The other night I was thinking about my father and the influence he’s had on my writing. My dad is a great writer and a superior editor. When people ask me if he’s helped me on my writing journey, my answer always comes back to a childhood story I’m going to share with you here.
The summer before I entered 8th grade, I had to select a classic piece of literature to read and then write the dreaded summer book report. I chose Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. Ever the under-achiever I was in those days, I selected Alice mainly because I was already familiar with the Disney animated classic and I was looking for something easy. I read the book and then followed my teacher’s directions to write the book report, which was essentially to write a summary of the book.
My father was always concerned about me getting the best grades possible. So he insisted on reading all my papers and editing them with his signature red pen. My former colleagues who also had the pleasure of working with my dad are quite familiar with said pen and know this habit has not changed over the years.
Needless to say, he took that red plan and marked the heck out of poor Alice and my attempt to analyze her wonderland.
“You can’t just summarize the book.” dad explained. “You need to pick three situation in the book and write about those.”
I thought what dad said was the all-powerful truth, and as a result, I did exactly what he said. After all who was I to argue with my esteemed father with a PhD and career in higher education? (Okay really, who was I to argue with my father?) So without questioning him, I rewrote the book report doing exactly what he said to do.
The thing was though, in my gut, I did question what he said. I knew that was not what my teacher wanted.
I turned in the assignment and waited with anticipation for the essay to be returned. What was given back to me was not what I expected. My teacher told me the essay was well-written, but not what she asked us to write. She asked for a summary of the book, not a synopsis of three plot points.
Ah hah! I thought. Dad was (gasp) wrong! I was the one who was right all along. I went home, dug out my old book report, turned that in to the teacher, and received an “A” on the assignment.
The Alice in Wonderland assignment taught me my first lesson in writing: go with your gut when you have something to say. It may not be the popular choice, or what others think you should write. But if you hear a voice deep down that tells you to write what’s in your heart, then listen to that voice.
And also be careful about who you chose as your editor! Needless to say, that was the last essay my dad proofread for me.
Other Posts You May Like:
- My Beloved Homemade Dollhouse: A Tribute to My Mom
- Wynona the Redwood Tree
- My Childhood Bedroom
- The “Blogger’s Block” 15 Things About Me
I like simplicity. I’m not the type of person who needs tons of stuff and things in my life. Clutter makes me feel anxious. And I’m not just talking about physical clutter; mental clutter is also a big anxiety-provoker for me. So when the calendar changed to 2014, I decided to take time to de-clutter my life a bit.
I am constantly getting rid of old clothes and books (I have a donation bag in the car at all times so if I see a drop-off location, I dump the stuff). So I focused my efforts on the “lesser-known” things that cause clutter, digital clutter being a big one. Some of the changes I made are easy things, but make a world of difference. I thought I’d share my techniques with you in case you’re feeling the need to simplify your life too.
Recipe Files – Many of the recipes I use are now pinned to my Pinterest boards or stored on this blog’s Recipe page. But before the days of everything being online, I kept my recipes in a big recipe binder or I used cookbooks. I took out the VERY big recipe binder and started tossing all the recipes I didn’t like or realistically will never make. It was a lot of paper! Now the binder is better organized with the recipes I actually use. I also donated a lot of cookbooks I don’t use. I hated to do it, but there’s no point in keeping one cookbook if you only use one recipe in it. Either tear out the recipe page and keep that, or find the recipe online.
Internet Bookmarks – It was ridiculous how many sites I bookmarked. I went through the sites and did three things. First, I deleted the sites I no longer needed. Second, for the articles I wanted to keep (because I may use them for reference for future writing), I added them to my Delicious feed. Delicious is a great way to store articles (and post your own). Third, I reorganized the bookmarks I did keep and my toolbar so I can better find what I need.
Delete Blogs – I read a lot of blogs. Like a lot – more than 200. I have them all in my Feedly account, which is like the now-debunked Google Reader. As I was reading the blogs, there were always those that I would only skim or skip altogether. So one day (while watching TV is a great time to do this), I went through all of the blogs and deleted the ones I don’t read. It was liberating! And now when I go to read my blogs over the weekend, my stream of posts isn’t as overwhelming.
Facebook and Email Clutter – I don’t know about all of you, but I’m getting so sick and tired of what’s showing up on my Facebook feed. I used to love Facebook to connect with people, see pictures, and have conversations. Now it seems like it’s just Buzzfeed articles and memes. I have no time for this crap! So I went through an un-liked so many pages. And if you don’t want to unlike pages, you can also go to the page and select “hide from newsfeed.” I also unsubscribed from a slew of email newsletters to keep my email inbox less overwhelming.
