As a paraprofessional at an elementary school, I assist in leading reading groups in many different grade levels. I show up with books to read and listening ear at the scheduled time.
But sometimes the classes just aren't quite ready for me at the scheduled time. In that case, I sit in the back and glance over my lesson plans one last time as I wait a few more minutes.
But on this particular day, I found myself listening along with (most of) the class.
The third graders--my last class of the day--were listening to their teacher read The Word Collector by Peter H. Reynolds. It's not a very long book, filled with simple words and bright illustrations.
The story centers around Jerome, a boy who (you guessed it) collects words. Any interesting word that strikes his fancy, he jots down on a slip of paper and adds it to his scrapbook. Up to today, he'd always kept his words with other words of their types--big words with other big words, little words with other little words, so on and so forth.
One day, however, he dropped his word collection. And as he picked them up, he realized there were wonderful combinations in them being mixed up. He experiments with different combinations of words, but finds that "the simple words were the most powerful."
Jerome wants to share his words with the world. So he loads up all those little squares of paper, pushes them in a wheelbarrow to the top of a hill, and showers them on the valley below.
It sounds like a simple story, but seriously. Take a minute and find a copy of The Word Collector or look up a read aloud video of it.
We are all just like Jerome. No matter who we are or what we do, we collect words from the moment we're born. It's how we learn to use them.
We collect words we hear. Words we read. Words we think.
We collect beautiful words. Happy words. Sad words. Anxious words. Angry words.
We collect words that should never be said. Words that can tear through a person. And words that make our day.
I wish all words were the kind that could brighten a gray day. But even if we were completely perfect and never thought them ourselves, sad and angry words will still find their way into our collections whether we like it or not.
And whether it's through writing or another method, we want to share our words with the world.
So, a few things I'm remembering from Jerome's tale as share my words.
Simple words are the most powerful. Words like "I'm sorry." "I understand." "Thank you." It may not take an eloquent speech to make the world for someone else. So say the words that need to be said.
You don't have to keep sad or angry words in your collection. We cannot control the words others say to us, but we can control the ones we keep and share.
Shake up your words. Maybe you don't like all the words you have. Maybe they seem flat and boring. Toss them into the air and see what patterns emerge. Look at them in a new way. Use them to create amazing words. Even the words we dislike the most can become something that lifts someone else up.
Lastly, words are meant for sharing. So fling them out on the valley below and listen to what happens. Your words are meant for wonderful places.
*Where could your words go? What are some of your favorite children's books? Share your adventures in the comments!*
*I am so very excited to bring to you all today a guest post by fellow blogger Allison Grace! Once you've finished this incredible post about The Horse and His Boy, go check out her blog and sign up for her newsletter while you're there! I've been signed up for a while and have very much enjoyed her insight (and Oliver's adventures, too). Watch her blog tomorrow . . . a post of mine might show up (secret: It might have to do with The Magician's Nephew). https://allisongracewrites.com/articles/guest-post-from-rachel-leitch-how-digory-kirke-reminded-me-to-hope/ So without further ado, An Illustration of God's Sovereignty by Allison Grace!*
There’s a scene in Chapter Eleven of C.S. Lewis’ The Horse and His Boy that nearly makes me cry.
I’m usually not one to cry during books and movies. So it has to be something really special. And this scene is.
If you want to avoid spoilers, I suggest you go read the book before continuing. ;)
“I do not call you unfortunate,” said the Large Voice.
“Don’t you think it was bad luck to meet so many lions?” said Shasta.
“There was only one lion,” said the Voice.
“What on earth do you mean? I’ve just told you there were at least two the first night, and--”
“There was only one: but he was swift of foot.”
“How do you know?”
“I was the lion.” And as Shasta gaped with open mouth and said nothing, the Voice continued. “I was the lion who forced you to join with Aravis. I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead. I was the lion who drove the jackals from you while you slept. I was the lion who gave the Horses the new strength of fear for the last mile so that you should reach King Lune in time. And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight, to receive you.”
While The Horse and His Boy certainly is not as allegorical as Lewis’ other books (most notably The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe) we as Christians can clearly see an illustration of God’s sovereignty.
If you are familiar with the story, you can see that Aslan (the “Large Voice”) is behind every important part of the story. He has guided Shasta’s story from the very beginning.
The same is true when you look at our world.
If you think about the nation of Israel for a minute and you go all the way back to Abraham, you can see God’s hand.
And that’s just the beginning!
Throughout the history of Israel, God has always preserved His people.
Sometimes there is not a clear “lion” in the story, such as in the book of Esther. But He is always working.
