After the loss, Jack walked off the field, but away from the dugout. He exited the field through a side gate at the end of the dugout. His mother Lillie watched from the stands as her only child walked head-down toward their car.
“Jack, wait up!” she called out as she ran to catch up with him.
“I’m sorry your team lost the game.” she said as she put her arm over his shoulder and drew him in for a tight hug.
“C’mon mom.” he shrugged away from her and sniffled.
“You’re not too big for a hug from your mom.” she told him.
“It’s OK to cry, Jack. Disappointments will happen in your life and it’s OK to be upset by that disappointment. Tears are a part of it.”
“I’m not crying.” his denial wasn’t convincing.
“I’m not saying you are crying. Only that it’s OK to cry when we lose. So long as you move on for the next big thing. You can’t let it keep you down.”
“But I dropped the ball. It’s my fault we lost.” he cried. Jack’s tears flowed.
“Sweetheart, I know. But you’ll do better next time.”
“No, I won’t. I’m not going back.” Jack pushed away from his mother and ran to the car, jerked the door open and slammed it closed.
Lillie sat next to Jack and started the engine, turned on the air conditioner and turn off the radio.
“You can’t let one bad moment spoil it for you, Jack.” Lillie said.
“You don’t get it.” Jack tearfully replied.
“What don’t I get, Jack?”
“I looked stupid out there. When I go to practice Tuesday and when I go back to school. You just don’t understand, man.” Jack smashed his palm on the dashboard.
“Jack!. Get a hold of yourself.” Lillie grabbed his left forearm and held it tightly.
“There’s no reason for hitting and reacting this way. Okay?” Lillie’s voice stressed as she tried to reign in her own emotions. Don’t let Jack get the better of you again. Be strong. Be confident. Be firm and fair. Don’t get into the weeds with him.
“Why don’t we go get a shake and a burger and then…” she trailed off. I can’t do this again. I’ve got to stop rewarding him when he fails.
“I don’t want a shake I want go home.” Jack yelled.
“Well, that’s not going to happen.” Lillie countered. I don’t care if you yell at me or not, we’re going to Dairy Queen with the rest of your team and you’re going to hang out with your teammates and friends and see what happens.”
“No.” Jack whined.
“Yes, you are.” Lillie said firmly. She threw the gearshift into reverse and backed out of the parking spot. She looked at Jack. “You’re going to have to decide today if you’re going to live your life with courage or as a coward.”
With that Lillie shifted into drive, spun the tires and drove off to Dairy Queen.
I ramble a lot. I frequently get myself stuck near the bottom of a rabbit hole. Usually, it’s too late when I realize it, but then I just switch off and go back to what I was doing. Some people don’t believe in ADHD, but everyone who’s ever known me does.
I have a visual impairment of sorts that, for my entire life, made it nearly impossible to read well. My eyes flitted and fluttered from line to line. I frequently ended up reading the same line two or three times. It drove me nuts. It wasn’t until I was 52 that I learned the problem I had was most likely due to the double-vision I’d lived with all my life.
The purpose of telling that tidbit is to highlight that while I always loved to read, I really didn’t read much until I was in my mid 20’s. That only lasted for a short while. Eye stress and strain made it a chore to read for more than 15 or 20 minutes per reading. I’d found moments where I was motivated to read longer and just deal with the pain and discomfort, but that never lasted long. Except in the rare occasions that I found a page-turner that captured my imagination.
In 2018 I went to an eye doctor for the first time since I was 10 years old and found out that I now need glasses just to pass my driver’s eye test. Now I wear glasses. That also turned out to be the fix for my double vision, the stress, and strain, and the flitting around the page has gone. So long as I wear my prescriptions.
Has this now made me a more voracious reader, trying to make up for lost time? Not really. I love stories, but I’m still stuck in the mindset that reading is a struggle and it’s uncomfortable. That said, thanks to audiobooks and sinking up to Kindle, I can now read and listen to books at the same time. It’s awesome. So right now, that’s who I am. I read and I listen often.
My writing began in 1997 when I wanted to write a Star Wars novel and I wrote the first chapter. I sent a letter to Lucasfilm asking how I go about writing a Star Wars book. About a month later I received a form letter that, for all intents and purposes, was a cease and desist order. That’s how I learned my first lesson in publishing.
Since then, I started and stopped more stories than I can count. The most discouraging thing is that I’ve never completed a story.
Back then, I always got lost in my rambling plots. I was pantsing all the time. Then I tried organizing with an outline, but it was so convoluted that I lost track of it. I need meds to be organized. Since then I bought software and books on writing this way and that, about methods and processes, but none of that has gotten me to where I want to be.
Now, I’m trying NaNoWriMo to see if creating a deadline will work for me.
I might not be cut out to be a novelist, but I’ve been told I come up with great concepts and that I can tell a good story, but they fall flat and aren’t emotionally impactful. My best to date was just that. I wrote 120,000 words that had no cohesive thread on paper thus no story. The conflict and emotions only existed within my mind.
In my imagination, I was connecting those dots. I was connecting one scene to another. Those are my weaknesses.
However, I recently had an epiphany when while reading a blog post by David Griffin Brown of Darlingaxe.com, that inspired me to spend about 20 minutes creating a writing exercise on the spot. The blog was about the axiom “show don’t tell”. I wanted to write an emotionally impactful scene as quickly as I could that showed the character’s emotions rather than narrating them. That’s been a major weakness for me.
I didn’t have a subject. All I had was the first name. Jack. That was from the blog. Everything else I wrote, a little over 500 words, came to me on the fly over the next 20 minutes or so. I made some edits and presented it to two people I know and asked them to tell me if it made them feel anything and if so what? I got an emphatic yes from both people. Above all, they said it made them feel empathy and sympathy for the two characters in the scene.
At that moment I felt like, and still do feel, that I found a key to unlocking some gaps in my writing. I’ve come to understand that I haven’t been writing scenes as much as I’ve been writing scenarios, story-lines, and synopses, but not stories. I set things up and I plan disparately across a continuum that never congeals. I get stuck in world-building. I have maybe once until the aforementioned exercise, ever written anything that was in the structure of a scene, that created an emotional impact, and that was showing not telling.
I’m now hopeful that I will be able to move forward into NaNoWriMo and complete a 50,000+ word manuscript that tells a story by showing who my characters are, that creates an emotional impact on the reader, that doesn’t wander all over, and that ultimately connects in a meaningful way to the reader.