn who they are, or who they can become. 

When Ray Bradbury said to Jump, and you find out how to unfold your wings as you fall, he was daring writers to take risks, to be vulnerable, to face uncertainty and write about it.  Yet, Bradbury could also have been talking to individuals who are not writers, who are merely living each day of their lives, facing their own uncertainties and fears.  Just as writers are told to write outside the box, to find our muse and silence the inner critic or to fill our cup with beautiful things that we can later tip out, onto the page for our readers, the individual should do the same in his life.

Find your true self and silence the mind inside that attempts to stop you from escaping the confined walls of your self-made prison. Fill your own cup with beautiful things that you can spill into each day of your life, for yourself and for your loved ones, and for everyone else to whom we are spiritually connected. 


Take chances. Dare yourself. Fill your blank pages with beautiful and adventurous stories. Trust in your muse, and trust in your inner true self. 

Jump, and you just might learn how to unfold your own wings.  Instead of falling, you will soar far beyond the confinement of the prison walls of the self-made box in which you have been imprisoned for far too long. 

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.