Do you really want that?


I’m in a position in life right now in which I’m facing one obstacle after another. Just as soon as I climb one mountain, I get caught in a mud slide, I find myself on the other side, rock bottom, STUCK in a mess.

We are many things in this life–children, parents, siblings, lovers, enemies, friends, dreamers, realists, workers, writers, musicians, novelists, painters, inventors, etc. The list goes on forever.

But we can only live one moment at a time. Usually, we can only wear one hat at a time if we are to wear it well.

Life is never without conflict. Life is not pretty. Life has it’s magical moments, but most of the time, life is just one page in a book that turns to the next. We have to read the whole story to get the message.

Sometimes it’s easy to give up.

For example, I want to be a writer. But it’s difficult for me to FIND my writer hat when I’m trying to wear all of the others at the same time. Something constantly gets in my way.

I am a teacher, but I can’t do my job well after 3:15 when the last bell of the day rings to release teachers. (Yes, teachers have dismissal bells too. And yes, a teacher’s job does NOT stop at 3:15.) Right now I’ve been carrying around the same bag of essays to grade, but something, always SOMETHING, prevents me from finishing them. I’ve carried these essays and other papers like them to ball games, music practices, family events, Walmart, field trips. I have graded while eating supper. I have graded while riding shotgun on road trips. I’ve graded in places where NO ONE else needs to know where I’ve graded.

The task must be accomplished. I can’t give up.

It’s easier, sometimes, to do the things we HAVE to do, especially if those things are for OTHERS. It’s harder, I think, to do those things that are for US.

I have sat down to write at my house only to be interrupted by phone calls, visitors at the front door, children fighting and screaming, spouses fighting and screaming, and most of all, by my own feeling of despair.

I’m not a quitter by nature. I am, however, a runner. When things get too intense, I tend to run. A few years ago, I faced some rough times at my job. What’s the first thing I wanted to do? RUN.

There’s a grand difference between running away and walking away. Sometimes, in order to triumph over an obstacle, a person has to calmly change direction to find peace. If a job, for example, is creating health issues, I say pack up and move on. However, don’t run scared. Think it out. Use your brain. Make a plan. Never run blindly. You never know what you might run into, something perhaps worse than the previous situation.

Sometimes I’ve wanted to run away from writing.

I can hear myself now. “I give up. I quit. I can’t do this. Forget it. I’ll never be a writer. I’m destined to do for others the rest of my life. I’ll never have my heart’s desire.”

Have those words or thoughts ever crossed your mind?

Why do those words resonate? Because they echo what WE want.. Because we feel selfish for wanting anything for ourselves.

Life is very, very short. My father never wanted to do the job he did. He was a printer. It was a messy job with few perks and tremendous stress. His blood pressure skyrocketed because of the demands. He had to meet deadlines that depended on how other people performed their duties. (Hmmm. Sounds a lot like teaching.) My dad always wanted to own his own business, maybe a sporting goods store. He never truly entertained the idea. He thought it was impossible.

My dad raised somebody very much different than himself. He raised a dreamer, a people pleaser, but a dreamer nonetheless. I know, I know, I know what I want, what I need. But it won’t come easily to me, if it comes at all. Is taking a chance on a dream worth the risk?

Face it. Not getting what you want is equivalent to rejection. Is taking a chance worth the rejection?

By the time most writers have really bought into their dreams of publication, they have developed a sardonic sense of humor about their rejection letters. They file them. They categorize them. They write about them. They frame them and hang them on the wall. Most of them get excited just to GET a rejection–a rejection is better than nothing at all (which is what MOST of us get).

The dream doesn’t have to be about writing. You know what your dream is.

The point here is that WHEN we know, we know, we know, what we want, we usually find ourselves at a crossroads. Rarely, do we get what we want without a challenge. It is so very easy to give up. It’s easy to run. It’s easy to make excuses. It’s easier to substitute something else for what we really want. And we lie to ourselves and tell ourselves we’re happy.

Rarely do we achieve our treasures without going on a quest. But first we have to decide, “Do I really want that? Really?”

It’s easy to talk a good talk. Action is a different story.

If we REALLY want something, we have to make clear, very clear, that we want it. The first person we have to convince is ourselves. Then we have to do what it takes to make the dream come true. We have to wrestle the key to the door between us and our treasure from whoever or whatever holds it (an editor, an employer, an agent, etc.)

Above all, we have to decide if getting what we want is worth the effort. Are we willing to shed a few tears, stay up late, struggle, risk rejection, fight fears, stand face to face with opposition?

The NaNo writing project is happening right now. I’m already behind. I’ll catch up. Sometimes we get sidetracked, but we can find our way back to our path.

Do you know what you want? Then do something about it! Maybe the only thing that has kept you from it is yourself.

What words of advice to you have for others who really, really want something but must overcome obstacles to achieve it? Were you ever a runner or a quitter? How did you overcome the problem? Have you ever had to walk away or to find a new direction to achieve your dream?

Keep on going, and the chances are that you will stumble on something, perhaps when you are least expecting it.  I never heard of anyone ever stumbling on something sitting down.  ~ Charles F. Kettering

So often in time it happens, we all live our life in chains, and we never even know we have the key. – The Eagles




Saints and poets

Something magical happens when a writer puts pen to paper or fingers to a keyboard. Sometimes dreams come true.

If you know me, you know I’m not much of a talker. Well, to most people, I’m not much of a talker. If I trust you and if I like you, if I like you a lot, I probably won’t shut up. (Just ask my students. I’m crazy about them. I can hear them groaning right now. “Oh, she goes on and on and on.”)

Usually when I try to say something really important aloud, it never comes out right. So when I can’t say it aloud, I say it through my writing. When I can’t say it through my writing, I pick up my guitar.

So the creative process goes. Some people paint. Some people sculpt. Some people take pictures to release their secrets when simply speaking will not do.

And then sometimes something magical happens. The creative language transcends the ordinary and speaks in a way kindred souls can understand.

Sometimes a writer almost gives up. Sometimes a writer succumbs to the demons that taunt him. Writers, poets, musicians and artists feel life much more deeply, more intensely, than do others who can’t appreciate the exhilaration that comes with creation.

I can’t help but think of a quote from Thornton Wilder’s play Our Town. Emily asks the Stage Manager, “Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it–every, every minute?” He replies, “No, saints and poets, maybe–they do some.”

Most of us just go about our busyness, ignoring confrontations with life when we can. But writers take time to reply when life begins a dialogue. And then sometimes the magic happens when he or she leasts expects it.

Take, for example, J.K. Rowling, a single mom with a failed marriage. She was on a train from London to Manchester when she ran into a four-hour delay and could only sit and think. She didn’t even have a pen to write down her thoughts, and she was too embarrassed to ask for one. But she held on to her story of a wizard child and found her muse and the courage to write and see the story to publication—even after multiple rejections. Did I mention she was an English teacher?

How about Stephen King? Like many of us, he suffered through discouragement and, as a result, battled a severed drinking problem. He encountered such doubt that he even threw away a draft of Carrie. His wife retrieved it—thank goodness. He continues to produce works that make us tremble. By the way, did I mention Stephen King was once a teacher?

(He’s also a Red Sox fan! And, shhh, promise you won’t tell? I think I may once sat by him at a Red Sox game at Fenway. If you see me, ask me to show you the picture to prove it. And by the way—this is for my newspaper students:  He a wrote a column for his college paper called “Steve King’s Garbage Truck.”)

For all of my fellow writers out there, I encourage you to continue the conversation life is having with you. If you work hard at your craft, perhaps magic will light upon you and you will enjoy the moment of being able to speak the language of saints and poets.