Now, it’s easy to think that God’s sovereignty and providence only extends to the big things or to the “important” people. But like an author controls all the elements in her writing, God has a hand in all the details of our lives. Nothing happens without a reason.
Did you see what Aslan said in the quote? “I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead.”
This isn’t a major plot point. This is nothing more than Aslan demonstrating his care for Shasta.
Sometimes, when God works in our lives, it’s obvious and huge. And other times, it’s in tiny ways.
But like Paul says in Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.”
All things. Not just the big events of life--graduation, marriage, and eventually death--but all parts of our lives--our relationships, the school we attend, and where we work.
I’m sure when Aslan told Shasta that he was behind-the-scenes in every situation, Shasta probably wondered why. He might have been asking, “But why did I ever have to be kidnapped as a baby anyway? Why did I have to go on this long journey? Couldn’t you have done it another way?”
Let me tell you this: God doesn’t owe us any explanation for what He does. In fact, He doesn’t owe us anything.
Maybe someday we will be able to look back on our lives and see how God was working. Or we may never be able to fully trace the thread of providence through our lives.
But rest assured, God is working in every story and every situation.
“...for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” Philippians 2:13
Allison Grace used to hate writing.
Now she can’t imagine a world without telling stories.
She has written several short stories and completed a novel. Her favorite themes to write about (fiction and nonfiction) are identity, faith, and redemption. She also has a whole stash of unfinished fan fiction no one is allowed to read.
Besides writing, Allison loves to crochet stuffed animals and dolls to give to charities. She is a shameless Star Wars and Marvel nerd and can carry on an entire conversation solely in movie quotes.
She blogs at allisongracewrites.com.
Today, I'm going to start out the writing new year with an underrated animated film called Epic. Ever heard of it?
At the center of this fun film is a magical pod--the last thing the kingdom of plant men and women have of their queen, and their only hope of defeating the enemy Boggans who'd like to rot their entire kingdom from the inside out. That pod is placed in the hands and care of Mary Katherine (MK) by Queen Tara as the queen's final act.
Only problem? MK is a human, mysteriously shrunk down to the size of the plant warriors. She has no idea what she's doing there. She just wants to go home, if it can be called a home. She doesn't belong there.
Or so she thinks.
See, MK works better alone. It wasn't really her first choice--with her mom gone and her father, shall we say, distant, she had to adapt. "You may be connected," she tells Leafman commander Ronin. "But I'm kind of on my own."
As for Ronin, he should be the expert on working with others. "Many leaves, one tree," is the Leafmen's motto, of which he is a leader. But no matter how hard he tries to protect anyone and everyone, he seems to lose everyone he cares most about--his best friend; Queen Tara; and his best friend's son, Nod.
Nod is just tired of the Leafmen in general--or more accurately, just Ronin. He wants to do his own thing his own way, and usually does, no matter what anyone else says.
The perfect trio to guard the kingdom's last hope.
Changing gears here for a second. Writing has been aptly called the lonely craft. And it is. No one else can write our stories for us. We have to put on the noise-cancelling headphones and do it ourselves.
Our stories are a whole different world, where anything can happen. Where things happen our way.
Sometimes it's hard to remember that while we have to do the writing, we shouldn't do it alone. We need family, friends, readers, editors, and more to see us through.
Some of us have people to support us. Some of us don't. Some of us can't even figure out what the people we call our team are even doing. It's so easy to hide our story world away and do things our way.
How do we change that?
Accept your strengths and weaknesses. Accept your uniqueness, what makes you you. No, MK didn't belong in their world, but that gave her unique advantages and connections to the human world. A different perspective that could turn the tides of battle.
Yes, Ronin was over-protective. But perhaps it was that--the hurt he had seen--that made him such a good leader, willing to give anything for those we cared about most.
Yes, Nod was reckless. But is was his spirit of adventure that stepped in and pulled the Leafmen together for one more battle when the odds were slim.
You be you. You've got something no one else has. Use it to its full potential.
And remember, everyone you're working with has their unique strengths and weaknesses, too. Maybe where you have the disadvantage, they excel. Find a way to bring them in. To encourage them to make the most of their abilities. Nod wouldn't have come along if Ronin hadn't asked. MK's dad wouldn't have helped them if she had given up on him.
There will be mistakes as you and your team mates figure out those strengths and weaknesses and how to use them. Throughout Epic, all three characters make pretty big mistakes--multiple of which cost lives. While our mistakes aren't likely to do that, they can cause other problematic fall out. There's nothing to do but to climb back on your bird and fly again. To sort through the fall out and try again.
