Archive | May 2018

The Stolen Necklace, Notecard #3

So far I haven’t chosen to make any replies to the first couple of notecards, but I want to do that in the future, and the next card, I think, will be a response from Charlotte’s friend, Juniper. We also have yet to hear from Dorian Tolliver or Lord Dovecoat and could do with more from Aunt Amelia. The last note, I want to be short and either a surprise or something poetic and sweet. Seven more cards to go, though, so we’ll see. I like Rose a lot, but she and her brother seem like they would always be getting into trouble. The hard part is going to be making it a complete story. Stories are extremely easy to start, but ending them well, and especially short stories… uff da. Well, it’s good practice.

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Your Best

Once in a while in life, one is forced to admit they aren’t giving their best. I had one of those moments not to long ago, not with writing, but with piano. I was accompanist this past year for the high school choir at our church. Most of the songs were easy and they only actually performed a couple of times, so I wasn’t too worried about it. Practice once a week for a bit seemed to be enough–at least for weekly choir practice.

Why, when tasked with this position, didn’t I practice more? The job certainly called for it. I had ample opportunity and access to a grand piano and I had enough time if I would put it aside. The answer was simple: I figured that by practicing a little bit a week, things would just come together. If you are relatively smart yourself, you recognize this attitude. It is the attitude of skating by instead of giving one’s all. Sadly, I spent most of my school years in this mode, having the capability of being an A student and getting by with B’s because, well, other things were so much more interesting than studying. I would throw together research papers the night before and get B’s, sometimes even A’s without even trying or without really considering the topic of the paper. This sounds great, but it has actually has been a great sorrow to me all my life.

Only giving one’s part, not one’s best, eventually will catch up with one, and boy, did it catch up with me the other day. The one song that was really hard for me to play we ended up singing. I hadn’t put in a full effort of practice on it and also hadn’t asked for help in figuring out notes I could leave out in order to make it easier to play. So it was two mistakes, really. In finding out we were actually going to perform the song, I got really angry and blamed the director. Didn’t she know I just couldn’t get it? Wasn’t she concerned I would let everyone down?

But after I cooled off, I admitted to myself that I really hadn’t given my all on it. I hadn’t practiced enough, and worse, I hadn’t taken up the director’s offer of help with it. Swallowing my pride and realizing it was silly to demand we didn’t perform at all because of me, I got help with it, figured out the fingering, and practiced, practiced, practiced. It could have ended up miserable–it really was a difficult song for me to play–but amazingly enough the changes and the practice helped. Most importantly, the change in my attitude helped. I really didn’t want to let those kids down. Both our performances went well and although my playing wasn’t perfect, I felt that I had truly done my best.

My thought after was, “how can some people keep up this passion all the time?” It was an amazing feeling and a little tiring, but it gave me confidence to put in more effort in every part of my life. In writing, especially, I don’t think I’ve even begun to give my BEST. I have so many great ideas and spend a lot of time working and thinking things through, but often still feeling like I’m just skating by. The challenge is making each project my focus for the time I’m working on it. I am so distracted by other things–politics, K-dramas, daydreaming about whatever handsome guy I just met, and so on. If all females are like this, I can see why men tend to be the real achievers in life. I long for that male single-mindedness sometimes, though I suppose they have their distractions as well.

Anyway, I just wanted to share my little story and say that if things aren’t going well, the first step may be admitting to yourself that you are guilty of not giving your best. Even if you fail, if you at least give your best to something, you can let it go without worry. Victory for that project wasn’t going to be yours, yet you tried your hardest to achieve it. That is an accomplishment in and of itself, because it is the shaping and refining of you, of your character. If you didn’t give your best, you’d never really know if you could have had that victory. There would always be that little voice saying “what if? What if I’d simply had given my all and done my best? Would x project have succeeded, then?”

Give your best. Easy to say, hard to do, especially if you’re smart enough to just skate by. It’s a sort of curse that only you can dig yourself out of, because to other people it may seem like you are trying your hardest. But they don’t know you as well as you know yourself. You know when you’re only giving a partial effort. You know the greatness you are actually capable of and the gifts you’ve been given. So, strive, give your best. Have passion in your work and life. The world doesn’t really care how hard you try, it’ll use you up either way.  But YOU care, you really do, which is why that “what if” nags at the back of your mind. Give your best. Refine your character and, win or lose, you’ll have a golden satisfaction in life that can’t come from anywhere else. You can’t be on fire for everything in life, but be on fire for YOUR life. We only get one and what we do on this earth matters more than we can possibly imagine.

Storytelling with Visual Aids

NotecardsMaybe it was just that the notecards are so fancy compared to my Minnesota life, maybe it was the thought that there must be some wonderful story ready to be unveiled in the slim, 10-card pack. Maybe I just really, really wanted by pretty stationary. Whatever the reason, ages ago, I bought this pack of notecards and envelopes from Barnes and Noble thinking that I would use them for a story…somehow.

Feeling creative, I’ve unearthed them from by box of (ahem) other unused cards and stationary. What I’d like to do is tell an intriguing story written as letters or notes on the cards. This is more problematic than you might think. A) I am a lefty with atrocious penmanship, so I will have to write painstakingly slow just to make the words legible. B) How do I go about different characters writing to each other? See problem A. How can I make my penmanship that of a lord or prince or captain or spy, much less a simple belle of the ball? C) What will the story be? Star-crossed lovers? Napoleonic spies as in The Scarlet Pimpernel? Humorous commentary on society, marriage and like, as in Jane Austen? Or will the story be about people writing from a far advanced future where physically writing on notecards to each other is in vogue again? So, so many possibilities.

Next week I plan to have the first card ready to present, so stay tuned. Maybe I’ll even attempt writing in cursive after too many years to say. At any rate, it will be a pleasant side trip from regular story writing. Back to my revisions, I go!

 

A String in the Harp: Welsh Tourism

Sometimes novels are more than just stories. Sometimes they double as travelogues, where the author was so completely immersed in the place they were living that the descriptions in the story act almost as an advertisement for that country or city. The very long and epic Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts, set in India, is a bit like that, as is my current read, A String in the Harp, which is set in Wales.

Wales is a bit of a mystery to many Americans. Is it its own country? Is it part of England? What can you even do there? And so on. Thus has been my own view of Wales added with a vague notion that Merlin lived there or King Arthur, or someone from that legend.

A String in the Harp (at least halfway through) doesn’t have anything to do with Arthurian legend. It is a story about a broken family mourning the loss of their wife and mother. The younger kids and dad have fled to Wales where Dad can be immersed in his university work. The oldest, Jen, flies over on her high school Christmas break to spend a few weeks with them. Wales is alternately cold, windy, rainy, mucky harsh, and in glimpses for her, beautiful.

Written the the 1970s when author Nancy Bond was attending school there, the plot is very slow, but it’s almost like a day by day travelogue of what Jen and her siblings are experiencing being in this wild and lonely country.  In this country tour inside a story, readers learn a bit of the culture, history, language, and meet a few of the locals. Jen’s brother Peter finds a key on the beach and soon realizes that this key open a window into ancient Wales. Things really start taking off when his sisters realize that something very odd is going on. This adventure may be what they all need to become content with each other again. I’m excited to see where the story goes.

A String in the Harp is a great book to read with a hot drink on a rainy night.