Writers Write, Right?

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

Confession: I haven’t been writing, at least not in a fiction-novel-in-progress sort of way.

Of course I’ve captured conversations with my dudes that are humorous and notable, like:

S: How old is she again?
Me: She’s almost two.
S: Yeah. Right.
Me: Why?
S: Well, that’s why we’re keeping her away from the Legos. It’s a choking hazard till she’s three. You know because of all the small pieces.

Or this one:

Me: Do you want the last two books in the Sweetfarts trilogy?
N: I don’t know. No.
Me: They’re $1 on the Kindle right now.
N: I don’t know. I guess.
Me: Well would you read them? For a dollar each?
N: Okay. Go ahead. It’s your money. Spend it however you want.
Me: Gee thanks for giving me permission to spend my money on you.

Cute, right? Worth committing to paper for the sake of telling my future grandkids.

Confession: I haven’t written in the one-day-you’ll-be-a-published-author kind of way.

Hey, blogging is writing, right? Some of my posts have been longish of late, as I toy with sentence length, alliteration, and structure. My posts have ventured into new topics or maybe I should say, I’m not writing solely about writing (or not writing). Good, bad, or indifferent, I’m playing with language to share what’s on my mind.

Confession: I haven’t been writing in the sense of word count goals and manuscript deadlines. NaNoWriMo camps? What are those?

Sure my days are filled with endless forms of the written word: emails and tweets and Facebook posts.

I’ve engaged in rambling text conversations about homeschooling and teaching writing; about books on my “to read” list; and summer reading plans for my boys. Texts about grammar and Ted Talks; reminders and questions; random and fun; word bubbles and emoticons. Battling autocorrect when I want to intentionally misspell a word.

So much to say to so many people in a limited amount of time.

Confession: I haven’t written in terms of feeling like an artsy creative type; unworthy of the craft and tortured soul.

My first and only novel-in-progress remains at just over 40,000 words, which averages to be 10,000 words per year.

The new piece I wanted to start, stalled out because I tried to map it out. Poor Pantser me.

Accountability calls with writing partners have turned more social than productive. Well, when they attempt to steer conversation toward my writing life anyway.

How many times have I used a form of “write” in this post so far? Too many. I need to consult a thesaurus. I’m getting rusty and maybe language lazy.

Anyway, I digress.

Confession: I haven’t written in the butt-in-seat, every day way typical advice to writers.

Wait!

What?

Yes. Yes, I have written in the butt-in-seat, every day way, because I journal constantly; making notes of ideas that intrigue me; listing thoughts that challenge me. Jotting down phrases and words that may morph into blog posts.

What the heck?

I blog. I post. I send emails. I tweet. I text. I write down what my boys say. I even handwrite letters and thank you cards.

Does it matter what I write? No, of course not. What matters is the practice of writing, of thinking critically and creatively.

Writers write.

Writing is writing.

Don’t be fooled.

It starts small and it builds. It happens when you don’t affix the label “writing” to it.

What guilt riddled writing confessions hold you back?

Go fill all the blank pages with story …

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Dandelion Fluff and Other Stuff

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

Nostalgia … rolls around in my mind; flows out of my pen, and falls from my lips like bouncy balls in the middle of the grocery store; an awkward chain reaction … A weird déjà vu I can’t shake …

How easily we fall back into a former self? A scent, a place, a phrase, a word, or a picture, can evoke sensations of who we were and what was important to us once.

The Road Home …

A couple of weeks ago I travelled to California for work. I didn’t get to see my family but the trip brought images to mind that I hadn’t thought of in years.

Like, how I hate to drive in rush hour traffic, not that anyone enjoys it.

Nostalgia speed by as familiar places appeared on exit signs: Manhattan Beach, I-15, Redondo Beach, 110 freeway. Nostalgia rose with familiar neon signs announcing fast food joints I frequent when I visit the Golden State: In-N-Out Burger, Carl’s Jr., Del Taco …

My traveling companion wasn’t moved by any of these things. Inching closer to our destination in bumper to bumper she could have cared less.

But for me … it was miles of memories spanning ages.

Naiveté

My yard was covered with white puffy balls until the lawn service showed up and mowed. Crazy that these seemingly insignificant bulbs made me think of a simpler time.

Nostalgia peaked out from the grass to greet me.

I loved blowing dandelion fluff until one day, who knows when, I started seeing them as weeds, allergens.

I used to call them beautiful flowers. I would pick the bright yellow blooms by the bunch; keeping the stems in a wet paper towel to keep them from dying. Sometimes drinking the white liquid that we called “dandelion milk”.

The sight of my lawn with its snowy vegetation generated a flashback of that white halter top with the red trim I had at the age of five. Playing in the front yard with my older sister who was wearing her white halter top with the red trim. (Mom dressed us alike and people thought we were twins.) Our heads thrown back in laughter as we polluted the air with our wishes. Twirling.

Remarkable … I wonder if she remembers.

Summertime

Summer has finally made an appearance in Michigan; temperatures topping the 80s. I can sit outside listening to my dudes’ laughter while being eaten alive by mosquitos.

Nostalgia calls to me with loud, overly bright, music from squeaky speakers.

Chasing ice cream trucks and riding my lavender bike with the white basket to the library. Dinging and scraping up my toes because I wore flip-flops instead of closed shoes when I rode. Chocolate covered fingers as I tried to ride and read and eat all at the same time. Stopping at every street corner trying to lick my fingers free of the mess.

Footloose and fancy free. My favorite time of year.

Father’s Day

Summer brings with it a time and privilege of celebrating fathers. When soap-on-a-rope and nose hair trimmers and Old Spice or Brut after-shaves are plentiful.

