Show, don’t tell

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I was introduced to the phrase “show, don’t tell” by a woman who runs a small publishing company in Arkansas. After she read the first three chapters of my novel, she gave me some extremely helpful advice. I have since edited those first chapters and am moving forward with much more knowledge about writing.

What she said to me made complete sense. In the first chapter, one of my lines ended with “the impending nightfall felt menacing”. It did not occur to me to show the reader how the night was achieving that menacing quality rather than just tell them. I was guilty of some rookie writing mistakes and rather than telling me my writing needed work, she showed me how to make it better.

This same phrase introduced itself to another realm of my existence, proving three words can pack a powerful punch. When new people join your work team, there are bound to be some adjustments, not only for the new employee but for the long-term team members as well. And when that new employee steps into a managerial role, some toes are going to be stepped on and some noses will be out of joint.

Once the employees aired their grievances, it was agreed that the new employee would show the team how his new ideas could improve the existing way of doing things instead of just telling them how he wanted things done. By showing them and not simply telling them, not only will he have his new ideas implemented but everyone will get involved and the team will become stronger.

The waiting is the hardest part

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If I had a crystal ball to look back at all the times in my life I had to wait for things, I would probably be astonished at how many hours I have spent in a holding pattern.  In those moments of uncertainty, time takes on a mystical quality and one day feels like a week, a week feels like a year and anything longer than that feels like an eternity.

Trying to connect with, and build a relationship with, a literary agent has taken waiting to a whole new level.  I have crafted something I am extremely proud of and want so much to find someone as passionate about sharing my story as I am.  But that takes time – a lot of time.  Agents are very busy people and I understand that.  My manuscript is one in a pile of hundreds that they have to sort through to find a collection of phrases and characters that speak to them and that they think they can sell to a publishing company.  I get it.  But that doesn’t make the waiting any easier.

I recently submitted my full manuscript to a literary agent in New York.  Her email, although encouraging, did say it would be a few weeks before I heard back from her.  That email was sent 9 days ago but, in my estimation, it feels like 9 months have gone by since we had any communication.  In that 9 days, my emotion has gone from elation to worry, from feeling confident to being self-deprecating.  It has been a roller coaster of emotion but it is a train I have been hanging on to because that ride up and down those tracks and through those loops is part of the thrill of the journey to being published.  I can only hope that the ride ends well and I don’t veer off the tracks into a wall.

 

The Grandmother Effect

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In the crusade to get my blood pressure back to a normal number, I have been having regular visits with my doctor.  During one of our discussions about why my numbers might be up, I disclosed a few things that have been making me feel anxious, things that never were even a blip on my radar a few years ago but now sound alarms like I am at Defcon 2.   I am nervous about driving at night.  I now take my dog to work as often as I can in the winter because I am paranoid about the heater in my basement catching fire and Callaway being trapped inside the house.  You get the idea.  My doctor merely smiled and nodded, leaned back, laced her fingers together and told me I was experiencing “The Grandmother Effect”.

Never having had children of my own, I was mildly perplexed as to why I would be showing symptoms of a phenomenon that I should not be experiencing.  She went on to tell me that “women of a certain age” begin to worry more about the things that had never bothered them before.  It comes part and parcel with the beginning stages of the dreaded menopause, or as a dear man in my life used to say, “the meno”.

Women’s bodies are finely tuned to develop certain idiosyncrasies as they reach certain ages and their minds are hard-wired to react to those stimuli.  I am certainly at an age where I could be a grandmother and, with an imagination like mine, I could begin to conjure up all kinds of horrific scenarios that may happen to the next generation of my family, had I had children.  Or perhaps I am projecting those fears in regards to my nephews and worrying about them as they navigate their way through this life.  As my doctor explained it further, I could truly comprehend why I was having these irrational feelings and worrying about things that had never bothered me in the past.

The “meno” is coming.  It is inevitable and a necessary step to get to the next plateau of my life.  I have experienced my first full-on hot flash in the middle of the night.  I can only say it was like being on fire but being soaking wet at the same time.  Sadly, the water didn’t extinguish the flames.  I have decided that, from now on, I will refer to any future hot flashes as ‘my personal summer’.

Knowing that my worries are explainable has helped to slightly ease the stress.  Now I can only peer into the opening of the “meno” tunnel and hope it is a quick trip to the other side.

 

 

Handling rejection like a boss!

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I am a people pleaser.  I’m pretty sure I came out of the womb asking the medical staff if there was anything I could do for them.  I invariably want to go out of my way to make sure everyone is happy, but my ambitious goal is not necessarily always an attainable goal.  In the words of John Lydgate, later adapted by President Lincoln, ‘you can’t please all of the people all of the time’.

