More than a Game

Lynette M Burrows, spooky apple orchard,When I was a child, about eight- or nine-years-old, my mother went to the hospital to have her third child. My brother and I were packed off to an aunt and uncle’s house. Now, this aunt and uncle had five children. The two oldest were off to college. The two youngest were about the same age as my brother and I. The middle child was a teenager, uninterested and uninvolved in the lives of children.

My aunt and uncle lived in an old farmhouse that had been updated. There was an attic with two bedroom spaces, each holding a pair of bunk beds. The second-floor held four more bedrooms. A living room, kitchen, dining room, and den made up the first floor. And there was a basement, the realm of the children. The basement had several rooms of bookcases and cabinets and a door to the outside.

Outside was a wonder. A  grape arbor and an orchard gave us plenty of room to be rowdy kids running around.

The three boys and I invented an adventure game. Being the only girl, I was the heroine or the damsel in distress, depending upon the turn of the play. The boys were the heroes and occasional victims. The evil villain was invisible, an unknown who left threatening notes. We dashed in and out of the basement, zig-zagged through the spooky fruit trees and grabby grape vines, uncovered clues and threatening notes, did heroic deeds, and wore ourselves out with fun.

Lynette M Burrows, grabby grape vines, Heather Hopkins

I’m certain we had quieter activities after a filling evening meal, but I don’t remember those. I do remember climbing upstairs to the attic bedroom, into the lower bunk, and falling fast asleep.

I woke gasping for air. Ice cold hands were around my throat, choking me! I couldn’t see who the cloaked villain was but screamed for help. The three boys rushed to the room and pounded the villain with their fists. Lights came on, the villain disappeared. I sobbed my tale of fear to my aunt and uncle.

The boy heroes identified the dastardly villain as my teen-aged cousin. He was punished. I was soothed. The visit was short (probably not to my aunt and uncle). My brother and I went home and welcomed our new baby sister.

Today, I feel bad for my teenaged cousin. He took the game a little too far, perhaps, yet, the choking was minimal and momentary, or I wouldn’t have been able to scream.  Looking back, I was frightened, but the fright was temporary.  I have a fun-to-tell memory, my brother and cousins got to be real heroes, and I got a story, two blog posts, and a novel out of the adventure!

What do you recall fondly? Childhood memories? Adventures as a Teen? Trials and Tribulations of being an adult? Any lessons you learned from these? Please share your story below in the comments below.


Images: “Vines at Dusk” via  Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Heather Hopkins.

“Spooky Apple Orchard” via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of R. L. Rose

Perfection, Failure and Inspiration

I had another post in mind for today, but Monday morning I read a friend’s blog post and I knew it was something I had to share. Colin Falconer suggested that every writer should watch the video called The Benefits of Failure. I say everyone should watch this video. For everyone has something, someplace in which they have felt the pain of failure. That pain has given failure a black mark. It’s something most of us avoid, but perhaps we shouldn’t.

Take a short break right now and visit Colin’s website, Looking for Mr Goodstory, read his post and watch the commencement speech called The Benefits of Failure . Go on, I’ll wait.

Interesting speech, yes? Now, no one is encouraging you to go out and deliberately fail. What Ms. Rollins suggests is that we shouldn’t be so afraid of failure that we don’t take risks.

If that Ms. Rollins’ speech hasn’t convinced you that failure can be a good thing, that failure is part of life, read KM Huber’s blog, The Way to Fall Apart. It’s a lovely post and reminds us all that falling apart is necessary for things to come together.

But failing and falling apart are scary. So we look for some way to make it come together. Aren’t we all guilty of sometimes avoiding the possibility of failure by trying to make everything perfect? And wouldn’t you know it, Seth Godin had something to say about Polishing Perfect.

Has this post made you uncomfortable? Talking about, thinking about, much less experiencing failure is uncomfortable. But remind yourself, failure is just one way that didn’t work. Dare to risk failure. You never know what you might discover.

Lynette M. Burrows author,Lynette M. Burrows science fiction author, Lynette M. Burrows author action-suspense science fiction

image courtesy of pixabay.com

I’m risking failure with an epic rewrite of an imperfect novel that I can’t let go.

Do you avoid failure at all costs?
Or do you embrace the risk of failure?