This is not a feel-good post that says anything is possible when you work together. People are weird creatures. Some people reading this may truly not have anyone to support them. It's tough. It's really tough. But don't give up. Look for people who can help you, and people that you can help. Get connected somehow, even if it's not quite in the way you thought it would look.
It's good advice for all of us--don't give up. Epic is a little over ninety minutes long. Imagine if even one of the trio of characters had given up thirty minutes in. Imagine what could happen if you give up now.
Many leaves, one tree. Now climb your tree.
*Ever seen Epic? What did you think? What's your team like? Share your adventures in the comments below!*
I was tagged for the Liebster Award by Jade Sky from Stepping Stones Book Reviews (https://steppingstonesbookreviews.blogspot.com) this past week. The Liebster Award is just a way for bloggers to give nods to other bloggers, and for you readers to learn a little bit more about us and find some more fun blogs!
Here's the official rules (if you believe in official):
1. Thank the person who nominated you, include a link to their blog, and add the Liebster Award badge to your blog and/or post.
2. Answer the eleven questions from the person who nominated you.
3. Give eleven random facts about yourself.
4. Nominate 5-11 fellow bloggers with less than 200 followers.
5. Notify your nominees that you nominated them for the Liebster Award.
6. Ask your nominees eleven questions.
So, many thanks to Jade Sky for the honor! Without further ado, here are my answers to her questions!
What was your goal/purpose when you first started blogging? Do you feel that goal or purpose has changed in any way?
I started out blogging (or rather as an email newsletter) just wanting to connect with other writers and encourage them. As I worked on these posts, I realized it was kind of hard for me to brainstorm ideas in the strictly encouragement category. It was just not a style of writing that worked for me. But the few posts that I had written that drew lessons from books or movies that my peers had read/seen and applied those lessons to the writing journey resonated with me. So I decided to do those types of posts all the time. And I actually got a website! So I wouldn’t say my goal has changed, but my means definitely have.
What’s your favorite part about blogging?
Because of the types of posts I do, I love getting to analyze books and movies with other people and learn from them.
What’s your go-to comfort snack? Why?
I’m not really a comfort snacker, but I love most anything pretzel. On the sweet side, I love Reese’s peanut butter cups, peanut butter Snickers, and Hershey’s Symphony bars. Popcorn would make the list as well.
If you could go see any movie in a movie theater, what would you want to see and why?
Just one? Alright . . . Call me weird, but the original How to Train Your Dragon (can you imagine the flying and battle scenes on the big screen?!), Big Hero 6 (because all the detail is so neat already, I mean, really, those tiny little microbots), or Beyond the Mask (because it’s one of my very favorites).
Do you consider yourself an introvert, an extrovert, or a mixture of both?
Die-hard introvert. To the extreme!
Who’s your favorite music artist?
I’ve got a nice handful, including Natalie Grant, Point of Grace, Mercy Me, Jeremy Camp, and Matthew West. But I also like listening to epic orchestral covers while I write.
What’s a funny memory from when you were a little kid?
My very first story was one I wrote in the first grade. It was about a bear who left his cave to go to the library. Only I wasn’t the best speller, so he was going to the “libeary.” My momma thought it was hilarious. I couldn’t fathom why.
Are you a morning or night person?
Neither. A permanently exhausted pigeon, perhaps?
If you could immediately learn to speak any new language, which one would you choose? Why?
Gaelic would be really cool, because I’m super intrigued by the Scottish and Irish. But for my current work in progress, Russian would be helpful, too.
If you could donate a million dollars to any charity or nonprofit organization, which one would you pick?
I would look for one that either supports literacy for kids, or one that centers on helping teens going through hard situations.
What’s the best thing you’ve learned from 2020?
It has actually been an opportunity to learn so much about my writing—I look back at my writing from last January compared to my writing now and am amazed. But I also feel like I learned a lot about myself, how I operate, and what I need to keep myself going so I can be myself.
And now for the random facts! (Cause we love random here.)
There you have it! And now I will nominate a handful of fantastic bloggers! (Disclaimer: I have no idea how many followers they have by the way. I'm completely guessing.)
1. Allison Grace (https://allisongracewrites.com)
2. Anna Knipe (https://annaknipewriter.wixsite.com/blog)
3. Hailey Huntington (https://haileyhuntington.com)
4. Hannah (https://www.precariousbookstacks.com/)
5. Hope Ann (https://authorhopeann.com)
6. Ryan Elizabeth (https://ryanelizabethwrites.com/)
Should they choose to accept, they will then answer these questions:
That's all from me! Go ahead and enjoy some of those fantastic blogs listed!
