Carpe Diem–Seize the day! Or in my case, Seize the pen

feature_799_storyWhen I was a young girl, you were much more likely to find me sitting on a bench or under a tree with a notebook and pencil– or a book–than flirting with the boys or gossiping with the girls. When other girls stayed up late talking on the phone for endless hours, I stayed up into the wee hours of the morning reading my latest binge–historical romance, Agatha Christie, Austen, Elliot, even Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. In fact, my father and I had a little two step that became a tradition of sorts.

“Heather, ” he would call up the stairs to me. “Turn off your light and go to bed. It’s late.”

“Aww…Dad! One more chapter? Please? I’m at a really good part!”

To which my father would always sigh, but relent. “One more chapter, but that’s it, okay?”

And I would always agree, even though he knew, and I knew that he knew, that that one chapter would likely turn into several more and he would be repeating our little verbal dance an hour, and two hours, and even as many as four or five hours later. But he let me. Because this he understood. Most of me, my dad never could really understand me, but this? This I got from him, and this he understood.

My mother, on the other hand, never understood this side of me. I think she genuinely worried about me. She would continually encourage me to call a friend, go out with a boy, to get out and do something, anything, that didn’t have to do with a book. What she never understood was that that held so little appeal to me. What boy could even come close to keeping pace with Mr. Darcy? What friend could equal Dianna Berry?

Girl-writingMy books, and even my own imagination, offered far more than anything my little rural community could offer. So, I was very content to live within the pages of my books, and in the dramas I created in my own mind, until life could keep up with the worlds I had experienced through my fictitious wanderings.

It took a while, but eventually real life did catch up, in all its many joys and horrors, to the worlds between the pages. And I knew exactly what to do when it did. Write.

You see, since I was young, I always wanted to be a writer. I knew I had something inside me worth saying, but in my youth? Any attempts at a novel fell flat. I hadn’t lived enough to have anything to say that was worth reading. So, my only real successes were in poetry and in essays. My poetry was good enough to get published in various anthologies, and my professors always came back with strong praise for my essays, and even my thesis, stating that I was a gifted writer and that I should consider publishing.

I appreciated their affirmation, and believe me, even before they gave it, I considered publishing, but how? How did I take my passion for words, my life experience, and this living, organic thing inside me and make it into an actually story?

paint-colors-bursting-out-of-dress-shirtFor years it has felt like I had this…this…something, living inside of me, not a beast or a monster, but something alive, something waiting to get out, but not yet…it was asleep, it was waiting…for what I didn’t know.

Perhaps I was too busy living life, experiencing it, to put it together into something cohesive. Perhaps there was some deep instinct in me that recognized anything I wrote now would be premature, stillborn.

Whatever the reason, it was dormant. I would blog, I would write the occasional poem, but my novel? It remained a dream on the edge of my consciousness–until about three years ago.

Three years ago I gave birth to an idea, the basic (very basic) concept for the book I am now writing.

So I started to write this fledgling idea. I started it, and stalled, I’d write a little and get bogged down. I’d nail an idea, and then get stuck as if in quicksand, there was no movement, no momentum. There were holes I couldn’t fill. Ideas that just weren’t organic. I eventually abandoned it, saving it for another day.

I moved on to work on the book my husband and I are co-authoring. I started my first YA dystopian novel. And all the while, this idea germinated in the back of my mind, my subconscious taking over. It was there, but I didn’t spend much time mulling it over. It was just there, growing, without my conscious knowledge.

Until about six months ago when it stood up and pounced.

bursting_with_creativity_by_chumpinator-d4lvt3lWhat was an embryo when I put it to bed, woke up as a full grown, fully viable creation. There were no more holes. The concept seemed to grow and expand of its own accord. The something that has been in me, waiting, since I was a child, has decided its time is now, and it flows out of me in an almost effortless stream. What once took plodding, sludging effort, and was oh so agonizingly slow, just…comes.

I am almost forty. This has been my dream for the last thirty years. And I feel this sense of “carpe diem.” I must seize this day, hold on to it. I must let it come now, not later, or it will shrivel, it will die, and I will be back to the mere hope of a dream, not the very real possibility of seeing it to the finish.