Breaking Out of Numb

Monarch Butterfly Cocoon by Umbris wikipedia commons

You know how when your foot or hand falls asleep and you don’t notice until the tingling of ‘waking up’ starts? I’m there.

As readers of this blog know, I recently stepped down from a management type of job to a less stressful, less demanding job.  It created a time of adjustment for my husband, my dogs, and family that kind of surprised me.  I was home on time every night and they didn’t know what to do.  Frankly, neither did I. 

Now that I’ve had a couple of months in the new role I am finding there is a big bonus that I had hoped would be there and am delighted to find is true.  I can think again!

Story ideas are percolating, I’m planning a new, improved website, and I can think ahead about some family and holiday events.  I’m craving material to make me think!  It’s wonderful . . . and it’s frightening.

A few nights ago, I’d asked my husband for some feedback on several different drafts of a new bio I’d written for myself. His response startled me. “It doesn’t sound like you. It’s distant.” I could not understand, distant how? We had a long discussion as he tried to explain.

When I first sat before my computer this morning, I remained puzzled but determined to figure out how to not sound distant. I am nothing if I am not determined to solve a puzzle. But first, I thought I’d do a little research (procrastination anyone?)

I read a guest post by Johnny Truant on Jon Morrow’s Boost Blog Traffic called The Brad Pitt School of Blogging Superstardom. It’s about how to make your posts stand out in a crowded internet. A fantastic topic with some great tips, but there was one thought that stopped me in my tracks:

“You know how your lips feel after a trip to the dentist?
Well, most people’s emotions feel like that, and not just for a couple of hours. They’re numb for most of their life.”

Most of their life?  Oooh. Not comfortable thinking about that. Next?

Kristen Lamb’s NanNoWhat Now?  is a fantastic post about what it takes to become a successful author. As I read it, I thought I have these things down, why am I not more successful? Then, you guessed it, another line stopped me cold:

“Just like curling the same dumbbell eventually can cause a plateau, self-discipline is the same way. Make sure your goals get progressively more difficult as time goes on until you reach a point that works.”

Whoa. Distant. Numb. Curling the same dumbbell. Plateau. My palms got sweaty. My stomach lurched. Tears came to my eyes. I understood finally where I had to go to reach that “point that works.”

The Cocoon of Fear

I knew from a very early age that safety lay in not getting attached, in not feeling too strongly, in keeping everything locked tightly inside. Whether that behavior developed to cope with the emotional trauma of moving to seventeen different schools before I graduated from high school, or to cope with the emotional outbursts of my father, or cope with other kinds of trauma, is lost to me. I remember very little from my childhood except that I was a reader.

Books gifted me with the courage of heroes, the war of emotions, the catharsis of loss, and the worthiness of battle against evil. And if the conflict grew unbearable for me, I could draw on the strengths of the story’s heroes until I had the fortitude to journey onward.

So I grew up avoiding conflict in real life, suppressing feelings, playing it safe, trying to be someone who fit into any group anywhere.

But deep inside the cocoon, some part of me needed expression. Words hidden in diaries and journals hesitantly explored feelings. Small steps led to bigger steps. Short stories. Novels.

After each step there was overwhelming fear. Oh, God, I was afraid.

But I couldn’t stop. I had a story published in a national magazine. I got fan mail! And my fans wanted more stories. I knew I couldn’t produce another story. So I threw myself into being the perfect wife and mother. I never wrote for that market again.

But I wrote other stuff. I published a couple of more times and I began to have some success. I even signed with an agent. Then came fear: divorce, single parenthood, remarriage, health issues, money issues, nothing was safe. The cocoon had to be thicker, harder.

Through it all my words tumbled out onto paper or computer screen. I found a small, safe group of people who would read and critique my words. At last I was content . . . . and my writing stagnated.

Safe doesn’t challenge you. Safe doesn’t make you grow.

emerging from the cocoon

For the past few years, I’ve been challenging myself, trying to grow as a writer. I’ve had some successes. Planning for more success I decided I needed to create and write a blog.

Wanting to ‘do it right.’ I researched how to create and write a blog. I read Kristen Lamb’s book We Are Not Alone and took one of her blogging classes. There I met a bunch of wonderful writers whose emotional fearlessness put me in awe of them. I even told a dear friend that I could blog, but I could never write like that.

