Yesterday, I was listening to my writing teacher as she talked about the three kinds of research writers need to do–functional, to find facts; inspirational, to uncover and discover which opens the desire to write; and imaginative, to think about and plan the story they want to write. She guided us through several exercises of imagining ourselves in different settings. While I’ve always thought of myself as having a good imagination, I appreciated the fullness of the exercise. Being able to flesh out my writing with more details and complexity will make my story a better story, and that’s a good thing.
She did warn us though that it would be hard to stay in one setting for a full three minutes without our minds wandering. She was right. I constantly had to battle thoughts of what I needed to be doing, what was happening later on that day, and what was happening where I was. I found that I couldn’t keep my mind in the particular setting for very long. In fact, I had to try the exercise several times before I manage the particulars of it. I found it illuminating. Imagining myself in a particular setting could add more detail to my writing. I just needed to master the technique.
I listened to the rest of the lectures before arriving at the assignment for this module. My teacher wanted us to set a story in one of three particular areas and write the first pages of it. I looked at the three choices, and though I had personally been in each setting, nothing came to me. I couldn’t think of anything that would be a good beginning for a story so I decided to let it sit overnight. It turned out to be a good thing because when I woke up, it came to me. I could write a fictional memoir of one of the most traumatic times I had ever been in a hospital setting. I could bring awareness to a disease that’s rarely talked about, and it might end up being something I would want to finish. So, hospital setting it is. One more thing before I start my story. I do believe a story can be written without an author having personal experience with a setting. This is where functional research comes in so detail and context can be added to make the setting more layered. Now, without further adieu, here is the story I wrote for writing class.
An Invisible Illness
Kristen took the cup of coffee from her mother-in-law. “Thanks, Linda.” She blew on the top to cool it off and took a sip. ‘Ugh, typical hospital coffee,’ she thought to herself placing it on the table next to her. Linda had tried. She could see where creamer and sugar had been mixed in, but it still tasted awful. She settled back in her seat wishing that the bright, blinking lights could be turned down or off. “So, how long has he been in there?”
Of course, her father-in-law answered. “Fifteen minutes.” He tapped his watch. “It’s been fifteen minutes since you came out here. I’m keeping track.”
The calm that had enveloped her after the surgeon had prayed with her and Daniel threatened to evaporate. She took a deep breath. “Thanks, Bill.” The surgery Daniel was having wasn’t supposed to be complicated. ‘Just temporary,’ he had said, ‘and hopefully, it can be reversed in a few months.’ She took another breath trying to corral her thoughts. A colostomy shouldn’t be that bad, right? And if the medicine worked, they could put everything back together in three months. Then, Daniel would be healthy, and they could get back to living.
Another fifteen minutes passed. Then, thirty. They had been joined by the pastor, deacon, and women’s ministry leader of hers and Daniel’s church and her best friend, Bonnie, who leaned over and whispered to her, “Why do they all look like sourpusses? Aren’t church people supposed to be nice?”
Kristin covered her mouth so no one would hear her giggle. Bonnie could always make her laugh. She was right though. They all looked like sourpusses. She closed her eyes trying to fend off the raging headache that was threatening to come out. Bill’s voice roused her. “The surgery is taking longer than he told us. Shouldn’t the nurse come out here and give us an update?” He glanced around and then back at his watch, his movements competing with the bright, blinking lights.
As if almost on cue, the intercom sounded. “Mrs. Miller, we have an update for you. Mrs. Miller, there’s an update.”
Kristin rose and walked to the desk noticing that Linda had pulled Bill back down to his seat. She knew Linda had told him she was entitled to the information first, and she was grateful. Mother-in-laws didn’t come any better than Linda. She took the phone from the smiling nurse and said, “This is Mrs. Miller.” It seemed like the voice on the other end talked forever. Her eyes and mouth widened in shock. “Thank you for your update, ma’am.”
She handed the phone back to the nurse and walked slowly back to her group. Bill noticed her shocked look first. “What’s wrong, Kristin? Is Daniel ok?”
“They think he will be, Bill.” Kristin took a breath so she could get the info out. “But, he’s going to be in surgery for another seven-eight hours. His colon and rectum both need to come out, and they will be creating a permanent ileostomy. It’s all damaged beyond repair.” She sat in the chair like a balloon had deflated.
