Monday, January 2, 2012

The Middle

Happy New Year to all!  Thanks to your generous support -- 157 thoughtful comments at last count -- we have donated $175 to First Book (we kicked in a little goodwill bonus).  Every $2.50 provides a brand-new book to a child in need. And Disney Publishing Worldwide will match every $1 of our gift with another new book. We also enjoyed a wonderful walk through the literary annals of our collective childhood.  We are so grateful to each of you!

My designated topic today is 'Beginnings,' but right now all I can think about is THE END.  The end of our winter break, family time, vacation, conversation, sleep, sanity.  My husband's school district resumes classes today (!), and so we are immediately in the thick of the crazy New Year.  This semester I am taking two classes and teaching two classes, in addition to my full-time job. In dread of the insanity that is about to befall our household, I am thus even more depressed than usual by the Slim Fast commercials on TV, the approaching cold front, my 4-year-old's wet pants, my 6-year-old's insomnia, and the wilting Christmas decorations that will require removal -- next weekend.

I genearlly refuse to make New Year's resolutions because I can guarantee that I will not exercise daily, write a novel in a month (or a year), read the classics (probably not even one), give up coffee, or accomplish anything that requires consistent exercise of willpower. But there is one small thing that I can ask of myself that I can pretty consistently manage -- that is, every day, to try to do my best.  If it's ten minutes on the elliptical with my Kindle, I've exercised and I've read.  On a good day, I've folded a bit of laundry, I've played Dominoes with my kids, I've walked the puppy, I've written a paragraph, I've earned a few $$, I've eaten some chocolate.  On a bad day, well... there's always tomorrow. 

In life, it occurs to me that we tend to focus a tremendous amount of our energy and attention on beginnings and endings -- the weddings and the funerals, as it were.  But it's the vast middle that comprises the bulk of our existence.  Likewise, in writing, we start with an idea -- a character, a situation, a premise.  Usually we know where we want to start and where we want to go.  But it's the getting there that makes the story, breaks the story, or too often stops us from finishing the story.  After the sexy thrill of the beginning fades, we must still live there, in the treacherous middle, for a very long time before we can ever type THE END.

My husband wrote me a song on our wedding day called "Slow and Steady."  That is my writing mantra, even if it's more like slow and fitful at the moment.  Someday I (we!) will get there!

This week I have been reading my usual mishmash of books:
THE EXQUISITE CORPSE ADVENTURE by Jon Scieszka, Katherine Paterson et al (READ IT!)
THE PLOT WHISPERER by Martha Alderson

Common thread?  Synthesize.  Keep moving forward.  Don't ever lose sight of the end.  It's an exciting new year! -- Jeanne Marie


Andrea Mack said...

I love your idea of thinking about doing your best each day. Something I definitely strive to do.

I always find that the best way for me to reach a goal is to think about what little thing I can do each day to move towards it. Five minutes of writing or exercise is better than zero minutes.

Bobbi Miller said...

What a nice discussion on the 'middle' of life, where all the living occurs. And how to make our way through the middle. AND, what a great project you guys achieved with your donating books for every comment. Thank you!

Linda B said...

Slow and steady is the key. I think you're going to be very busy as you said, so working through the thoughts about this seems right. Congratulations on the donation. That's wonderful news!

Carmela Martino said...

JM, I can't believe your husband has to go back to teaching TODAY! Since New Year's Day fell on a Sunday, today is a legal holiday for most people. Oh, well. Hang in there. And good luck with all your new beginnings!
And thanks for including your current reading. Have you checked out M. Alderson's blog and her YouTube video series tied to THE PLOT WHISPERER? See

Julie Hedlund said...

So loved this post! Just do your best every day. We focus so much on goals and results that we forget that the huge majority that lies in between - all the baby steps.

I wrote my own anti-resolution post this year where I focused solely on my accomplishments over the past year. It was quite refreshing! :-)

Jeanne Marie Grunwell Ford said...

Julie, I love your anti-resolution! And Carmela, thanks so much for the link. Andrea, I agree that incremental goals are key. I hope that we're all having a successful New Year thus far!