So, this is the summer where I give my dream a real chance. I am well aware of the uphill battle ahead of me even if I manage to finish it (no, not manage to, I will finish it by the end of July. No ifs, no excuses). I know that in this world where writers are a dime a dozen getting a work published, or even read, is a battle all its own, but that battle is for tomorrow.

Today, I commit to myself, and I commit to you, fellow reader, that I will write this novel. I will give it a chance to be, to become. Whether it is truly good, whether it has any potential at all, I cannot say for sure. What I do know is that any chance it has, it has now. It’s time is now. I can feel it.

The waiting is done, the moment is now, and I cannot let it pass me by without seeing what this is that is really inside of me.

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You Don’t Have to be Alexander the Great to Change the World

I was very discouraged last week.

I wrote a blog, pouring out some of the greast lessons I feel like I have learned in life, and I crafted them with great care. I wrote, I paused, I pondered, I wrote, pondered some more, and rewrote. The end result was a blog that I felt captured the heart and soul of what I wanted to say. With a feeling of accomplishment and pleasure in a job well done, I posted it and waited. And waited . . . and waited some more.

A handful of friends and family read it and appreciated it. A handful. I was discouraged. As so many writers, I blog because I have so much inside myself that needs to come out, but also, because I am a writer–I have things to say and I hope that they are worthwhile things that can speak to the human soul, the human angst, the human experience, and thereby, that my influence, my voice will be appreciated by the masses, not a handful. I was discouraged.

As so many of my fellow bloggers have wondered at some point in their blooging lives, I couldn’t help but wonder why I even bother? Why do I spend my free time writing for an audience that doesn’t emerge when I could just as easily simply put my thoughts and ideas into a private journal? Why spend my time agonizing over word choice and turn of phrase, putting my thoughts out in the universe, when no one is going to bother to read them?

But then I began to remember something. It started with a comment a friend who I haven’t seen in ages wrote on my facebook page. She read my blog, and it impacted her. It helped her. It spoke to her in her present pain, and helped her see that she was not alone, that what she was living, is normal. I cried.

In that moment I remembered a truth that so many of us tend to forget.

I have always wanted to change the world. It has always been a burning passion in me. I want to leave this world a better place when I leave it. I do not want to simply take up space, but instead, to know that my living will have an impact, that my time spent on this planet will mean something.

I’m not alone in this desire. It is a somewhat comman desire, that we leave our footprint, our fingerprints, on this world. I think however, that sometimes we look at that and think to change the world we must do so enmasse, in one fell swoop. We have the misconception that we change the world by personally affecting the lives of many people personally, but that is not how most of those who change the world, change the world. They do so one person at a time.change

I have an absolutely wonderful grandmother. She is smart, she is kind, and she pours into the lives of her eight children and her many, many  grandchildren.

She poured into my life. In so many ways, I am the person I am today because my grandmother instilled within me a moral compass, a compassion for others, and a will do to the right thing because it is, quite simply, right.

My grandmother is getting older. As she is walking into the twilight of her life, she spends a lot of time reflecting on the life she has lived. More than once she has spoken with me about her struggle as she contends with a life that, she feels, has not had an impact, has not been important, has not left an imprint.

She was a stay at home mom in a generation of stay at home moms, and now she wishes she had done something great. Something important.

What she doesn’t understand is that she has changed the world.

Behind every world changer, there are many individuals who have changed them.

Martin Luther King Jr. did not change the face of our country alone; he had behind him all of those who impacted him, who encouraged him, all of those who believed in him and told him not to give up. Every great man or woman does.

My grandmother doesn’t think that she changed the world, but she changed me, and I am determined to change the world, be it one person at a time. Every time I impact one of my students, every time I write a blog that changes someone’s outlook, every man woman or child I helped in my times overseas–my grandmother was a part of that. She changed me, and I in turn changed them.grandma

She impacted her children, who have gone out and impacted others. And she has impacted her grandchildren, directly and indirectly. She helps cancer patients through my sister, she reaches countless adults, women and children through my Uncle Mark, and she has touched almost every continent in this world between her various children and grandchildren. By changing one, we change the world.

And so, though my blog is not read by many, and though my impact is negligible, I will not be discouraged. If I impact one, I have made a difference. As a writer, as a teacher, as a citizen of this planet, I will never be able to impact everyone, but, just like paying it forward, if I can give of what I have and of who I am, and if those I pour into will also pour into others . . . then that is really enough, isn’t it?