It seemed like everyone started talking at once and wanting further information. Finally, the pastor was able to get a word in edgewise. “I’m sorry, Kristin. I hope everything goes well, but,” he motioned to the other two from the church, “we will need to leave. We have other visits to make.”
Kristin schooled her features like she didn’t care. “Of course, Dr. Wilson.” She got up and shook his hand and the others. “Thank you all for coming.” The group left, and all she could think was that she didn’t have to maintain a church face anymore. She sat back down. “Anyone else want to take off?”
Linda shook her head. “Of course not, honey. We’re gonna stay…”
Bill interrupted her holding up his phone. “I just looked up what you said on this new-fangled phone. Daniel might be dying…” He stretched out the last syllable before rapidly speaking every possible thing that could happen.
Linda and Bill started arguing about his hypochondria and about appropriate things to say in the hospital. It was maddening to Kristin though she was familiar with Bill’s quirks. Finally, she had enough. “He almost died, you fucking moron.” Her volume increased with her anger and frustration. “He coded on the table, and they had to restart his heart. Hopefully, it won’t happen again, but right now, I need you to go away!”
Her in-laws and Bonnie stood with their mouths agape having never seen her that angry. Linda grabbed Bill’s arm and drug him away despite his protests. “You didn’t need to say that to her. And she’s right. You are a fucking moron.” She called over her shoulder to Kristin and Bonnie. “We’ll bring lunch back for you girls.”
Once they entered the elevator, Kristin sat back down feeling the tension ebb out of her. Were people always this stupid in hospitals? Bonnie joined her. “Better?”
Kristin shook her head. “I might have killed him if he had stayed.”
“What happened? Did Daniel really code?”
“Yes.” Kristin nodded grimly. “His Crohn’s has progressed further than the doctors thought. His colon and rectum are beyond repair. If they hadn’t opened him up today…” She left the thought unspoken.
“But, they did,” said Bonnie, “and they’re gonna fix it. Daniel’s gonna be there for you and your girls.”
“I hope so.”
“I know so.” Bonnie took her hands in hers. “You’ve taught me so much about Crohn’s Disease. I didn’t even know it existed until I met you and Daniel.”
“Yeah, it’s an invisible illness, all right. No one knows a lot about it unless they know someone with it or have it themselves.” She felt someone tap her shoulder and turned to see an older woman. “Can I help you, ma’am?”
The woman had short brown hair and welcoming brown eyes. “Hi, my name’s Stacy. My husband’s having a brain tumor taken out. She shook their hands. “I couldn’t help but overhear. Your husband has Crohn’s Disease?” At Kristin’s nod, she continued, “I try to learn something new every time we come to the hospital. Keeps my mind off of… Anyway, tell me about it. What’s Crohn’s Disease?
Kristin’s eyes teared up as she motioned for Stacy to join them. No one had ever been interested before. As she launched into her explanation, she smiled at Bonnie and her new friend. Maybe things would be okay after all.
Today is the very first day I have ever seen my reasons for writing written in a book. I almost cried. Finally, there was someone who got it. Someone who knew why. I don’t have many people in my life I can talk to about this. And, out of those, most of them are either creatives themselves or married to one. The others don’t get it. So, today, I thought I would write about respecting the creatives in our lives even if we don’t understand them.
First, let me share the quote that touched me to my core. From Jennifer Probst in Write Naked, “Writing helps you find the lost pieces of yourself—those pieces that were misplaced, forgotten, or squashed long, long ago. Through words, we may carve a new path for ourselves or recapture the power to own who we are.” “Recapture the power to own who we are.” I think this is what I’ve been missing as I’ve started on this path of the next phase of my life. I am a creative, and that means I’m different. I think differently, react differently, and look for ideas and things I can translate into words. I always have a story idea rolling around in my head, and I want to talk about things that matter. Trying to fit into a mold I was not meant for is tiring, frustrating, and not what God means for me to do as I live my life.
So, how do I live like this and still live the life God wants me to live among the rest of the world? To answer this question, I think I first need to appropriate a term that the younger generation is using. I need to “find my tribe.” I remember the first time I heard it used. It was a couple of years ago when my older son had first left for college. During my life, I’ve heard it said that people gravitate to the people who are most like them. It’s certainly been true for my son who is in the nerd/geek social club and who now has a girlfriend with similar interests. That doesn’t mean he hasn’t tried different things. (Jamboree 2018 being a prime example) It just means that he has people he feels comfortable with in sharing the deep things of his life. He has “found his tribe.” While I have a tribe of online friends who are creatives, I think I need to do a better job of finding them in real life. People who won’t roll their eyes or tune me out when I want to talk about the important things in my life.
