A Swift Kick in the Pants

Dear Ms. Schultz,

I have always noticed the color of people’s eyes. Maybe it’s because vision is important to me (I’ve worn glasses since I was five years old), or maybe it’s the artist in me (getting just the right colors together for a drawing or cake decorating is especially important). But the myriad pigments in terms of eye color astound and enthrall me. All of my children were born with blue eyes, but none as blue as yours. That’s the first thing I noticed when I chatted with you after hearing you speak last week at the Antioch Writers’ Workshop summer program keynote address.

I feel somewhat bad noticing physical attributes because I don’t place much credence on them, but what I realized as I stood there, watching you sign the book I had just purchased, is that those clear, blue eyes of yours probably helped you in your quest to collect and tell stories. Ten seconds into our conversation, I was willing and ready to reveal details about myself, as if I’d known you for years. Given enough time, I could have told you my whole life story, but a line was forming behind me.

Instead, I told you a few details about myself, and that this summer, I needed to take a break from writing, so to speak. You didn’t—and couldn’t—ask why, but let me tell you a bit more about that break. As you know, there’s always more to the story.

It’s been a rough summer for me. I voluntarily added too many tasks to my list of things to do, and I am currently paying the price. But most of what I agreed to do concerns my children (or the community I live and work in) and like you, I’m moved by emotion and possess the desire to help people. So saying no to a friend who asked me to help spearhead a PTA movement wasn’t in the cards. And neither was telling my current place of employment that I didn’t have the time to help them when they sought someone to cover two labs after an adjunct instructor left for a full-time gig. By helping all those other folks, though, my writing has suffered. Greatly.

Back in May, my writing goals looked like this:

  1. Finish up querying for After We’ve Fallen. I’d set a goal for the number of agents I wanted to send letters to. I’d almost reached that goal back in May, but since I started querying too soon, I’ve been thinking about adjusting that number.
  2. Revise my short stories, “Chasing Maggie Finnegan” and “The Boy,” and submit these to at least five places each. (This goal didn’t need to be accomplished until the end of 2018.)
  3. Revise The Chocolate Garden, including a top-to-bottom reworking of one of the main characters, Frank, with the expectation that I’d give the manuscript to my writing group in the fall.
  4. Talk to a few folks I know about starting up a possible mentorship program for writers in the Dayton area.

And now, on July 23, all I’ve accomplished are a few blog posts and a paragraph in The Chocolate Garden. That’s all. My guess is that the word count doesn’t even crack 2000 (how sad is that?). All this from a person who used to pride herself in tackling those word count goals and being pretty productive.

On the other hand, the PTA is off to a good start, the students in my lecture and labs are appreciative of my expertise, and my children are having a great summer. Furthermore, my legs are in great shape—I’ve been walking twice a week in addition to running three days, partly to manage the stress of being overstretched. (I’m shaking my head at myself right now, laughing.)

But not writing is getting to me. I miss the worlds, the characters, and the soaring feeling I get when I jump into my stories. I miss searching for the correct verbiage, connecting multiple parts of a sentence together, and adding a descriptor or two when necessary. The act of writing—sitting at the computer, feeling my fingers fly over the keys, my back vacillating between ramrod straight to shoulders hunched—I miss all of that too.

And I have you to thank for pointing that fact out to me.

During your talk, you told us a bit about you, even more about other folks, and a lot about the power of words. I’ve always been enraptured by words: their origins, definitions, even the sound the word makes. And I’ve often contemplated the idea that writers can change the world with their writing. But your enthusiasm, congeniality, ability to connect to just about everyone, and your stories (oh, the stories!)—they reminded me why the writing bug bit and why it’s stayed with me.

And when I approached you at the table to get a book signed and you looked up at me with your sea blue eyes, my second thought after my kids involved my Grandmother Dorothy who had eyes like you. She wasn’t a writer, but she was a talker, and when she came to visit, she always had something to say. I then thought of my mom, Dorothy’s daughter, who has been silenced by Alzheimer’s. She wanted to be a writer, but never took the chance. For her, it’s too late.

And me? You effectively told me that it’s not too late. When you inscribed the book you wrote,

Christina—I’m glad you enjoyed your break.

Now: Write, write, write.

Connie Schultz

Sometimes it’s easier to follow directions from someone I don’t know, someone who gives me a no-nonsense, simple command to do something. I’ll be following that command later this morning. I’d like to think that Dorothy, who is no longer with us, and Mom, who is no longer cognizant of what and who surround her, would be proud.

Thanks for the inspiration as well as the swift kick in the pants.


P.S. That blue suit you wore really complimented your eyes. I can see why you chose that shade.

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