Tag Archives: writing journey

Lessons from the Train: writing and life

Four days in Canada wasn’t enough to satisfy my love of mountains, rivers and wide open spaces.  In fact, it was just long enough to whet my appetite for more.  Our trip through the Canadian Rockies was a look, don’t touch kind of experience, as we spent the majority of our time viewing the scenery from the confines of a train car.

I will definitely go back for a more hands on expedition.  In the mean time:

Lessons From The Train

TURN AROUND: As humans, our tendency is to focus on the view right in front of noses.  At times, I would become so enthralled by watching the trees and shrubs eking out a life for themselves on sheer rock faces that I forgot to turn around.  When I did, breathtaking views of  rivers and valleys awaited.  The lesson here is three-fold. 

  1. Literally: The view is always different when we look at it from another angle.  The contour of mountain peaks changes drastically when seen from the front instead of the side.
  2. In Life: Sometimes we need to expand our vision.  We can’t be afraid of seeing the world from someone else’s eyes.  While we don’t always have to agree, we need to realize that every moment and every event looks, feels, tastes and smells different to every single individual person sharing our experiences.   
  3. In Writing: We must never forget that every story can be told from different Points Of View.  By allowing ourselves to consider the story from an alternate character, we can more fully realize the impact of our MC’s actions on a more global level.  This will make for a stronger story.  One filled with nuances that wouldn’t be there if we wrote with tunnel vision.

LET YOUR HAIR DOWN AND KEEP YOUR NOSE CLEAN: Standing on the back of the vestibule created quite the breeze when our train clipped along.  Hair blew, dust whirled and smoke swirled.  At the end of the day, I was a mess, but a happy mess for having watched the scenery pass from outside the train car rather than in it.  I also bonded with unexpected people in a way I never would have if we’d all stayed clean and tidy in our seats.

  1. Literally: Don’t primp.  Some situations in life call for casual and comfortable.  Yet, this doesn’t have to mean dirty.  Q-tips and hair brushes were welcome additions to the trip.
  2. In Life: Go with the flow.  If we worry about dumb things like how we look, we’ll fail to experience how the world looks.  Life is not about us.  It’s about what we do with the life we are given.
  3. In Writing: Often times, characters are luckier than real people.  They get to do and say the things we never allow ourselves the freedom to experience.  They don’t have to worry about the consequences the way we do.  And yet, when we stretch our characters’ comfort zones, we allow for deeper, stronger characters and better opportunities for reader connection.

STOP EVERY NOW AND THEN TO SMELL THE FLOWERS: Cliche, I know, and I bet you already think you know what I’m going to say.  But bear with me.  Our trip was a frenzy of travel.  Airport to train to bus to airport.  My rear end gets wider just thinking about all that seat time.  Yet, every once in a while, we had time to stretch our legs and smell the flowers.


    1. Literally: Sitting forever cramps one’s style–and legs.  Get out, walk around and enjoy the  break in routine.  It keeps the mind fresh and does the body good.
    2. In Life: As a mother of four, my life is a train trip through parenthood.  I get up, get kids up, take care of said kids’ most basic needs, take care of kids’ emotional needs, support kids in their extracurricular needs and go to bed.  Wash, rinse, repeat.  But there are glorious moments–a snuggle on the couch, watching a humming bird flit from one flower to the next, a morning cup of coffee with Dear Hubby–that lend to a sense of well-being.  We need to grab hold of these moments and hold them in our hands like the precious gifts they are. 
    3. In Writing: Pace yourself.  A novel cannot be completed in the first half of the manuscript.  Every scene cannot be a series of high-octane events.  We simply cannot weep through an entire 400 page memoir.  Pace yourself.  Give your characters and your readers a break.  Let them experience ups and downs and little moments of sheer bliss in between. 

    LOOK FOR THE LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL: I loved watching the tracks stretch out behind the train.  To me, it was almost as cool as watching where the train was going.  In life and in writing, both of these experiences are necessary.  We need to keep our eyes to the future, while being cognizant of just how far we’ve come.  And when we go through periods of anxiety about our journey–physically and metaphorically–it behooves us to remember that there is always light at the end of the tunnel.  Our journeys will always take us someplace new and exciting, as long as we keep our cool through the darkness.