I recently watched the new Grinch (by Illumination Pictures) with my family. While I haven't seen either of the other two, this version of the familiar story quickly became a keeper for our Christmas movie collection.
Likely everyone here knows the general basis of the story. A furry green monster called the Grinch hates Christmas because of the years he's spent the holiday by himself. He comes up with an elaborate scheme to quote, "steal Christmas," unquote. And it works.
Or does it? Because even as he stalks away with all their presents, all their trees, all their lights, the Whos are still singing.
And when the Grinch closes his eyes and listens (thanks to some advice from a little girl who believed he was Santa Claus), he realizes what he's been missing.
He returns the gifts, much to the Whos' astonishment, and retreats to his cave. But Cindy Lou still shows up to invite him to her family's Christmas dinner--despite all that he did.
It's there, over the Christmas dinner, in the final minute of the movie, that the Grinch finishes a rhyme equally as applicable to writers as to the Whos. He raises his glass and leads the Whos in a toast.
"To kindness and love, the things we need most."
And he's right. We could argue that it's an incomplete list--after all, where's Jesus. But, God is love, after all.
Christmas is hectic. Christmas in 2020 is even more hectic. And if you're like me, the urge to write doesn't go away because it's Christmas. We're juggling family, decorations, gift shopping, school events, fundraisers, and finishing our novels like items in Max's precariously packed little wagon.
Those are all good things. Fantastic things. It's part of what makes this season special. But I've learned to relax between those spectacular traditions and to just enjoy those moments.
But whatever we're doing, kindness and love are what we need most.
What good is it if I've finished my novel, but not taken time for my family this season?
If I didn't have time to brighten someone's day at work?
If my book is full of twists and turns, but its heart is two sizes too small? If it has nothing to share with the rest of the world?
This is why we're here, doing this, writing. We're the drop of kindness that turns a mean one into a Mr. Grinch. We're the song of love that makes others close their eyes and listen. Or rather, God's kindness and love through us is.
Even as the Grinch leaves Whoville with his sleigh piled high with the Whos' Christmas, Cindy's mother, Donna comforts her daughter who fears the missing Christmas is her fault. "He didn't steal Christmas," she says. "He just stole stuff. Christmas is in here." She lays a hand over her heart.
The same is true of us. We know what Christmas is really about--Love that came into a world of Grinchs. Worse than Grinchs, actually. Who would die for them. Who would rise for them. For us.
Kindness and love.
Christmas is inside us. And nothing can steal it from us. Not 2020. Not a Grinch with elaborate inventions.
So this Christmas, let's listen with our hearts and refuse to keep silent.
To kindness and love, the things we need most!
*Which version of The Grinch is your favorite? Original, live action, or remake? How are you sharing kindness and love this Christmas season? Share your adventures in the comments below!
Alright, so it has nothing to do with writing, but if you can't post puppy graphics around Christmas, when can you post them?
Alright, so I have a writing one, too.
As the Christmas decorations go up, let's take one more moment to appreciate fall! (I may or may not be listening to Christmas music as I write this, I will neither confirm nor deny.) This neat blog tag comes to you courtesy of Ryan Elizabeth Writes--check out her answers to the tag and her cool website here: https://ryanelizabethwrites.com/2020/11/25/finally-fall-book-tag/
P.S. If you have a blog and are interested in participating, consider yourself tagged!
With formalities out of the way, let's begin!
1. In fall the air is crisp and clear. Name one book with a vivid setting.
You all had to know I'd bring this book up at some point. Fawkes by Nadine Brandes is one of my all-time favorite books and I recommend it to anyone and everyone. Some of the depth and the magic of this book is rooted in that vivid setting. Not only did she do such a creative and real job showing me 17th century London, but add in the color magic and the secret wars fought in its streets? Brilliant.
2. Nature is beautiful . . . but also dying. Name a book that is beautifully written, but also deals with a heavy topic like loss or grief.
*surveys shelves and cringes* I can think of quite a few, so I'm going to cheat and put down a couple. First off, Healer's Bane by Hope Ann. This little book is one of my very favorites, as it follows a girl gifted with mysterious healing powers as she attempts to save the entire world. The question it asked--"If you had a chance to take the pain of the entire world away, would you do it?--was so thought-provoking and really made me consider how I would answer.
I also want to mention Dust by Kara Swanson. Amidst the beauty and magic of Neverland, one still had to acknowledge the dark of London's streets. She addressed so many hard topics--depression, anxiety, suicide, self-harm--in a non-threatening way that pointed to the light.
And to finish it off, Roseanna White's Codebreakers trilogy handles those themes in all three in unique and meaningful ways.
