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Storyslinger No. 3.23
News: March 2023
Beware the Ides of March. In ancient Rome, this was the time of year that taxes were due. This period of the year also became infamous because of Julius Caesar’s assassination. An inauspicious time of year.
But not for me!
There are two Very Important Dates in March. Right in the middle of the month are two birthdays for two special people: Sugar Momma (aka Wifey) and Cawrbach (aka Little Giant, turning three this year). I spend most of the months leading up to this in perpetual planning so that these events go off without a hitch. I’m not always successful—but this year will be great!
The Santana just got back from the doctor for a new clutch assembly and some other minor motor surgery. I swear, Land Rovers will be the death of me. Repairs now equal the purchase. I’ve decided to put it up for sale, but casually. I want the right person to take care of it—someone who understands the value and quirkiness of these magical vehicles. I’m pivoting completely from old Rovers to old sailing ships, so that’s where I’d rather the money go.
I often think of something my mother said throughout my younger life. It was a reminder to keep going when things got difficult.
“Steady staying at it.”
It certainly applies to writing fiction. As I’ve said in my “notes to readers,” writing is a marathon (which is amusing, because when writers get together to work in groups they call it “sprints”). Writing a book takes time and care and forgiveness. Self-forgiveness, I mean. I’ve learned to talk to myself more gently. I try to treat myself as someone I’m responsible for helping. And sometimes that means giving myself a kick in the pants, but it also means sometimes saying, “That’s okay. Get back up and try again. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Just keep going.”
So, if I were going to give writers any advice, it wouldn’t be “read more and write more,” although that is certainly the best advice. I would say, “Don’t beat yourself up, man.” Writing is tough—even for natural-born, honest-to-goodness writers. Even for experienced and successful writers. Writers who have already done it, been published, make a living writing. Those writers also have to kick themselves in the pants sometimes. And they also need to forgive themselves when they fail.
So, keep going and try not to beat yourself up too much.
I’m pretty sure the “be kind to yourself” advice was already my Deep Thought for the day. But I also wanted to explore another idea that I think is germain not just to writers but to other (dare I say) normal people too.
And that is: keep dreaming.
Sometimes we get so caught up in our singular pursuits that we forget to dream. We forget the wistful years of our youth when anything was possible. Because when you get to the middle of your life (believe me) only a handful of things remain possible. Most of those things involve vocation and family. And if you’ve done a little work, maybe a hobby.
But the dreams die if you let them.
Whatever you’re doing this week, whatever mountain of “life” is resting on your shoulders, just stop and take five minutes to breathe, close your eyes, try to see your younger self, and try to remember those dreams. I can close my eyes and see myself at ten or eleven sitting with my legs tucked up under a coffee table in our living room, a month-old and dogged-eared copy of Sailing magazine flipped open in front of me.
Next to the magazine is a sheet of paper and a pencil and I’ve outlined the shape of a typical sailing boat and I’m doing my own layout diagram. The head here, the sleeping berth there, a nav station there, galley and saloon here. I already have a clear picture of standing on deck, the boat gently swaying at anchor, one hand holding the shrouds for balance, watching the sun come up over the water.
The dream of living on a sailboat has been in my mind for more than 30 years. And even though I’ve never done it, even though I have put practical (and, yes, sometimes whimsical) things ahead of the crazy idea of living full time on a boat, I have refused to let the dream die. And as I age, I am looking for ways to incorporate at least some version of this childhood vision into my life.
I want you to do that too. I want you to pick apart your memories, look for that thing that excited you as a child. And even if it’s an impossible dream, pull it out and look at it. Savor it. Give it some form. And over time, work on it. Make it tangible and something worth trying. And then try it.
Because “impossible” just means it takes longer.
Again, thank you all for being part of the journey. I love communicating directly with you. And I look forward to your feedback.
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