Numb and distant because of fear, I was right. I couldn’t write like that.

Numb No More

I’ve been, in Kristen’s words, ‘lifting the same dumbbell’, for a very long time. Working hard trying to accomplish something without changing the how of doing it.

Without having time to think, without deep discussions with my husband, and without Kristen Lamb’s blog posts and the WANA community, I might still be safe inside my cocoon, numb and distant.

I’m still afraid. Oh, God am I scared. But I’m stripping off the old cocoon and setting new goals, one baby step at a time. Watch this site for improved blog posts, an improved bio, and a new, improved website. Oh, and that tingling I mentioned earlier? Well, I think I’m awake now.

monarch butterfly on pink flower

Do you ‘numb out’ of certain situations? I’d be honored if you’d share how you’ve recognized fears and/or moved past them.

Facing the Mind-Killer: Fear

red danger sign
I am deathly afraid of heights, mind-killing afraid. I can charge through my fear and do heights, if I have to. But only if I have a solid piece of ground or a solid, secure ladder beneath me. Alas, though I tried to warn my ex a few years back, he insisted we’d have fun visiting one of the local haunted houses.

As with most haunted houses, we waited in line while listening to spooky music. Finally it was our turn. We walked into a dimly lit room set up like a doctor’s examination room. A recorded voice told us a not-very-original story about how the doctor got involved in grisly experiments, the lights flashed then we were in total darkness. My heart rate went up, just a little. After a moment, emergency lights came on revealing a grisly scene that made me, and the other visitors, giggle nervously. A door opened in front of us and we moved forward. The next room, dimly lit, revealed wax figures in the midst of a gruesome crime. One of the wax figures screamed, eliciting my screams as well (Don’t judge. I wasn't the only one).

As we followed twists and turns through the dark hallways filled with fake screams, animated wax figures and real costumed people paid to frighten customers, adrenaline drove my heart rate up more. We turned a corner, down a narrow, dimly lit corridor. Then I stepped onto a swinging bridge. I couldn't see the bottom. There was only a rope 'handrail.' Nothing was solid. How high were we? Someone, probably one of the house's paid characters, began to shake the bridge. I screamed and stopped, holding on for dear life. I could. Not. Move. No amount of coaxing from my ex could loosen my death grip on the rope rails nor motivate my denervated feet. Much to my ex's chagrin (and the other haunted house visitors' ire) I had to have the lights on to move forward. They took me out the 'coward’s door.'

Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little death that brings total oblivion. I must face my fear. Must allow it to pass over me and through me and where it has gone, I must turn the inner eye. Only I will remain. Dune, by Frank Herbert.

We all have fears. Big ones, little ones. Real ones and ones blown way out of proportion. Fear is a signal to prepare to FIGHT or RUN. We'd be foolish not to pay attention to our sense of fear if the house were on fire or a burglar was breaking into the house. But what if fear stops you cold? Is it still helpful?

I had planned for the rest of this post to discuss Bob Mayer's book Write It Forward and how his words about facing fear struck a cord with me. But a series of thunderstorms took out my internet for most of the weekend and kept me off all things electronic. So when the my internet was working again this evening I discovered that fear was in the air. Here are a few things I found.

Bob Mayer wrote a guest post (way better than I could) about fear called Fear is a Writer’s Worst Enemy: Attack the Ambush.

WANA classmate, Emma Burcart wrote What’s Behind the Curtain about a fear she's facing.

Did you know that even CEO millionaires like Seth Godin have fears? Millionaire CEOs are interviewed and share a little about facing their fears at Under30ceo.com with Advice on How to Get Past Your Fear In Business.

But the best message I found in my research about fear is in this Youtube video of a little, fourth grade girl who is about to make her first ski jump.

You can feel this little girl's fear at the beginning, but she faced the mind-killer. She was afraid but she knew she didn’t have to be unafraid to do it. Could you feel her triumph after she finished? I love that feeling!

She has inspired me. I'm going after some of my fears, you'll hear more about them in later posts.

I'd love to hear from you. Have you faced your mind-killer fear? What is it keeping you from doing? What is your strategy for beating that fear?