3. Fall is back-to-school season. Share a non-fiction book that taught you something new.
Honors for this one will have to go to Better by Jen Wilkin. I'd never done any of her studies before, and her method of studying passages was very unique. It made me reconsider my studying methods and implementing them into my personal Bible study.
Honorable mentions to Love Riot by Sara Barratt and Crazy Love by Francis Chan. While they weren't so much teaching me something new, they reminded me of things I should have never forgotten. Things that could change my life.
4. In order to keep warm, it's good to spend time with people we love. Name a fictional family/household/friend group you'd love to be a part of.
The family of Roseanna White's Shadows Over England trilogy. Okay, well, I wouldn't exactly like to be a thief, but the way the various members support and look out for each other always makes me smile. Even though they are no blood relation. Even when hurt accosts them. Even when they themselves change. Their devotion always amazes me. The world could use more of it. (Reminds me of my own family. *grins*)
5. The nights are getting darker. Share a dark, creepy read.
Okay, so . . . I actually don't do creepy books. Because why? However, a fantastic series that I've read that could classify on the creepy side would be Dreamhouse Kings by Robert Liparulo. This. Series. Is. Epic. I mean, they can travel through time through doors in their house, people! Now if only they could go somewhere where there wasn't imminent death or danger waiting . . .
One of the best things about Dreamhouse Kings though, is that even though it has those creepy moments (and let's be clear--the villain is a creep), that's not the focal point of the series. It's really a story about two brothers growing closer together as they battle to save their mom. It's always pointing to the light, even when it's not immediately clear. (P. S. Frenzy is the best, but you have to read the rest of the series to get there!)
(Honorable mention to Jaime Jo Wright's books!)
6. Fall is the perfect time for some storytelling by the fireplace. Share a book wherein someone is telling a story.
Would you like to hear the story of how Anastasia Romanova actually escaped the Bolsheviks and saved her family name? Look no further than Romanov by Nadine Brandes. This is another of my very favorites--it's so beautiful and heartbreaking, all wrapped up in a magical Russian adventure.
7. The days are getting colder. Name a short, heartwarming read that could warm up someone's cold and rainy day.
Upon further perusal of my shelves, I have decided upon A Drop of Mercy by Becky McGurrin. While I haven't read this one in a while (*adds to reread list*), I remember it as a story that spoke volumes about forgiveness for its short size.
8. Fall returns every year. Name an old favorite that you'd like to return to soon.
You've heard of a lot of them! Fawkes, Romanov, Dust, Healer's Bane, Codebreakers, and Shadows Over England would all make that list. I'd also add Jocelyn Green's Between Two Shores, Lynn Austin's Where We Belong, and Melanie Dickerson's The Princess Spy to that list.
Now to tag some bloggers!
Allison Grace: https://allisongracewrites.com/
Hope Ann: https://authorhopeann.com/blog/
What about you? How would you answer these fun fall questions? Share your adventures in the comments!
I used to think there was something wrong with me. At least with my reading habits.
I could zip through any novel anyone handed me in just a few days’ time. I could enthuse about the characters, the story, and the writing until people went cross-eyed. I could understand what the author was trying to say through it and often thought about how it applied to me.
But even though I had a stack of wonderful nonfiction books that I so wanted to read, I had to force myself through them. Even when I developed a reading plan to study some of these books, I had to take it one chapter at a time. Sometimes only a half-chapter.
Why? How could I breeze through a four-hundred page novel, but drag myself through a forty-page nonfiction study?
Some of it may have been the different style of writing. Nonfiction tends to have a wider vocabulary and harder concepts. They take time to think on and understand before you move to the next chapter. By their very writing, much of nonfiction is something to ponder, not breeze through.
But can we also face it?—sometimes fiction writers get a bad rap. In movies (more so than books), we’re portrayed as ditzy idealists who spend our days in the clouds, out of touch with reality, and consuming far too much coffee. At best, we're misguided dreamers. At worst, we're hypocrites and liars. More often than not, it seems nonfiction works are applauded as world-changing books.
And they are. I could give you a list of nonfiction books right now that have been revolutionary to me (Crazy Love by Francis Chan, Love Riot by Sara Barrett, Steadfast Love by Lauren Chandler, It’s Worth It by Macey McLain, and Priscilla Shirer’s books, for starters).
None of this is meant to bash nonfiction. There is a huge ministry there, and it is exactly what reaches some people. Some nonfiction authors have fantastic writing styles that make it easy to read.
But few people realize the powers fiction writers hold. Sometimes not even fiction writers themselves.
Few people realize that novels are world-changing books, too.
