No. 127 | By Christine Carron
A tennis lesson for primary school kids was in progress on the community courts at a local park. Scads of six- and seven-year-olds were practicing forehands, running drills, and one boy kept swinging his left leg around whenever he took his turn. “This isn’t ballet class, Bobby,” the head coach called out with increasing exasperation. “Keep your feet planted!”
As the kids carried on, the coaches carried on, and the skies threatened rain, I worked my way through my own exercise challenge: 1,500 battle rope moves. It took a while. Finally it was over, and it was time to leave the still defiantly left-leg swinging Bobby to his fate. (You do you, Bobby!)
Sweaty and with arms in noodle territory, I coiled up my battle rope, hooked it over my shoulder, skirted around the courts, and headed for my car. That’s when I spotted her. A middle school girl who I immediately imagined must have been “forced” to come to the courts for one reason or the other and wait while a younger sibling had their lesson. Single parent and no baby sitter? Family engagement afterward? Grounded for some unknown preteen infraction? Who knows? But there she was sitting beneath one of the crabapple trees.
She was not paying attention to the court action at all. She was engrossed in a book. So much so, that as I passed, she started to stand, pushing off one hand, dragging her feet beneath her, and not once did her eyes lose focus on the page. She was totally in that story. Not even willing to disconnect for the second or two it would take to stand. It wasn't just a book. It was book magic.
A sense of kinship washed through me. That is exactly how I was when I was young. Nose pressed into a book. Reading all the time. In between dance classes, while tucked in bed, waiting at the laundromat during the times we lived in apartments, even sitting in the back seat of the car during long road trips. (I always felt so terribly bad for kids who got carsick if they read in a car. What exactly did they do for all those hours?)
Seeing the girl was a fleeting moment. I cannot remember the color of her hair, what she was wearing—I didn’t even clock what book she was reading. Nevertheless, something about her and her intense devotion to that book grabbed hold of me. I dumped my battle rope into the trunk, slipped into the driver’s seat, and just sat there.
Rain started to plop down on the windshield. The courts cleared. Kids, coaches, and parents dashed for SUVs, minivans, and station wagons. I’m sure the girl dashed, too, most certainly with her body hunched over the book to protect it from the rain.
And still I sat there.
The paradigm shift that Goodjelly is founded upon is simply that the writing adventure doesn’t have to be so hard. That when you know how to manage all your writerly work, and you have a smart work management process, and you know how to manage your mindset, the writing adventure gets easier.
Easier but not necessarily easy. I am on the journey. I work with writers all the time who are on the journey. And whether it’s blocks, rejections, changes at a publisher, disappointing sales, conflict in a critique group, judgements, jealousies—the list could go on—there will always be tangles for us writers to navigate. A seemingly endless supply of craft tangles, relationship tangles, mindset tangles. That means for most of us, there probably will be days that a part of us lets out an inner cri de coeur, “Why? Why do I keep going at this?”
It’s actually a really good question.
On my own writing adventure, when I am not blogging, I am working on my stories for young readers. Currently, I’m making slow, slow, slow progress on a new story idea. A part of me wants to push it. But I’ve pushed stories before, and all those stories got close but in the end were rejected by publishers. So I am working differently—allowing myself the time to learn new ways to create, new ways to craft a story, new ways to give my imagination the time it needs to shape the story. Which is all great—I know that I have to do something differently to get different results. But did I mention the slow going?
Due to the current progress crawl, I definitely have been experiencing low grade inner wrestling and wrangling of late. Doubt slips in here and there. Dabs of, “Will this ever happen for me?” Nothing massively disruptive, but enough occasional agita that I’ve had to more methodically pull out the various mindset tools I teach to writers.
It was against that backdrop that I'd walked by the girl. Sitting in the car as the rain came down and the parking lot cleared, my brain finally worked it out: She is my why. She is why I am going to keep going. No matter what.
A sense of calm, of quiet certainty, passed over me. Not around a specific outcome I hope for. Simply the determination that I will keep at this. I will stay on the adventure.
With the rain still falling, I finally started the car and got myself home.
Ever since that middle school girl inspired moment, my mild fretting has dissipated. Yes, changing the way I create stories is taking me time. Yes, the process is moving slowly. Yes, it can be frustrating. And all of that is okay. Because I want to write stories that make it. Stories that are undeniable. Stories that get into hands of readers. Readers just like that girl.
That magic will be worth whatever amount of time it takes.
In the end, our whys are who we are writing for. Not just a target audience, but a single reader, that I suspect on some level always reminds us of ourselves. Just like the girl in the park evoked such a deep resonance for me.
Even though the experience and effect happened spontaneously that day—perhaps helped along by my physical exhaustion—this notion of reconnecting to one's why is a practice I want to mark. Another mindset tool in the Goodjelly toolbox. Hence me sharing it with you today. It makes it a little more official.
The process might be as simple as journaling every so often about who your Why is and why it is absolutely imperative that you get your book done, out into the world, and into their hands. Or you might journal why—if you were indeed the reader of the book you are creating—you would absolutely love reading your book. Or perhaps you will simply be on the lookout as you are out and about to see how often you can spy a reader out there who you just know in your gut is one of your Whys.
A reader, the reader—and more than one of them—is out there.
Perhaps the girl under the crabapple tree will be one of your Whys, too. Perhaps left-leg swinging Bobby is one, as well. Or the coaches, or the parents. Whoever they are, wherever they are, your readers—your Whys—are waiting. Waiting for the magic of YOUR book. Wahoo!
Onward. You’ve got this!