What about the rest of the world who aren’t creatives? How do I deal with them and have relationships without denying myself or going nuts with the banality of the world? The facetious answer would be to buy my own island and limit the people who I let come onto it. My husband and I have talked about this as a lottery goal when we’ve gotten tired of the world’s nonsense. But, that’s dreaming and not realistic, and we both know it. Back to my question. I think it’s important to realize not every relationship in my life will be a soul nourishing one. There will be conversations that mean little, and people who won’t support me or my goals no matter how much I’d like them to. There will be people who just don’t care despite the one or two things we do have in common.
I entitled this post “Respect the Creative” and promised I would give ideas on respecting the creative people in your lives. This is where those ideas are. 🙂 If you have a creative person in your live and sense them starting to drift away, ask them about their work. Ask them what they’re writing, composing, painting, crocheting, knitting…the list goes on. They want to talk about their work, but they want to be listened to as well. Pretending is something they can see through right away.
If their work is for sale, buy it or share it with someone you know would like it. Not only does it help a creative person eat, they know someone else appreciates their work and that they are leaving a legacy behind.
Finally, creative people need to know they’re loved and cherished by the people in their lives. They’re different, and they know they’re different, but they still need to know they’re loved and cared about. That is one need we all have in common.
Have a great day, everyone!
Cross-posted from my Thriving in Grace blog.
The year that starts on Monday is “the year” for me in many ways. It’s “the year” my son graduates from high school, and homeschooling is completed. It’s “the year” that having an empty nest becomes a reality. (It won’t really be an empty nest since my son is staying in town for school, but it will be different since I won’t be teaching him anymore.) It’s “the year” that things change for me, and I enter a new phase of my life. That being said, I thought I would write down some of my goals for this upcoming year so I would have a written record that would hold me accountable.
My first goal is the one that holds some immediacy for me since it is related to my son’s graduation. I need to get his grades and transcript done in order to submit them to the head of our cover school so he can graduate. It’s not like I haven’t been keeping records all of this time. It’s just the matter of pulling everything together. It also hasn’t helped that I don’t need to submit a transcript to his college until it’s complete so it’s been easy to procrastinate. But, I will get it done before the last day. It’s my promise to myself. And once it’s done, I won’t ever need to do home school record-keeping again. Yay! Well, if I’m being honest, only part of me is happy about that, and the other part…not so sure.
My second goal is how I’m going to practice my faith. When I was younger, I attended churches that made a point (whether subtly or not so subtly) of saying that you could only serve God if you were married. Women were also relegated to serving in certain parts of the church–with other women, children, or in the kitchen. I recoil against both of those attitudes. Women have a lot to give to the church, and it’s time we realized it and allowed it to happen. I was able to write this in my journal earlier, and it showed me how far I’ve come in 2017. “I am a daughter of God all on my own! No one else is necessary for me to practice my faith!” Now, as far as my goals go, I have identified an area of service that I plan to get more involved in this year. I feel God calling me to it. I also will go to a Lifewalk group by myself, if necessary, to get the Christian community I want and desire.
The other three goals are directly related to the creative side of myself and will help me, I think, in deciding what comes next after May. The first of these goals is related to my crocheting. I want to learn how to crochet a prayer shawl. I have learned and been successful with two different stitches. I’ll probably need to learn more stitches, but I think crocheting a prayer shawl is a worthy goal for the year. It will help expand my creativity too.
My second creative goal is related to my writing. I need to be reading more so I can see and emulate good writing styles. Reading different genres will expand my horizons and will help me in my quest to use the creativity God gave me.
And finally, my writing goals. I think I was pretty consistent this year with blog posts. I wrote a lot about my faith and the questions it brought up. I was able to clarify my thoughts, feelings, and experiences as well. I also got a start on the novel I want to write before I got stuck. So, for this coming year, I want to get unstuck on my novel, write some short stories and articles, and start submitting. I will never know if I’m good enough if I don’t try, and I finally have the confidence to try. I’m looking forward to writing more and learning more about the trade of writing through submitting my pieces.
In conclusion, I hope that all of us, myself included, reach the goals we set for 2018 and that it’s a year of much blessings for all!