Give respect to your passion

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What’s the thing you most wish you could do, but it means so much to you that you put it off or push it to the side? What’s that one thing you want, but you’re afraid it will get ruined forever if you don’t do it right?

For me, it’s always been writing. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White was the first book I remember reading that filled with me with longing… if I only I could write like that. Then I read White’s The Trumpet of the Swan and swooned. In the years that followed, there were many others. I recently finished reading Me Before You by JoJo Moyes and had the same experience.

For many years, writing fiction felt like a fragile bird’s egg I held in my cupped hands. The idea of breaking that egg caused me to avoid my truest passion by majoring in journalism and starting a career in nonfiction because it didn’t seem so precious to me. I loved the creative outlet that news and feature stories brought, but there was a desire in my heart that wouldn’t die, telling me to go ahead and write a novel.

I finally did so a few years ago, and as I work on my second novel now, the same fears dance around in my head. What if this is the one that everyone hates? What if even my friends think eww, but don’t want to say it to me?

I’ve decided to put away those fears once and for all. I don’t need them telling me what not to do anymore. The fear of writing manifested for me in a lack of time and organization to devote to my craft. Sure, I’m a single parent with a teaching career, and I don’t have a lot of time to write, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. What I found is that I was often putting everything else ahead of writing, even things like scrubbing down the refrigerator.

Instead of having an office for my writing, I used the side table in my dining room to throw my writing notes in with a teetering pile of kids’ schoolwork, bills, and other papers that have varying levels of priority. I wasn’t giving respect to my passion.

I may not write in an office, but I recently made my writing more official by devoting a small bookshelf exclusively to my notes and files, my copies of Writers’ Digest, and the binder that organizes my work-in-progress. The boost of knowing there’s a physical space in my house devoted to writing has fired me up to keep at it, day after day. Instead of hiding my writing with the rest of my household detritus, it has its own orderly space.

What can you do to respect your passion? Make a space, even if it’s a little one, so that you can see the evidence of your biggest, fondest dream every day. Don’t hide your passion in the corners of your life.

 

Please check out my first novel, Giving Myself Away, about a divorced mom making tough choices.

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When you are sad, clean up the trash

I haven’t written in a few weeks because I have felt blocked by some sadness in my personal life. I needed wordless time to process what was happening, to stop asking “why?” and start accepting reality for what it is.

During this time, the world around me looked ugly, violent, and irredeemable. The news has been terrible of late and I began to feel hopeless. It led me to wonder what can I do? How can I feel happy again, and how can I feel like I can make a difference?

I started by cleaning up trash. I took a few grocery bags and walked along the rural road by my mother’s house. At first, I felt angry. How could people do this, just throw stuff away and leave it for others to clean up? What is wrong with people that they feel they have no responsibility to others or to the earth?

But as I picked up what others have discarded and the bags grew heavier, I felt my own burdens begin to lighten. I felt more at peace. I know the key to my own happiness and my role in this life is to serve others with love and humility. It doesn’t seem humble to tell you that I want to be humble, but I share this because it was a major turning point for me.

When we are sad, we become so “me-focused.” We feel cut off from others and can only see things through our own cracked mirror. We look inward instead of outward. The key for me to break out of this constant loop of sadness and self-pity was to get up and do something and make sure it was something concrete that instantly made a difference.

I walked up one side of the road and back the other. In only a half hour’s time, I was able to see a roadway littered with beer cans and cigarette packs and fast food wrappers transformed into a pristine pastoral landscape. I felt reconnected to the earth and reconnected to the people around me, even those who thoughtlessly threw things away they no longer wanted.

If you are feeling sad, please pick up some trash. I guarantee you will end up with a full bag, and more importantly, a full heart.