As a young writer, back in my grade school days, I was afraid to let people read my poetry for fear they would not like it.  That same phobia applied to my poems and short stories through high school and college.  Writing, for me, is the biggest part of myself and I used to feel that if people didn’t like my writing, they were somehow rejecting ME.  It wasn’t until I began the process of seeking an agent or a publisher that I began to truly understand how rejection makes us stronger.

I received my most recent rejection last night.  It was a curt line that simply said, “Thanks for submitting, but I’m afraid this one isn’t for us. ”  Instead of feeling unsettled by such a quick and negative response, the thought in my head was more of understanding that my book was not a true fit for their collection.  I wasn’t sad.  I was merely determined to continue the quest to find an agent that would best be suited for ME and not the other way around.

Writing a book is not for the faint of heart.  Hemingway said it best when he quipped, “There is nothing to writing.  All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”  My blood is now the ink on the pages that I crafted.  My skin is much thicker now than it was and I am more than prepared to deal with my overwhelming share of the writing world’s brush-off.  Those abrupt dismissals are the constant in the ‘writer seeking publishing’ equation and I am prepared to rework the problem until I come up with an acceptable answer.

To bastardize Sally Field’s 1985 Oscar acceptance speech, “They don’t like me. Right now, they don’t like me.”   And I’m okay with that because, someday, that will change.

One step away

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The hopeful feeling that something great is just around the corner sparks in the back of all of our minds.  That fire is fueled by the creative desire that drives us to do what we love.  But more often than not, that spark is quelled by the reality of our day-to-day lives.  Imagination allows us to light that fire again but reality can be a tropical rain storm when we are desperately hoping for the dry Santa Ana winds to turn that spark into a raging creative inferno.

I was tagged in a Facebook post last night by a friend I have known since I was 5 or 6 years old.  Ironically, from his tin boat, he used to deliver words to my dock in the form of the morning newspaper.  Now, forty-plus years later, through a tag on social media, he delivered some words to me that really hit home, words I needed to hear.

Success is a funny thing.  You can dream of it.  You can chase it.  You can feel like you can almost touch it, but never do you imagine it could be a mere one step away.  He sent me this video of Anthony Bourdain describing the life he was living before that one step closed the gap between his reality and his eventual success.

This video is the wooden match for all of us who have dared to set the kindling for that fire but have second-guessed torching the wood to start the spark.  Light it.  Bathe in the light from its embers.  Those Santa Ana winds could be one step away.

 

Reducing stress = elevator music

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The term elevator music doesn’t get used much anymore which makes me think that I am older than I care to admit.  Too many people these days are plugged into too many devices, so the dulcet background tones in those confined spaces never have the chance to fall on ears that are close enough to hear them.

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For the last two days, I have been purposely subjecting myself to the calming sounds of that very music.  Stress is a very cunning adversary and I am using every trick in my arsenal to keep my worthy opponent at bay.  Between calming essential oils and the lulling sounds of piano and crashing ocean waves, I have been successfully keeping my blood pressure down while struggling to keep my eyelids up.

I am not a fan of taking medication, even if those tiny pills are relatively successful at keeping my numbers as healthy as they can be.  I have been following the DASH diet to ensure that my body has all of the proper nutrition to combat the high blood pressure and I have doubled the length of my daily walks, so my dog is absolutely thrilled.  Those things combined with my new home BP monitor seem to be giving me more encouraging numbers while giving me a much-needed sense of relief.

After learning all of the little tricks you are supposed to do before taking your reading, I am happy that my numbers are averaging in the comfortable to normal range, but tomorrow is anyone’s guess.  I have a follow-up appointment with my doctor and I’m sure all of my “happy” numbers will be cast aside and the “white coat” numbers will re-emerge.  Perhaps I should take some ear-buds with me tomorrow, plug them into my phone and let the smooth elevator music soothe my senses before the cuff tightens on my arm!

My soapbox is very small today

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I survived my doctor’s appointment with little concern for my safety.  After explaining my long-term relationship with my decongestant eye drops, my doctor was very understanding and said that many people have no idea about how much they can be affected by over-the-counter medication.  A friend of mine who is a nurse uttered the same sentiments.

While my post today may seem like a public service announcement, it is more of a message to all of you to be selective about the medication you purchase without a prescription and to ask the Pharmacist questions about how these easy-to-access medications could be potentially harmful to your health, especially if you are on prescription drugs.

The more I researched the side effects of my eye drops the more shocked I became.  Not only were the active ingredients in those drops enough to counteract my BP medication, they could also increase my blood pressure on their own.  And if the drops themselves weren’t bad enough, the way I had been putting them into the corner of my eye made them a bigger problem because they went directly into my tear ducts and straight into my bloodstream.

I will gracefully step down from my soapbox now with the hope that you will take a few moments to look at the chemicals in any over-the-counter medications you may have in your medicine cabinet and make sure they are the best choices for you to be taking.  Better to be safe than sorry.