5 Lessons about Writing from Recess Runners

My daughter’s school has a program called Recess Runners. It is a totally voluntary program where kids can come at recess and run or walk around a 1/4 mile track. When they amass a mile, they get a token to hang on their necklace.

Now, if anyone had told me in school that I had the option of running a mile at recess for fun, I would have told them “No way!”. But the program is very popular. Lots of kids running/walking. And I realized I could take some writing lessons from those kids.

1. Find the joy

These kids are having fun. Some are running because they love to run. Some enjoy walking and chatting with their friends. But it is fun for them. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in the business side of writing that I forget to have fun. Or I lose the fun of writing under the constant worry that this book won’t be good enough. I need to find the fun again—feel the wind in my face as I write.

2. Go at your own pace

They all start at the same line, but they all go at their own pace. Some zip around 4 or more times in one recess. Some make it twice. For some it’s a struggle; for some it’s easy. But they all made progress. It can be hard not to compare your own career to other people’s. Some authors are prolific, pouring out books like coffee. Some are snails, a book every few years. My journey is different from theirs, and I need to remember that.

3. Remember this was voluntary

The kids don’t have to participate. They don’t even have to participate in every session. It’s a choice for them. Writing is, too. Well, maybe not the urge to write, but the choice to write for publication. I chose to go the extra mile to continually improve my craft and pay for workshops and conferences and edits. I chose to seek representation and the rejection that inevitably comes with that process. So if it ever becomes too much, I can choose to reassess and see if it’s still where I want to be.

4. Set your own goals

Every kid has a different reason for being there. Some just want to run and get energy out. Some are competitive and want to rack up as many tokens as they can. Some are there because they want to be healthier and get more exercise. Some just want to walk and chat with their friends. Every writer has their own goals, too. Some only have one book and just want it out there. Some don’t care about the money and just want to see their work available. Some want to make a living at this writing gig. My own goals are modest, realistic, and so far largely unattained. But I am working toward them, just like all those kids are.

5. It’s the effort that counts

The biggest thing I’ve taken away from this, however, is that it’s all in the journey. The striving is what needs to be applauded. We can’t always control the outcomes of our efforts, and we won’t always reach our goals. But we are in control of our effort, our dedication, and our attitude. I won’t use the platitude that the work is its own reward (although sometimes it is), but sometimes the effort leads to opportunities and rewards we didn’t expect, if we are open to them.

So kudos to all the kids having fun running, and I hope to incorporate the lessons I have learned from them in my writing life.

Peace On Earth

20151213_195930Christmas is my favorite season. It has nothing to do with gifts (either giving or getting) and everything to do with the peace and goodwill I feel at this time of year. One of my favorite things to do is bask in the light of the Christmas tree and listen to music or read a book and just be.

Maybe it’s just nostalgia that makes this season seem a time of more peace and joy and goodwill than other times of year. I don’t know—and I truly don’t care to delve too deeply. Sometimes a mystery is best left unsolved.

The world today is in great need of peace and goodwill. During this past year, I have shed too many tears for murdered strangers and the future we are leaving my daughter. I have lived too much with fear—fear for my country’s future and my daughter’s safety. I have screamed too loudly at the endless stupidity, greed, and hate that are shoving humanity to the brink of collapse.

I need this Christmas. I need to remember that there are many good people in this world. That there is a future worth fighting for. That the fight is not futile. That this mess of a world is not the world I am destined to leave my daughter.

I need this Christmas spirit to remind me that every act of kindness pushes back the darkness. That it is never too late to be the candle in the window. That one person can make a difference.

I am that one person.

You are that one person.

We can change the world.

We must change the world.

Peace on Earth…

Let’s do this.

But first I need this Christmas to fortify my soul.


The Christmas Dichotomy

DSCN0640Christmas has always been my favorite holiday—and not because of the presents. My husband can attest that I am impossible to buy for, because I want very little. Ever since I can remember, though, something about the Christmas season spoke to me deeply.

Back when my eyes were good enough to read in low light, I would cuddle up next to our Christmas tree and read books. The cold, sometimes snowy, weather fosters togetherness. Snow turns the mundane outdoors into a magical land. People seem more cheerful, and they tend to care about their fellow man more.

There is peace and hope.

And yet, Christmas can also be very difficult for some people. The intense social interactions of Christmas parties and family dinners can highlight people’s loneliness. Those suffering physical or mental illnesses can feel more isolated than usual. Other people’s joy can throw your own sadness or grief into high relief. And for introverted people like me, the constant company of people—even though I love spending time with family and friends—can drain my energy to the point of exhaustion and tears.

In spite of my sense of peace during the holidays, I know that suffering continues for many. Bad things still happen. Poverty, theft, injury, death. Despite the Christmas light, darkness still exists for many. For me, reconciling the pain in the world with the peace promised in the season is the dichotomy of Christmas.

That’s where the hope comes in. The hope that we can help make the world a better place. That next year those suffering will not be. That we will have found a way to raise humanity to a higher moral ground than this year. That the hate will be less and the love will be more.

While Christmas is a Christian holiday (layered on top of a pagan holiday), you don’t have to be Christian or even religious to believe in the spirit of Christmas. We are all Santa Claus. We can all deliver goodwill toward our fellow man. Instead of getting gifts, we can all use our gifts to make this world a better place.

So Merry Christmas to all of you, and may you find peace and joy on this day and every day.

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The Spirit of Christmas

There’s a lot of media frenzy surrounding Christmas. You’ve got some people offended by the use of “Happy Holidays,” because obviously that is a “War on Christmas” catch-phrase. Then you have some atheists screaming that “Merry Christmas” is offensive because obviously anyone who wishes them a Merry Christmas is trying to convert them or otherwise shove religion down their throat.

But those are the outliers. Most of us are in the middle, and recognize that people exchange these greetings as a way of wishing you good will, not for any other nefarious reason. I have often been wished a Merry Christmas, but I have also been wished a Happy Hanukkah (because many, if not most, Ganses in America are Jewish). I accept both with a “Thank you,” because I know that person is simply wishing me well. Happy Holidays does not bother me, nor would Happy Kwanzaa, because I know it comes from a good place.

I of course send Hanukkah cards to my Jewish friends, because I respect their religion as they do mine, but in my world, the spirit of Christmas is inclusive. Perhaps that is not orthodox doctrine, but I have my own ideas on religion. Christmas has always been my favorite holiday, and not because of the presents and music and decorations (although they’re nice, too!). It’s because I have always felt a harmony with other people during the Christmas season, a peace inside myself that I don’t often feel the rest of the year.

To me, Christmas is not about one religion. It’s about “Peace on Earth and good will toward men.” Note that the saying does not specify Christian countries only, or only Christian worshipers. I want all of us to have peace. I want all of us to share in good will and good fortune. My spirit of Christmas is inclusive, because in my eyes it is not truly the Christmas spirit if you leave anyone out in the cold.

I have been trying to teach my 4-year-old that Christmas is not about presents, but about bringing joy to other people. I honestly believe that. So when I wish someone a Merry Christmas, what I mean is, “I wish you and yours joy and health and love.”

So when someone wishes me Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays or Happy Hanukkah or Happy/Merry Anything Else, I take it as it was meant—and I hope you will, too. It sure makes for a brighter and happier holiday season.

So, Merry Christmas from my family to yours, and may your New Year be happy and healthy!

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