It took me years to decipher my problem with nonfiction. Here’s what I’ve noticed—a few things that prove that the novel you’ve been wanting to read might just be even more meaningful than your average devotional.
Life is tough. Really tough. Each of us have our own problems we’re trying to scale. Whether or not they’re “big” in comparison to things in the world or another person’s problems doesn’t matter. They are big to us.
I’m no exception. And when I’ve been going through the hardest things in my life, when I was hurt or angry or overwhelmed, I didn’t turn to a deep theological tome. I searched for an escape.
And I found that escape in fiction. I’d take a book off my shelf—maybe one I’d read a dozen times before, maybe one I hadn’t gotten around to reading. I’d pop in a movie. I’d lose myself in someone else’s world for a while. For a couple hours I’d travel the streets that connect London to Neverland, break codes in World War I, and explore revolutionary Philadelphia.
And as they battle pirates, race against opposite agents, and stop plots that could have changed the course of American history, I battle right alongside the characters. I return to my own world with a new hope that if they could solve their problems, then so could I.
Once I dive into a story, I become best friends with characters who have the same feelings I do, even though our situations are vastly different.
I’m not a codebreaker in World War I (never have been, either), but when Margot de Wilde cuts her hair to lash out at the snobby matron at the hospital, I understood. I understood that deep-burning anger that made me want to do something drastic. (The Number of Love by Roseanna White)
I’m not a girl with a mysterious healing powers, but I understood Kynet’s desire to protect those she cared most about and to make the most of the gift she’d been given. (Healer's Bane by Hope Ann)
I’m definitely not Anastasia Romanova, but as she struggled to forgive the people who had hurt her so deeply, I thought of those who had hurt me and struggled with her. (Romanov by Nadine Brandes)
Characters get angry. They get scared. They make mistakes. They cry. They feel overlooked. They keep things locked inside that they wish they could shout to the world.
My feelings are shown to be something valid, even if I feel like no one in my world hears them. Something real. And I realize that my feelings are okay. They’re normal. I’m not alone. I can work through them.
Anyone can spout off a string of colorful Christian-ese that means nothing. (Heads up: nobody beseeches anybody anymore. It’s a shame, but it’s true. Just saying.) I can’t count the times when we’ve read a family devotional and the author has said something along the lines of “You shouldn’t judge others” or “You must let God free you from your chains”—and there the devotional ends. Thanks for nothing! Even if they lay out exactly why we should do these things, there was no follow through. Being the logical, analytical person I am, I need practical, real-world examples of how these things work.
Fawkes showed me how to seek truth as a young person in a world full of diverse voices more than any sermon ever did.
How to Train Your Dragon showed me what it looked like to find your place in the world as you grow up better than any how-to book.
Big Hero 6 showed me it’s okay to hurt, and how it looks to hurt the right way better than booklet on grief.
Fiction drags us into the adventure even if we don’t have the hope to look for one anymore and shows us hands-on what victory looks like.
So, at long last, I’ve come to grips with my novel-istic tendencies. And I've learned that those who step into that world are not just naive liars. Fiction is a way to reach people who would never pick up a devotional as well as people who would.
Because deep down, we all long for adventure. And fiction serves it up beautifully right next to the answers we need.
*cue dramatic foot-stomping*
Don't judge me--but I only recently saw The Greatest Showman. I don't usually like musicals (I SAID don't judge me), but I really enjoyed the plot, characters, and yes, the music to this one.
A secret I'm pretty sure you didn't know about me--I love to analyze books and movies. (Shocking, isn't it? I never would have guessed . . .)
And as I thought through The Greatest Showman, I realized the whole movie is about joy. Chasing happiness. Making others happy. Finding happiness yourself.
If you've chosen to be a writer (or any host of other careers), chances are you've chosen it because you love it. Because you can't not do it. Because it stirs something in you that no other career does. Because it's your passion.
But there come days when we don't love writing. Where scenes are messy and drafts are rough (even rougher than usual). Where editing has us pulling out our hair. And let's not even talk about marketing!
Sometimes writing just isn't the greatest show.
The Greatest Showman offered a lot of answers to the question, "How do you find true joy?" Barnum thought when he made it all and proved himself to society and his family, he would have joy. (Spoiler alert: it didn't.) Charity (and Jenny, technically) thought who they loved would fulfill them and make them happy. (Spoiler alert: it didn't.) Philip and Anne thought the safe and familiar and comfortable would keep them happy. (Guess what? It didn't.)
It was Philip who got it first, I think. He saw those circus performers who refused to let anyone else define them. They chose to be themselves--and give others a smile while they were at it.