Which of these tips do you already use?  Which ones are easy to forget?  What has been your favorite stage in life and/or writing so far: looking forward, looking back, or enjoying the moment regardless of where you might be?

Curious minds want to know.


A Writer’s Guide to Commemoration Keepsakes

While in New Orleans with our youth group, the other director and I jotted down notes for the next time we brave a national gathering. 

  • ID tags for backpacks
  • Permanent markers for autographs
  • Handmade trinkets to distribute to share the love with other participants

Often times the best ideas come through others. 

The online writing community is no different.  Small gems can be found in unexpected places.  While checking out my fellow bloggers yesterday, I uncovered one such gem.  Well actually, Lori Degman blogged about it and now I’d like to share it with you.

At her book launch for 1 Zany Zoo, the Cheerio’s contest winner had friends and family sign a copy of her book as a keepsake. 

What better gift to yourself, what better reminder of your hard work and what better affirmation of the support you have garnered along the way than receiving an autographed copy of the book you wrote?

Currently, I’m creating a shadow box as a visual reminder of my writing journey.

So far I have collected my positive rejections, my first byline article, my first check I earned through my writing, the floppy disk that my short story was submitted on, a horribly written picture book that motivates me to keep trying, an interview of me in the paper regarding my writing and my offer of representation for my chapter book.  I only need my Degman-style autographed book and my shadow box will be complete.

Commemoration Keepsakes of Your Writing Journey

  • An autographed book by family and friends.
  • A writer’s journey shadow box.

How will you commemorate your success?  Share your cool and unique ideas with the rest of the writing world and I’ll add them to the list. 

The Grass Is Always Grayer…

I know, I’m mixing metaphors, but bear with me.

As my faithful readers know by now, I’m not a froofy girl.  I’ve been known to answer the door in my jammies–at noon.  My make up bag consists of eyeshadow, eyeliner and mascara.  If it takes longer than 20 minutes to go from pj’s to out the door, I schedule an appointment with the hair salon.

As my husband says, I’m pretty plain.  To this day, I don’t know which definition of pretty he’s using. 

Enter a trip to the grocery store.  While ringing up my spaghetti ingredients, the check out gal kept looking at me.  She was a cute, little thing with naturally blonde hair and caramel highlights.  The poor girl was also about sixteen years old.

Finally, she leaned over and said, “What color is your hair?  I love it.”

To which I leaned my unhighlighted-in-five-months head close and said, “It’s gray.”

“No really, I’m not kidding.”

“Neither am I.”

I clearly pictured her mind racing as she slid the mushrooms across the scanner.  I would love to dye my hair that color.  It’s so unique.  Much better than my every day blonde.

As writers, and humans, we tend to gaze longingly over the fence–or check out counter, as it were–with great regularity.  We compare ourselves and our situations to other’s and think, Wow, Whatshertoes is so lucky.  She’s got it made.  I want what she has.

But I’m here to caution you.  Things are not always as they seem.  The grass is not always greener and the hair might be a little more gray than you’re willing to live with.

“I love your hair.  It’s such a pretty platinum.”

“Honey, someday you can have it too.”

I wanted to give Cute Check Out Girl a hug and tell her to enjoy what she has now.  But she wouldn’t have understood.  We never do.

We simply gaze into the lives of our peers and lament what is missing in our own.

Writers, do you realize that snagging an agent is the easy part?  It is not the end of your hard work.  In fact, several of my repped writing buddies often discuss the endless edits and the reworking of their entire manuscripts.  Only to be rejected by publishing houses.

Did you know that a publishing contract is not the end of our work?  More edits will be made prior to our release dates.  New stories must be written.  Marketing goes into effect. 

Publishing a novel is hard work.  It involves time, motivation, energy and perseverence.  We could live our whole writing careers wishing we were at the next fork–the one that will take us to fame and fortune.  However, this makes me want to hug you and remind you to be careful what you wish for. 

Enjoy where you are now.  Earn your “platinum” naturally.  I would hate to wake up one day with a solid head of gray hair and realize I missed the experiences that made it that way.

Think about all you’ve learned so far and the friends you’ve made.  The conferences, the forums, the waffling over sentence structure, query letters and tying up loose ends. 

If given the choice of staying the path or instantly having your book on the shelf, what would you choose?  Why?