Nostalgia creeps up on me, playing a sad song of “I miss him.”

My mind’s eye flashes images like a slide show of dad holding a beer and grilling chicken in the back yard. Smoking a cigarette and drinking coffee over the morning paper, specifically the sports page. Running to the corner store to get lottery tickets before 8 p.m. Puttering in the garden and telling me to shoo the birds out of the fruit trees. I was happy to play human scarecrow for his sake.

I still dream of him.

Bittersweet holiday.

Pathways

There are many other examples where triggers like these sent me on a mental migration to another time; another me. All of which serve to remind me of how carefree life can be when your only responsibility is to be a kid and make memories.

We are just weeks away from our family vacation. I will not work. I may spend some time writing because I’ve been negligent here and my nine, soon-to-be-ten, year old keeps referencing my “good book” or at least what he’s heard of it. Asking: When are you going to finish?

More than anything … I want to start the collection of experiences that my boys will later look back on and label “nostalgic”. Dandelion Fluff Occasions.

Lazy days away from our normal routine. We will visit new places and some old. We will spend time with my family and reminisce about childhood:

  • Feast on the flavors of home.
  • Savor the sounds of long ago.
  • Embrace the echoes of innocence.

Nostalgia … What voices of the past sneak up on you? What childhood stages do you want to relive? What are your dandelion fluff occasions?

Failure IS an Option

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

Wednesday night is family night. Our standing date to spend time together. It’s the untouchable night. No work. No interruptions.

A couple of weeks ago, my husband decided that a game of catch was in order, since it was our first rain-free sunny summer Wednesday. And so, with miniature football in hand and triangle formation, he tossed around the old pig-skin with our dudes. (I watched from the sidelines as cheerleader and music coordinator).

If memory serves me well, this is the first time we’ve played catch with our kids. Ever. Why? Because my husband and I aren’t good at sports. We don’t have an interest in most things sporty.

Earlier in the week my 9 year old told me he wasn’t good at sports like football, soccer, and basketball. Despite my protestations he was sad about what he viewed as deficiency.

But WOW can that kid put a mean spiral on a football pass. He knew to line his fingers up with the laces on the ball and follow through with his whole body. When I asked him where he learned how to throw like that, he said, “My PE teacher.”

He had the technique down. His little brother on the other hand didn’t. He needed help. It wasn’t coming easy. What a great opportunity for peer to peer teaching.

Our oldest demonstrated and helped his brother with positioning. And, for the 7 year old it was frustrating when the ball didn’t go where he intended or as far as he wanted. There were tears at failed attempts.

On the flip side, our youngest is a great receiver. He stepped into the ball and wrapped his entire body around it to prevent dropping it.

Instinct? Innate ability? Either way, it was his strength. His big brother was afraid of the ball coming toward him, using his hands and arms to block the ball.

Again, peer teaching. Our 7 year old had the opportunity to demonstrate and instruct his frustrated older brother. There were tears at dropped balls.

For both, there were moments: throwing up of hands, stomping of feet, and blaming, “You didn’t do it right so I could catch it.” Or, “You didn’t tell me that part. That’s why I did it that way.”

There’s room for improvement, but by the end there was laughter and joy; a sense of accomplishment. Since then they’ve gone out on their own to throw the ball around.

Why am I telling you this? A sweet family outing story? No. This evening allowed us to start the dialog about failure and what it means; about starting imperfectly and growing into a skill.

I value failure for what it can teach us. (I talk about failure in writing here.) I despise failure because I wasn’t taught to embrace it. Quite the opposite, I was taught to avoid it. It is only in my adult life that I’ve come to realize the benefits.

I am aware of the need to create an environment where failing is an accepted practice, mostly because we’ve decided to homeschool and assume the full time responsibility of formally educating our boys.

My children need to know how to harness the power of making mistakes. Right now they fear being wrong and messing up. Our football night is a prime example.

Inadvertently I’ve contributed to their sense of foreboding about being anything less than perfect. I have unwittingly taught them to be critical of others shortcomings by a careless comment here and a careless statement there.

 I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.

~Michael Jordan

Now I need to unravel this thought process and reframe failure for my boys. It’s time to deliberately teach them that it’s normal and everybody does it: cool kids and geeks, the book wise and the street smart, young and old. Failure is an equal opportunity life coach.

To grow from ignorant to bad; from bad to good; from good to better; and from better to best; we have to be willing to look at where we fell short, what went wrong, label it, and then bridge the gap so we can learn and develop. That’s the beauty of failure.

 It’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.

~Bill Gates

We put undue pressure on ourselves when we:

  • Fear giving the wrong answers
  • Worry about not getting it right the first time
  • Panic about trying something new

I want to normalize the process of learning from your mistakes, trial and error. We often hear this quote: “I didn’t fail the test, I just found 100 ways to do it wrong,” which is true. How in today’s world do we teach our children to leverage their failures instead of berating themselves for the one result?

I don’t know what the answer is but I know it starts with a dialog. It starts with a moment like football family night. It comes with experiential learning and allowing them to own it without shame. Diana Laufenberg said it best here. Or maybe you’ll prefer the way Ramsey Musallam said it here.

This transition from parent to teacher and care-giver to educator has me scared, I am prepared to fail some. Okay, I’m prepared to fail often.

And the best part … I am willing to be transparent in my failures so that I can model for my kids how to respond to our own limitations and push them farther out. J.K. Rowling’s 2008 Harvard Graduation address beautifully speaks to failure. And I appreciate her openness. I hope I express it to my children with similar grace and eloquence.

It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all. In which case you have failed by default.

~J.K. Rowling

Where have you failed? What have you learned?