And when Philip took risks, and opened up, and threw all of himself into the show and loving Anne, no matter what anyone thought, he was truly happy. No matter what happened.
Writing isn't about making it. It's not about proving ourselves to whoever. It's not about earning approval and a good deal of money on the side. It's not safe and comfy and familiar.
We're here to serve others. Maybe to take a few risks. To push a few boundaries of what's considered comfy. To put on the greatest show for more than a few hours. To put a million dreams into words that will last forever. To bring the world a lasting smile.
Because we know what The Greatest Showman didn't. That true joy comes from the One Who writes our story. The Author we get to introduce the world to through our stories, however that may look. That's what keeps us writing. That's what makes us love what we do. That's what makes the show go on.
And that truly is the noblest art.
*Have you seen The Greatest Showman? What did you think of it? Did it teach you anything? Share your adventures in the comments below!
Have you ever seen the movie Turbo? About a snail that races in the Indy 500? It’s one of those fun family films that you can just sit down, enjoy, and laugh about together.
But, like the best of fun family films, Turbo isn’t all fun and games. From the first scene, this
movie moves towards a message—How do you follow your dreams when it seems impossible?
Because Theo (Turbo) has big dreams. He wants to race.
But he also has a problem. He’s a snail.
Even when an encounter involving a street race and nitrous oxide give him super speed, Theo still keeps running into problems between him and his dream.
How do you race after your dream . . .
When no one supports you?
When you’re too small?
When your dream is too big?
Let’s face it. We’re dreamers. It’s in us as much as racing was in Theo. We dream big, and we don’t stop there. We chase our dreams.
And run into much the same problems Theo did.
What does a racing snail teach us about those big, impossible dreams?
Buckle in, start your engines, and prepare for me to over-analyze an animated film.
Theo didn’t make it to the Indy 500 by himself. Even though he had unique abilities, he still needed help. So do we.
Family. Theo’s brother, Chet, doesn’t seem to be Theo’s greatest supporter at first. He’s constantly worried that Theo will fall prey to crows, tetanus, or worst of all, salt. He wants to protect Theo from getting hurt—which makes him angry when Theo takes risks.
I honestly never considered that some writers’ parents didn’t support their career. My family does in so many amazing ways, and I can’t remember a time that they haven’t. So it breaks my heart when I see students in my writing community talk about the lack of support from those most important to them.
Whether your family supports your dream or not, remember they love you and want to protect you. Keep them in your loop, even if it means you have to educate them sometimes about how this dream of yours works. Share your goals with them. Let them see how passionate you are. Like Chet, they may just end up being the ones that cheer the loudest as you cross the finish line.
Racers. Theo found help in the snail crew of Starlight Plaza. While the racing crew didn’t have the same abilities as Theo, and raced in very different ways, they still got him where he needed to be, whether that was convincing those humans to drive them to Indy or saving Theo from an unfortunate racing name like Fasty. (Humans! What do they know?)
Find people who are in the same “race” as you, ones who are passionate and chasing the same dreams you are, even if they race in very different ways than you do.
Friends. This doesn’t just mean you hang out only with people interested in the same stuff you are. In fact, most of Theo’s friends (and biggest supporters, I mean, it takes money to get to Indy) weren’t racers. They were mechanics, hobby store owners, nail salon owners, and taco truck drivers. But they believed in Theo, invested in him, and stuck with him. Remember that your biggest supporters may not share your dream—but they will help you reach it.
After Theo runs a disorienting thirty laps in the race, he arrives at the pit stop dead last, disillusioned, and disappointed. The cars are much more powerful and the track so much larger than he’d imagined.
Fellow snail Whiplash smacks him upside the eyes (what are friends for?). “Are you a car?” he shouts.
“No,” Theo replies.
“Are. You. A. Car?” Whiplash shouts louder.
“No!” Theo yells back.
“Then stop driving like one!”
Stop driving like one.
With that bit of shall we call it encouragement, Theo zips off back into the race. He soon discovers that as a speeding snail, he can do things those powerful cars can’t—like zoom under other cars, ride sideways on the wall, or even hide out in a car’s hubcap to avoid being crushed.
No matter what our dream is, there will be other people in that race we admire—cars, if you will. And we’ll be disappointed when we discover they can do things that we just can’t.
But you just be you. Maybe you can’t do what they can. But you weren’t made to. You were made to do things that only you can do in a way that only you can. You can do things that they can’t. No one can tell your story quite the way you can. Find what you do well and roll with it.
You’re not a car. Stop driving like one.
