The Laundry Layers of Life

I was doing laundry a few days ago and after washing one load, I promptly transferred it over to the dryer, threw another in the washer, and then got busy doing something else. Forty minutes later, the dryer beeped, signaling the end of its cycle, and I opened the door to find a twisted ball of sheets and towels.

I know better, I thought, as I began unwinding the mass, tossing several pieces back in for another spin. I’d learned a long time ago that forgetting to stop the dryer mid-cycle to separate bedding always results in an outer layer of perfectly dry sheets and an inner core of still damp wash cloths and pillow cases.

I was annoyed as I started the dryer for a second go-round. I hate wasting time and I just wanted to check this task off my to-do list as quickly as possible and move on. But now I was stuck, my progress impeded by something I could have easily prevented. I almost laughed when I thought about the irony. About how much time in my life I’ve spent treading water, stuck in old patterns that weigh me down because I get too busy to address them.

A good example is how I’ve been writing for years without really gaining much momentum on anything, until several months ago when I met a couple of very wise, very honest women who taught me that moving forward often requires looking inward. And by taking the time to do so, I uncovered a number of deep-seated fears that had been hindering me from reaching my writing potential.

I know how easy it is to get wrapped up in the rush of life. To run on automatic and assume that the aches and pains we carry from the past will somehow take care of themselves in the future. But I’ve also come to understand that personal growth is a lot like that load of sheets and towels. That if we don’t periodically stop and peel off the layers in order to evaluate those things that get caught deep down inside of us, they will eventually hold us back.

So, if you’re a writer who’s been rewriting the same paragraph for three weeks or three months or three years. Or you need to drop fifty pounds, but you’re trapped on a repeating cycle of losing and regaining the same ten. Or even if you just feel a vague sense of dissatisfaction with your life. I encourage you to look past the surface to what’s really going on underneath. Somewhere, beneath the accumulation of twisted up emotions that you’re clinging to, is the YOU God made you to be. Be courageous, dear friend, and go find her.

The Power of Connection

I was weirdly affected by Luke Perry’s passing earlier this week. I say it’s weird because he was a celebrity and I’m, you know, not. I didn’t know him, had never met him, and aside from his roles on Beverly Hills, 90210 and 8 Seconds, I’m not even all that familiar with his work. Nevertheless, there it was, this inexplicable sadness rising from the pit of my stomach as I read the news.

I wondered if I was upset because I’d never actually gotten over my dream to one day marry him. But no, that wasn’t it. I’d long since given up on those Teen Beat magazine inspired fantasies. I pondered whether it was his birthdate—just four months removed from my husband’s—that bothered me and although I had consciously made note of that date, there seemed to be something more.

I thought about the years when I sat in front of the TV each week, watching his life unfold as bad boy Dylan McKay and I realized that was it. I wasn’t mourning the death of this ‘90s heartthrob actor with whom I fell madly in love as a scrawny pre-teen, I was mourning the loss of the girl I was when I fell in love with him.

The more I thought about it, the more powerful I found this to be. How interesting, how incredible, that this perfect stranger had made enough of an impact on me that nearly thirty years later the simple mention of his name could connect me to this otherwise ordinary time in my life. The hope to create that sort of resonance is what keeps me writing my novel, it’s what motivated me to start this blog.

Because, as humans, we are programmed to grow in relationship, to connect with each other. And even though most of us don’t have the chance to reach such a wide audience, each and every one of us has been given unique talents and opportunities to touch someone else nearly every day.

So, whether you’re a school teacher in charge of forty young minds, an introverted writer whose contact with the outside world is sometimes limited to the UPS delivery person, or a gifted actor whose influence traverses both miles and years, I urge you to remember that although people may forget what you do and they may forget what you say, they will always remember how you made them feel.

In The Beginning . . . A Novel Idea

In the early morning hours of a mid-October day in 2016, in that semi-conscious state between sleep and wakefulness, I was hit with an idea for a book. This wasn’t an unusual occurrence. I already had a file folder in my desk drawer filled with possible storylines for future novels—sticky notes and scraps of paper with one-line scene descriptions, snippets of dialogue, and vague “What if this happened?” plot concepts—but this? This was different.

In the predawn darkness, with my brain still foggy and sluggish, I had somehow envisioned a fully formed character. I knew her name. I knew her struggles. And as I grabbed the pencil and notepad I store beside the bed, my hand could barely keep up as the specifics of her life began unfolding in surprising detail. By the time I clicked off my mini book light and settled my head back against my pillow, I felt as if I had known this woman my entire life.

She was still on my mind when my alarm went off two hours later and although a part of me wondered if I’d dreamt the entire thing, the dozen hastily scribbled Post-its on the headboard ledge told me otherwise. I gathered them up, and following the advice of veteran novelists who warn against giving in to the distraction of new ideas, I tucked them away in my folder with the intent to forget about them.

I went back to work on my currently in-progress novel, but those notes refused to let me be. They seemed to call out to me from my desk drawer, begging for attention like the relentless drumbeat in the Jumanji game box.

“No,” I said aloud. I’d fallen prey to this same detour before, had amassed a handful of manuscripts that I’d started and stopped when the temptation of a better, more relatable, easier to write story got the best of me. I was determined not to let that happen again. But, what if? I asked myself. What if this character was given to me for a reason? What if I’m meant to write her story?

I sat with those persistent what ifs? day after day, until that pesky drumbeat became so loud I could no longer ignore it. I took the notes out of my drawer, laid them on my desktop, and started writing. Twenty-three months later, I’d turned those twelve notes into a 264-page rough draft.

Today, that mostly fragmented draft has become more coherent. The story has taken on a more defined shape. The characters have changed, developed, grown. And I have grown right along with them. It hasn’t been easy. Even writing the “right” story comes with challenges. But throughout the doubt and the difficulties, when I’m sure I’ll never make it to THE END, I look back on that October morning and with a grateful heart, I thank God for the gift I was given in the beginning.