I was recently reminded of the value of taking little steps to achieve a big goal. If you’re a football fan, you are probably familiar with the phrase, “It’s a game of inches,” made popular by a screaming Al Pacino in the 1999 film, Any Given Sunday.
I truly believe that writing is also a game of inches. That’s how I wrote my very first novel. I had no idea what I was doing and it would be another ten years before that book actually became a published novel, but I started by simply telling myself to write a few paragraphs every day.
Writing a book seemed impossible, even writing a chapter, but a paragraph? I could do that.
Once again, my bad boy horse has outworn his welcome. This is the fourth time, I’ve sent him to a new home, with great hopes that this would be the one, but like a furry boomerang he is coming back. Only this time, I don’t have a pasture to put him in.
All I can say is that ever since visiting the Shenandoah Valley fifteen years ago to run a trail race, it’s had a hold of me. I came home from that first trip having run the mountains, discovered wineries, stomped divets at a polo game, meandered through tiny downtowns, and soaked up the quiet and peace, I told Nick, “You have to come to Virginia with me.”
This past year has felt a bit surreal. As if the world was unplugged and we are collectively holding our breath, waiting for it to be plugged back in and spring to life like my laptop after a hard shut down.
Some writers I know have been absolutely unable to write. Their worlds disrupted understandably.
Finding the time to write isn’t always as hard as finding the focus to write.
My house is full of distractions—animals, chores, deliveries, laundry, phone calls, the list goes on and on especially since this has become as much our bunker as our home.
And then there’s the other inhabitants who are currently working from here instead of where they have always worked for most of my writing career. I am never alone at my house. And even if these people are on a different floor, doing their own thing, not paying a lick of attention to me, their presence stifles my writing.
Today writing seems like a better option than watching the news. But then again, that’s probably the better option most days.
And yet, the news informs our writing. It’s hard not to let political opinions and party affiliations slip into our prose. I consciously censor myself. Never wanting a snap judgment of my politics to keep a reader from hearing my story.
That wasn’t always the case. I am deeply passionate about my own political beliefs, and there was a time I knocked on doors and watched polls and wrote op-eds.
As politics has gotten more divisive, I made a conscious decision to keep it out of my writing community. I want to be an open-minded person who can handle hearing beliefs on both sides, but these days it’s so very hard to have a civil conversation. There is too much judgment, too much assuming and blaming and generalizing.
So, right now, while the future of my country hangs in the balance, I know that speaking my mind won’t change any hearts or the outcome of the election. It will only alienate friends and invite argument.
But as we move forward from whatever happens, I wish I could find the words to share my absolute desire that we learn to listen to one another. That we lead with our hearts, informed by our heads, but without the knee-jerk judgment and the hate mongering. We have to—there is no other way to save the soul of this country.
In my stories, even in my ‘dogoirs’, I always, always stress the positive. I believe in happy endings. I write them into my fiction and I advocate for them in my work with shelters and rescues.
I believe that the heart of this country is good, and that most people would rather choose love than hate. Hate leaves a bad taste on your soul and poisons your days. It makes the world darker, heavier, and so very sad. It isolates you, even when you join forces and hate something together. Somehow we need to learn to disagree without hating.
That’s my own challenge, and one I am wrestling this week while watching the election returns. We will never, ever move forward and tackle the bigger issues of this world until we stop hating each other and start agreeing to disagree on some issues, while working together to tackle others. We cannot let hate and judgment and the crazy need to be right or to win, dictate what comes next.
What comes next will impact the lives of our children and our grandchildren. Maybe we need to remember this as we face our ‘foes’.
I don’t know what comes next for this country. I can only control my response to the outcome, and no matter the outcome, I plan to choose love. I will acknowledge my own frustration or disappointment or even my joy at the outcome, but I will also remember and respect that at least half my country wanted a different outcome.
It is a great temptation to disengage, to bow out and retreat. That seems the easier path. And maybe one I will take for a while. But the lessons of this election season will inform me; they will inform my writing.
I hope I can move forward gently, with calm acceptance and genuine curiosity of other people’s views, allowing for respectful disagreement, but knowing that a heart is a heart and one is not worth more than another.
Hey, thanks for reading. I know you’ve got lots of options, so thanks for sharing a few of your minutes with me.
If you live anywhere near the PA/MD border, I’d love to meet you this Saturday when I’ll be supporting my favorite locally owned shop, Soulshine Boutique. Stop by to see me and ALL of my books between 10am and 2pm (the shop is open until 8 and I will likely stick around longer than 2, but the books will definitely stick around longer because Lisa carries them in her shop). I’ll have special gifts for anyone who drops in to see me.
If you’re curious about what I’m up to, check out my website, CaraWrites.com.
If you’d like to subscribe to my (sometimes) monthly e-newsletter, click here.
My latest book was recently released from Pegasus books – 100 Dogs & Counting: One Woman, Ten Thousand Miles, and a Journey Into the Heart of Shelters and Rescues is available anywhere books are sold, but if you’d like some help finding it (or want to read some lovely reviews), click here.