Learning to Bob

Learning to BobHenry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote, “Into each life some rain must fall.” In Western Pennsylvania, and most of the Northeast quadrant of this country, we’ve seen our fair share of rain lately. Over the weekend, a tornado was even spotted in this area. I was up in town, setting up for the dinner shift at our historic restaurant–which is the glamorous life of a writer, by the way–when I heard a dozen cell phones go off with this newest weather alert. Thinking it was another oh-so-frequent flood warning, many dismissed it. (The weather alerts have become The Boy Who Cried Wolf, even though the boy, in this case, is usually not kidding. Isn’t is strange what we get used to?) I looked at my phone anyway, and said, “It’s not a flood. It’s a tornado this time, a warning, seven miles from here.”

Now, this town has been hit by a tornado, and many remember it clearly. I didn’t live here then, but I have my own tornado experience (and hurricane, and blizzard, and even the fearsome thundersnow), so we did what we do: We listened and heard birds chirping outside. It was an odd sound because, in all this rain lately, you don’t hear the birds so much anymore. The second thing we did was to look toward the front door where we saw the awning gently blowing in a slight breeze. These were signs that the tornado was not headed our way, or at least, not yet, so we all went back to what we were doing and didn’t waste our thoughts on it.

The tornado, which was quite real, did not hit where I was. Could it have? I suppose so. But there are times when life rocks your boat so much that you learn to bob, and panic is just a thing of the past. Does that make you brave? No. Does it make you smart? Hardly. But when Fate is at the door, we’ll simply go to meet her, face-to-merry-face, because we all have a job to do and there’s no guarantee that it’s as bad as we think.

So, I sit here typing today as the basement dries and thunder rolls again on the horizon, thinking about this tremendous month of ups and downs, from weather to writing to people coming and going from the center stage back to lurking in the fringes of my life. And I think about the light and the dark, because it is also said that without the darkness, there can be no light. So let’s undizzy ourselves and look straight ahead, unwavering, and remember that it is in the darkness that experience is born.

Jody Brown is the author of Upside Down Kingdom, available on Amazon. She’s currently penning her second novel, based on the life of a WWII veteran. For more on her writing projects, or for ways to donate toward their completion, see JodyBrown.com/writing.

And the Like

And the LikeIn Writer School, you practice writing what you want to say. And especially in Creative Writer school, any feeling you’re trying to evoke needs to come from the words you choose, so you spend a lot of time thinking about how you feel about something, trying to get to the heart of what you think and feel about it, then putting it all into words so others can share the experience with you. That said, you’re not allowed to be dismissive in this process. You’ll get failing marks if you avoid zeroing in on what you’re trying to say.

Here’s an example of such avoidance:

“It was like, and I was like, and then they like, like, you know what I mean? Like, yeah.”

That, my friends, is 19 words (count them!) of the speaker’s bobbing along on the surface without really getting at anything. The message imparted is clear: the speaker didn’t want to put the effort into digging, finding, and making a point, but is relying on the patience and sympathy of the listener to fill in the gaps.

We all struggle for words at times. I remember one of my high school reading teachers getting tired of teenagers overusing the word like, and challenged us to stand up and talk at random without using it. One girl stood up and did a good job for half a sentence until she lost her trail of thought, stammered, and tossed out a like to fill the silence. I’m not saying I could have done any better. Sitting in my chair quietly taking it all in was my modus operandi. Being asked to stand up in front of everyone and speak off the cuff was, at the time, tantamount to asking to use me as shark bait. But the lesson was clear, and it was one of those moments that I return to in my mind and examine over and over. For the girl who was challenged to stand up, it was the moment of silence that got her.

But a moment of silence to gather your thoughts is sometimes necessary, and it’s appreciated by enquiring minds. Make your point. Make any point. And allow for silence if you need, because that next word, the one that breaks the silence, can be deafening. Let it be.

The worst part about like, like, like is that you risk your very thoughts and feelings becoming background noise. Think about it: The boy who cried wolf all the time was ignored when a real wolf showed up. Make your words count.

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Jody Brown is the author of Upside Down Kingdom, and is a multi-blogger, poet, and traveler. Her current writing projects, including her daily blog endeavor, #Project365, can be found at JodyBrown.com/writing.