(For more on this topic and more over-analysis of a Dreamworks movie, check out this blog post: https://racheljleitch.weebly.com/adventure-journal/its-all-you)
As the taco truck full of misfit racing crew pulls into Indianapolis, Theo joins Chet at the window. As usual, Chet is worried for his little brother and doesn’t mind saying so.
“Theo,” he wonders, “what if you wake up tomorrow and all your powers are gone? What then?”
Theo watches the Welcome to Indianapolis sign slide past. “Well,” he states matter-of-factly, “then I’d better make the most of today.”
We can’t really count on anything. Things change. The best we can do is use the day, the hour, the minute we’ve got. Figure out what it will take for you to reach your goals. And then race after it with all your heart.
“He hath made every thing beautiful in His time: also He hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)
*Have you ever seen Turbo? What did you think of it? What are your dreams? Who’s your crew? How will you meet your dreams? Share your adventures in the comments!
In other news . . . it's ProseWorthy's birthday! (Or it was a couple weeks ago on the 16th.) Two years of doing this crazy thing called a website. So I left you a graphic below.
In all seriousness, thank you all for not unsubscribing (*grins*) and for tuning in for my randomness every month. Your support really does mean a lot both to me and to my writing. Here's to many more months of literary ramblings!
COVID-19. It came out of nowhere. One day, it was overseas and only as close as a newscast. The next, I was walking out of the elementary school I worked at for an impromptu four-week break, watching students pack up everything from their lockers. The next, those four weeks became five months.
Everything then was COVID, COVID, COVID. And I'd decided my newsletter wasn't going to be one of them. I was going to stay upbeat and positive and be like, "What COVID?"
Well, here it is.
It's impossible for something as earthshaking as a pandemic to leave such a big part of our lives as writing alone. Suddenly, I went from having two solid solitary hours (not counting my work breaks at school) devoted to writing to being constantly surrounded by people (albeit people I love) and chores vying for my attention.
A learning curve, to be sure.
But what did I learn? And what did I change?
When you're only scratching out thirty minutes in a corner with a notebook and headphones, you appreciate those writing sessions more. Things I took for granted--like quiet, headphones, and having time to write at all--became very precious. The help people gave me by taking on chores and other responsibilities so I could have that time became very valuable (more on this later).
As I head back into "business as usual", I hope I'll never forget this time and the gratitude it built in me.
With less time protected for writing, I had to learn to get more done in less time. I quickly discovered what was important and what could wait. This meant some days I didn't check email so I could write.
I made goals and figured out what I needed to do to meet them. I made a schedule of what I needed to work on each day and did all I could to stick to them. The days that I knew what I needed to do were so much more productive than those I didn't. Goals are nothing if I have no plan to get there.
I took the chances that came to me--whether it was short story contests or five free minutes to scribble a paragraph down. Never let yourself feel guilty for taking those chances.
As a result, I hope I've built some good habits that will last me my writing career.
Sometimes it's easy for us writers to forget we need other people in on this journey. People are not stumbling blocks. They want to help us get where we need to go.
I let my family in on my goals. After all, they were at home all the time just like I was. Once they knew what I was working toward, some of them began to help me protect that writing time. It's okay to ask for help! It's okay for that one basket of laundry to wait an hour so you can write! The world will not end because of a few socks that aren't folded yet! (I don't think so, anyway.)
I found a time to connect with other writers--to encourage and to be encouraged. I engaged with the content in my writing lessons and virtual conferences. I asked more questions than I thought I had in me, then figured out how to apply the answers. I learned to value an email to a writer friend just as much as editing thousands of words. But at the same time, I learned to not let those connections distract me when I really needed to be writing.
For the first time in my life, I had to go a day, sometimes more, without writing. Siblings, chores, and a new puppy that demanded attention conspired to keep me from my notebook. It was frustrating. It was stressful. It was MADDENING.
But I learned to still let my imagination work behind the scenes. To take that time to read and imagine. Just because I wasn't in front of a paper, didn't mean I wasn't still creating. To not punish others for a day that I couldn't write by having a poor attitude about it. To still use that wordless day to do good. To trust that those days still had infinite purpose. Writing isn't everything.
COVID-19 was a learning curve. A long one at that. But I hope I've learned things, started habits, and built relationships I'll never regret.
*I would also like to add a huge shout-out thank-you to my family for all they did to help me have time and energy to write during this crazy time! Any writing I didn't get done was not for your lack of effort to get me writing. I so appreciate it!*
*How has your writing been during this crazy thing called a pandemic? Has it been easier or harder? Share your adventures in the comments below!*
In other news, it's been pretty warm here . . .
Hi, I'm Rachel! I'm the author of the posts here at ProseWorthy. Thanks for stopping by!