Cell Phone, Cable and Phone – I HIGHLY encourage you to review your bills often because chances are, those sneaky bastard cable and service companies are charging you way more than what you need. I found out that I was being charged for the option to call internationally and all these fancy features on my landline. I reduced the phone plan to the bare minimum since the landline is rarely used (in fact, we are thinking of dumping it altogether).
The cell phone is another BIG one. We were being charged for this ridiculous amount of data that we’ve never even come close to using. I downsized the data plan, which saved us a big chunk of money. And honestly, we don’t even use the current allotment.
Finally, we are making the move to dump the cable, which will save an obscene amount of money. We opted for a Roku with Netflix and HuluPlus subscriptions. I am SO excited for this change!
Pantry, Fridge and Freezer – I tossed a lot of old food. It was so nice to go through the kitchen and get rid of stuff taking up space. And I’m not talking about rotten apples. I mean the condiment jars that are beyond the expiration date. Or the boxes upon boxes of teas I will never use (I give this stuff to my sister who loves tea). The stuff that I froze thinking one day I will use it, and now is way passed it’s prime.
Computer Documents – I finally emptied the trash on my MacBook, and either archived all documents or deleted them entirely. I also transferred a lot of stuff to Google Drive in order to free up hard drive space and keep documents safe that I didn’t want to lose.
So that’s what I’ve done so far and it feels SO liberating! I need to do other things – like go through old photo albums, organize pictures, and organize my hard files. But I’m happy with the work I’ve done so far and feel like 2014 is off to a great start!
How do you de-clutter your life? Did you get rid of any unwanted stuff lately?
Other Posts You May Like:
A few months ago, Sophie decided she wanted to sell her drawings. As in, the drawing she creates herself.
After getting her first glimpse of sales success with lemonade stands last summer, Sophie was invigorated with the process of creating a product and selling it for money (25-cents, to be exact). Although it was a small endeavor, the lemonade stand was a great lesson in sales and hard work.
So naturally, Sophie began brainstorming what else she could sell to earn money. While I can certainly understand paying a quarter for a cold glass of lemonade, I wasn’t quite seeing asking people to pay for a kid’s drawing.
I was hoping the idea would simply wither on the vine. But Sophie had other ideas. And that day, she got to work drawing countless pictures of different themes and various colors. She set up a sales stand and decorated a sign that read “25 cents” for every drawing.
Personally I was a bit conflicted. I didn’t want to squash her spirit, but I thought to myself, Who is going to buy these drawings?! Isn’t she just setting herself up for failure?
I could have stopped the venture. But I chose not to. Simply because this was her activity and I didn’t want to stand in her way. If she fails to sell, she’ll learn a lesson. If she does sell, then I’ll learn a lesson.
And then a funny thing happened. Some neighbor kids thought the pictures were pretty cool. Both of them excitedly brought her a quarter and purchased a drawing. Even though the neighbors were her only customer, Sophie was thrilled that someone wanted her pictures.
It was certainly a lesson to me: What I think may be lame may not be to younger, more imaginative minds.
A week ago I had the pleasure of seeing Saving Mr. Banks. I was blown away by the beauty and story of the movie, which is about the making of the Mary Poppins movie and Poppins book author, P.L. Travers. Besides being left in a pool of tears, I exited the theater with curiosity — about the Mary Poppins books, P.L. Travers, and Walt Disney himself.
Walt Disney was not just the inventor of a theme park and movies, but first and foremost, he was an artist who sketched pictures of animals and a now-famous mouse. Before Mickey, Disneyland, and Mary Poppins, Walt Disney was a kid with an imagination, a pen, and and entrepreneurial spirit.
And what did Walt do to make money when he was a kid? He sold his drawings to people for coins.
I thought back to Sophie and her drawing sale, and had a moment of humility. I’m certainly NOT suggesting that Sophie is the next Walt Disney. But it did make me realize: Look at what can happen if you leave a kid to his imagination and spirit.
Knowing what I do about Sophie and now Walt Disney, I have certainly learned not be so quick to judge the ideas and determination of a child. I’m sure people thought Walt Disney was crazy for selling his drawings too. But I think Walt himself would agree that what is magical to a child may not be understood by adults. But that same magic can – and did – change the world.
Other Posts You May Like:
We’re less than one week from Christmas and I’m guessing many of you fall into two camps when it comes to gifts. The first camp still needs to purchase gifts for family and friends. The second camp includes people that have yet to compile a wish list detailing the things you want. Over on my business website, I put together a list of items I think are great presents for writers. Click over and read more!
Other Posts You May Like: