By Laura Moore
I am terrible at writing titles.
I'm reminded of this at least once a week when I sit down to write my blog, and EVERY TIME I prepare a story for submission, but I was specifically reminded of it on Monday when I prepared to submit an essay I've poured my heart into for the last three months. The essay tells the most important story I've ever told about my life, and writing it was not only empowering, but therapeutic, liberating, and terribly important for me.
I tried to think of a title idea early on, but I hated everything I came up with, so I decided to save it until the end. When I finally finished the 200th hour of editing and sat down to prepare my document for upload, I stared at the working title--at the commonplace, uninspiring word at the top--and I realized it was horrible. It didn't, in any way, capture the power of my piece, or the depth of my journey. It failed to provide an enticing hook, to add another layer, to adorn my work with a shimmering crown.
So I brainstormed for hours. I tried on different hats. I ventured down a variety of roads. None of them fit, however. None of them suited my purpose. None of them felt right.
But the essay was due, so I settled. I left the name: "Home." Then I clicked "upload" and ultimately, "submit."
I thought the action would produce relief, but my anxiety only grew. The terrible title remained with me, punishing me for my lack of wisdom, reminding me that I really needed to get better.
I tell my students how important titles are when they name their assignments "Narrative," "Memoir," or "Literary Analysis." And I think about their importance myself when I base my decision to read or not to read on the titles I see when I look at a book, skim through a journal, or scan a list of news stories popping up on various feeds.
But no matter what I know
about their importance, I still struggle to write them, to piece together efficient, illuminating language that layers rather than summarizes my work. I still struggle to whittle ideas into a single dash, into a witty flip, into a metaphorical masterpiece. By the time I get to the end, I'm spent. I've given my all to the story, and it seems like betrayal to capture the whole thing in one, two or three words. It feels manipulating to tease the readers I want to touch, and just plain wrong to trick them or to scare them, or to over-promise the world.
But I know I need to improve. So I set out today to confront my weakness head-on, to take steps to get better. I read a dozen articles about blog post titles and as one might suspect, success in that arena relies more on marketing principles than it does poetry. Since I'm less concerned about clicks than I am about my literary pieces, I shifted my focus part way through, turning my attention instead to the art of naming short stories and novels and creative nonfiction.
In a post titled "Choosing the Right Name for Your Story
," Mississippi writer John Floyd sets out rather practical advice. He takes works that have already achieved fame, and categorizes them under identifiers such as: a popular expression (Something's Gotta Give), a play on words (Live and Let Die), a hidden meaning (Catch 22), a title that comes from an existing work (The Sound and the Fury), a person's name (Forrest Gump), a place's name (Cold Mountain), a possessive (Angela's Ashes), an association of ideas (Misery), an event or activity (Waiting to Exhale), a memorable line from a story (To Kill a Mockingbird), a phrase that has rhythm (The Spy Who Came in from the Cold), and a phrase that is simple (The Godfather).
When I read his categories and their corresponding examples, the process seems logical and straightforward. I understand why the various works fit the categories and how each of the titles themselves capture, deepen or advance the essence of the stories they name. Even more, I can see how referencing that list might help me test out my titles, but I didn't feel like the list inspired me to write my own.
So I continued digging and though I found several articles related to the topic, the one that resonated most appeared on a Quick Tips PDF listed on the University of Minnesota's Center for Writing page
. After identifying the function of a title and establishing the creation of it as a process, this page proceeds to share Richard Leahy's "Twenty Titles for the Writer" exercise (Leahy's original document
is on JStor).
I'll be honest, when I initially approached the list, I assumed it would be cheesy, cliche and impractical--just like so many I had already seen--but the minute I dug in, I realized it was exactly what I needed. Leahy provides tangible ways to generate names, and even if it might be enticing to stop with one of the prompts, he suggests that writers proceed through every step. That way, they'd be able to choose from a list of twenty possibilities.
As one who is often stiffed by the process, having Leahy's exercise at my fingertips felt invigorating, and I knew--the moment I read thought the list--that it would not only edge its way into my writing life, it would land in my classroom as well. Students also struggle with titles and I frequently feel ill-equipt to help them. Now, I can offer a process, a way in, a way to explore possibilities and discover something they might not have otherwise considered. And--as I continue to muddle through it all myself--I can add to the list. I can think of new angles. I can imagine new layers.
Instead of dreading the act of titling, when I finished sifting through the materials this afternoon, I felt empowered. I felt inspired to embark on the process. I felt prepared to dive in, to swim around, to overcome.
By Laura Moore
As I drove my son into swim lessons this morning, I spent the entire commute brainstorming ideas for a hoax-y blog post. The radio blathered on about good pranks and kitschy corporate marketing efforts, and I felt the urge to unfold my own little fib until I began flipping through the stations and heard a pair of radio personalities discuss April Fools jokes gone wrong.
The female voice mentioned her favorite blunder, which occurred in 2002 when a Hooters waitress won a beer sales contest and instead of getting the Toyota she was promised, the restaurant gave her a "toy Yoda." The waitress wasn't amused. Enraged that she didn't get what was "earned," she headed straight for nearest law office. In the end, the franchise had to issue her enough cash to buy the vehicle, and sadly, that's probably the last time they did anything "funny" at work. Oddly enough, I
couldn't shake this silly, insignificant story from my mind. I couldn't get over how bothered I was by the woman's actions. It seemed absurd to me that someone would feel so entitled to a prize--which seemed, at the outset, like a comically impossible incentive--that she would actually sue her employer. While a car might be a perfectly reasonable prize for businessmen who get rewarded with Caribbean vacations and other flashy things, I've never heard of a restaurant being so generous.
A free dinner: yes. A car: Ha. Something sounds fishy. I'm fairly sure most of my peers from the serving days would agree that such an announcement would have
warranted a "yeah right" the minute our manager offered it. Nevertheless, even if it the incentive was realistic, it shouldn't have been the sole reason she was busting her tail to sell beer. She should have been working hard; it was her job. She was being paid to be on her game. Besides, the more beer she sold the more money she made anyway. The prize was just a bonus. My blood pressure rose as I sat in my car thinking about the woman, hypothetically lecturing her about hard work, pride and humor. When I actually began talking aloud, I stopped myself. Then I decided,
instead, it would be much healthier to sing along with Adam Levine, Mumford & Sons, and who ever else managed to creep up on the playlist. All along though, my mind was elsewhere, stuck on the Hooters waitress, stuck on our self-serving, litigious society, stuck on the fear
that we're taking ourselves too seriously, fear that we're becoming so thin-skinned we're losing our backbone for practical jokes, fear that we're so overworked and exhausted, we no longer pause to laugh.
Yes, for a few minutes--during the walk to the parking lot--that woman thought she won a car. But when they handed her the Yoda, she didn't lose anything. She never possessed the vehicle; she possessed a stack of tips. When the hoax was revealed, she still had everything she had before. They didn't hurt her. They didn't steal from her. They just made a joke. Though it might have been over-the-top and ill conceived, I'm sure the efforts were birthed with good intentions; I'm sure they just wanted to make their employees laugh.
And in my opinion, that's not a bad thing.
I don't want jokes--even the dumb ones--to go away. I don't want us to grow so entranced with the seriousness of life that we forget to giggle at our stumbles. I don't want us to be so fearful of misstepping that we neglect to step at all. Despite our hyper-seriousness, I want us to hold on to our capacity for joy; I don't want us to evolve it away. In the midst of my worrying though--in the midst of my fearing that the whole human race was turing into stoic robots--little Z squealed from the backseat for no apparent reason. He started laughing and babbling and carrying on like everything in the world was utterly hilarious. As I listened to him amuse himself, my worries dissipated, and I realized laughter was still in tact with the newest generation. It's still ingrained into the most basic aspects of our humanity. It's still very much stitched into our souls. And while that realization didn't make me laugh, I must admit, it certainly made me smile.
By Laura Moore
For the last two and half weeks, I've sat on the edge of a pool and watched my fourteen month old son flail his arms and cry relentlessly.
I've held my breath as I've seen his head go under water and his body sink.
And I've quieted my instincts each time he looks at me, desperately, his eyes pleading for me to swoop in, his arms extending toward me, begging for me to save him.
But I want him to learn how to hold his breath, roll over and float.
I want his body to know how to react if the unfathomable were to happen, if he slipped away from me, if he tumbled into the water.
I want him to be confident in the face of danger.
And because I want all of that, I've been sitting on the sidelines. I've had to relinquish control. I've had to watch my son struggle through each phase of the Infant Swimming Resource program. I've had to let a professional tweak his positioning and refine his instincts. I've had to let him test my son's boundaries. I've had to give him permission to guide little Z as he learns to try and fail, to overcome and succeed.
But watching is hard.
Even though my husband and I researched the program thoroughly, each time I hear Z melt down, I question our decision. I worry about choosing the wrong path. Our son hardly ever cries. He nails his head on the floor, he cuts his finger, he bruises his legs and he never utters a peep. But these lessons reduce him to sobs. These challenges cut right into his core. He wails mercilessly each time he enters the pool, each time he rises from the water, each time he's directed to float on his back. And as I sit there and watch, I feel like a horrible mother. I feel like I should stop it, like I should intervene.
But when I look closely, I notice open hands instead of closed fists. I notice he's floating longer and longer. He's holding his breath. He's rolling over. He's improving. And so even though his tears are heartbreaking, deep down, I'm quite confident he's okay. Even if he seems to hate it, I can't deny that he's stepping up to the plate. He's doing everything he's being asked to do, and the instructor compliments him relentlessly, telling me his right he's on track. And so even if I feel a taunting urge to stop coming--to return him back to a world full of sunshine and rainbows--I suppress the temptation. I continue to drive across town. I continue to let him fight the good fight. I decide not to intervene, not to soften the road, not to get in the way. I swallow the very real truth that life is full of falling and feeling and struggle. It is littered with opportunities to either sink or to fly. And so as tempting as it is to keep Z under my control--to perpetually put him in position to succeed--that's not my job as a parent; my job is to expose him to challenges, to teach him how to endure, to give him the space to overcome. It is to provide him with developmentally appropriate chances to test his abilities, to learn from his environment, and to grow into a confident, capable and compassionate young man.
And so as hard as it is to sit there and watch him struggle, as tempting as it is to pull him out of the pool, I know this is only the first of many times that I will need to sit back. The first of many times when I'll need to let go. The first of many times when I'll hold my breath as I take off the water wings, as I give him the chance to rise up from the depths, to lift his head and float.
By Laura Moore
So yesterday, I blanked.
I missed my spinning class. I forgot it was blog day.
I immersed myself, instead, in an essay I plan to submit to an anthology, and during my "clear my head for a second to get perspective" breaks, I handled household tasks and posted pictures of clothes I wanted to sell on the buy-trade-sell site that, in my humble opinion, is the greatest idea since, well...I don't know...sliced bread?
My husband took off Monday, my son's Monday morning swim lesson got canceled, and bills that I normally pay on Monday were due on Tuesday this week...so the first day of my week felt like a Sunday in every possible way. The zoo was packed with people on spring break and the skies were a delicious shade of Carolina blue that skies seem to be on perfect Sunday afternoons (for all of you other Ohioans, yes, I am living in a fantasy).
So when Tuesday came around and normal activities resumed, it felt like a Monday. I was paying bills, we were going to lessons, my husband and I were back to work. It was the start of our week, and though the following day (yesterday) felt like a Wednesday to everyone else, to me it felt very Tuesday-ish, like I was still easing in, not like I was standing on the top of the hill.
But at about 9 pm last night, I realized I botched the whole thing. Oh my God it's Wednesday, I remember thinking as I sat on the floor folding laundry. I couldn't do anything about spinning, but I could do something about my blog. So I jumped up immediately. I left piles behind and plopped down at my computer, poised to pound out my weekly post. I sat down to scurry out something that would inch its way into cyberspace before the clock struck midnight, before the clock informed me that I was late, before the clock converted my computer into a pumpkin.
I sat there, eager and anxious, waiting for the site to load. My heart somersaulted behind my ribs and my palms itched with sweat. I don't miss deadlines, I mouthed to no one in particular, and the chant grew louder and louder with every fruitless second of waiting for the cursor to blink. The mere thought of falling short of my Wednesday promise made me squeamish and uncomfortable. I am the sort of lunatic who follows through relentlessly, I told myself, even when it makes no sense.
But the page wasn't cooperating. The cursor spun for what felt like an eternity, and a blank, white screen hovered before my eyes. I bounced my leg in triple time, and I stared at the clock taunting me from the upper right hand corner of my screen. "HURRY UP!" I whisper-shouted through clenched teeth, and once three full minutes escaped me, I began tapping closed fists against the edge of the keyboard as if the pounding would dislodge whatever was causing the signal to tangle.
Eventually, I just sat back.
And just before the fourth minute tumbled over the hill, my computer's airport lights all flashed to black, the screen filled with color, and my fingers climbed out of my palms and pressed against the keys. The page was loaded. The canvas was ready for my ink. The time was still ticking in my favor.
9:04, I remember thinking. You got this...
But strangely enough, I didn't have anything. I had no inclination to proceed.
See, the further I got from the third minute--the fully frenzied oh-my-god-if-this-stupid-page-doesn't-load-in-the-next-second-I'm-going-to-lose-my-mind minute--and the closer I got to the fourth one, the more I realized how absurd my anxiety was. I realized that even if I sat there and wrote for the next two or three hours, even if I managed to click "share" before the calendar flipped to the next page, no one would be awake to read it. No one was standing there in cyberspace with wooden ruler smacking against her palm. No one--at least no one who really mattered--would think less of me because I decided to accept my mistake and try again tomorrow.
I imposed the deadline on myself and I missed it.
The window was gone, even if I wrote the post and the page still said Wednesday, even if the chance for the "time-stamp" was technically still there, even if I had a streak to continue and my word to uphold.
When I whittled away the semantics and faced the honest truth, the reality was that I had dropped the ball, that I had broken my promise, that I was out of time to follow through.
But none of that was a life or death situation. None of that warranted the amount of angst and guilt that coursed through me. Sure, it was a matter of pride and principle, and those things matter a whole heck of a lot, but no one got hurt on account of my mistake. No one was inconvenienced. No one's life was any worse because I lost track of time. In fact, no one, besides me, probably spent more than a second--if that--thinking about the fact I didn't release my words into cyberspace yesterday. And so while I shouldn't make absentmindedness a habit, I also shouldn't allow an instant of absentmindedness to crumble me to pieces.
I'm human and I screwed up.
Sometimes I will fall short--just like everyone else--but when I'm lucky enough to wake up and try again, when I'm lucky enough to get another day stuffed with everything that is truly important, I need to just take it. I need to let myself run full throttle into Thursday. I need to scream to the universe, "Okay, that's gone, but I got this. I'm back."
I don't need to negative self-talk myself into the ground. I don't need to question my aptitude. I don't need to think of a thousand ways to apologize or rationalize.
I just need to breathe...
And then smile...
And then pull up my calendar, so I can enter in a reminder, so I can let myself roll right over the mid-week hump, so I can pick myself (and my pride) up, and hop right on along.
By Laura Moore
Bullies no longer possess unequivocal power:
They cannot act without consequence.
They do not have the ability to silence.
They do not have the strength to keep people down against their will.
For years, humans have been taunted, teased, beat-up, and fear and ignorance have provoked reprehensible actions. Shouts have silenced whispers, power has pulverized promise and tradition has trounced on new ideas. Bigger hands have been able to muffle smaller mouths. Bigger arms have been able to restrain smaller wrists. And bigger players in the clubhouse of tradition have been able to knock out the resistance, to push it into back rooms, to tuck it under the rug, to silence it, to keep it from rising up and into plain sight.
But not anymore.
See, in the midst of our current dialogue about sexual assault on college campuses, most notably at both the University of Virginia and Columbia University, and our dialogue about how #blacklivesmatter following what happened in Ferguson, Missouri, Cleveland, Ohio, and New York City, New York, and our dialogue about the racist songs sung by the Oklahoma University Sigma Alpha Epsilon brothers
, and about the dialogue that followed a flurry of hateful messages combatted by a student at my alma mater, I couldn't help but notice something has changed. Something IS different.
Something is a little bit new.
See, today--even with all of its flaws, even with all of the new ways people can be harassed--social media has offered space for smaller mouths to shout, space for tiny wrists to fight, space for the untraditional voices to rise. Everything is public, every action can be captured, every behavior is part of the script, part of the dialogue, part of a million other lives. The doors have been opened, the curtains have been drawn, private rooms are no longer private, and words and actions are no longer susceptible to forgetfulness or editing or denial...they are fossilized, screen shotted, backed up, recorded. They are part of a public record. The are part of us all.
As I hear "bullies" who have been caught speak out about their mistakes, as I hear of this person
and this person
getting fired from their jobs
on account of their hateful comments, as I see the onslaught of support for people who had the courage to speak out, I realize that the power is shifting. The mute button has been turned off and the volume has been raised. The status quo is being questioned and the masks that once kept us from seeing the truth--the sometimes ugly truth--are wearing thinner and thinner.
Love it or hate it, we live in a transparent cage, a snow globe of interconnectedness. There is nowhere for us to go, to hide from the lens, and while there are droves and droves of reasons why that's a bad thing, today, I can't stop thinking about how it's good. About how it makes us accountable. About how it has shifted power into the hands of those who were once powerless.
It has given us a mirror and a window. It teaches us--it shows us--over and over, that words and actions bleed with permanent ink. So despite all of the hateful chatter and the disheartening actions, despite all of the reasons I have to fear the excessive accessibility we have, despite all of the ways I resist our lack of privacy, I can't help but feel hopeful. I can't help but imagine change is on the horizon. I can't help but see a world where goodness, kindness and compassion will ultimately prevail.
By Laura Moore
Every now and then, it's nice to find yourself in love with something you're not particularly good at.
It's nice to show up and know you won't be in the top percentile, you won't be impressing your neighbor, you won't be leaving with your head held high, and an inner monologue of "I got this; what should my next challenge be?" running through your head.
Sometimes it's nice to enjoy something for the sake of trying, for the sake of being vulnerable, for the sake of pushing boundaries. It's nice to fall somewhere in the middle, to feel challenged and still have a lot of room to climb.
As a kid, I did everything I could to avoid that. I played sports where I excelled. I took classes that catered to my strengths. I volunteered to participate in activities I knew I could lead. When I sensed that I wouldn't do well in something, I choose a different path; I devoted my time and energy to a different cause. I had a GPA to worry about, colleges to get into, scholarships to secure.
But somewhere along the way--at Dartmouth, probably, although can't pinpoint the exact moment--I let some of that go. I started to take risks. I signed up for things I didn't know how to do. I failed. Then I picked myself back up and I figured out how to walk forward. I learned that sometimes trying teaches you more than winning, that seeing a huge mountain can sometimes push you farther than staring at stars.
When I moved to New York, my friend Yaidi asked me to take a New School art class with her and I agreed. Each Saturday morning we traveled around the city painting structures in Central Park, sketching faces at the MET and at the South Ferry Station, and capturing the city any way we could as we gazed out the wall of windows on the 92 floor of the North Tower. At the end of the last class, I still wasn't a competent artist, but my heart felt fuller in my chest.
When I moved back to Columbus, I decided to train for a marathon and I knew so little about the process, I didn't even realize you could run anything other than a charity 5K, a 5 mile Turkey Trot or the full twenty-six, so I didn't know people ran halfs or 10Ks or 15Ks. I didn't know this was something most people baby-stepped into. I just went for it all, knowing with each run that my friend Mandy and I were running farther than we ever had in our lives. We made mistakes, got hurt and learned on the fly. When the race results showed up in the paper on October 20, 2003, ours names were no where near the top, but they were there, and we earned it and somehow that felt a whole lot more than enough.
Today, my challenge is spinning. Today, its showing up at Cycle 614, losing myself in 80s music and glowing beneath the black lights. It's arriving in running spandex rather than biker shorts. It's tying up tennis shoes, not clipping in cleats. It's finding my name half way down the performance list of cyclists even though I'm pushing myself just as hard as I can.
I had to miss the last few weeks because it's been a doozy of a winter, but today when I arrived, I felt energy buzzing inside of me, and somewhere along the line as Katie, our instructor, pounded out the tunes and told us to turn up the resistance, as I pushed for more RPMs and challenged myself to keep my screen "red," as I strained for breath and felt my legs cry for mercy, my entire body filled to the brim.
"Last push," Katie said, counting down the sprint. I drove my legs as hard as they would go and when the time expired and I lifted up to stretch and breathe, I looked over at the final results. Tracing the trail of bike numbers, I searched for mine, and surprisingly it was only eight spots down on the list.
My best performance yet, I thought, smiling.
I'm so okay at this.
And that's absolutely fine.
By Laura Moore
For months--ever since we got the devastating news that our beautiful, 100 year old trees were infected with the emerald ash boar--we've been waiting for them to meet their demise.
Hoping it would be the tree removal companies rather than mother nature, we've glanced out the window with each storm, banking our hopes on the strength of the branches as they filled with snow and ice, or began violently ramming against the aluminum siding, or tapping across the roof, or skimming across the surface of our office window.
Thankfully, they've remained steady through it all. Arcing their arms over our home, they've shielded us from intense heat in the summer, they've blocked 50 mph winds in the fall and spring, and they've prevented mounds of snow from landing on our roof in the winter. No matter how shaky they are, or risky they seem, those trees have been a godsend. Our air conditioner is so old the inspector couldn't even read the brand name. But it keeps chugging along because throughout the duration of its life, it has hardly been used; the trees have stepped up and shouldered most of the burden.
But all of that comes to an end today. Right now, as we speak, a crew of men are outside with a crane that extends three times the height of our home, and with several sets of pulleys and ropes and blades, they are carefully bringing down four monstrosities of nature, bit by bit by bit.
My husband and I thought we'd get a few more days with the trees since the ground is coated with snow, and the temperature is in the low 20s, but when I texted the tree company owner yesterday to find out when he wanted to reschedule, he told me that since we were going to have "reasonable temperatures today," they wanted to move forward as planned.
It's funny how your definition of "reasonable" changes when you've endured months of snow and sub-zero temperatures. Nevertheless, until we saw the entourage of trucks pull up in front of our house this morning, my husband and I were both in denial. We both chose to put off thoughts of those trees coming down, those trees that had sheltered this house for as long as its been standing, and had sheltered this plot of land for years and years before that.
Even though we've known this day would come for a while now, even though we've gritted our teeth through every storm, even though we've wanted these trees to make it to "cut down day," now that we've arrived, now that we're here, now that we know they will not fall through our roof, it feels so emptying to see them go. It is so sad to watch them sway in front of my writing widow, dangling helplessly, when they had towered--for so long--with fortitude and strength.
The cycles of life are so sad sometimes, but like everything else, we have to take solace in the fact that ends lead to beginnings. That when the snow melts and the ground softens, when winter is past and spring has arrived, we can plant something new. In the meantime, I suppose we'll just have to hang on to the remains; we'll have to slice them up into logs so we can enjoy them one last time before they crackle inside the flames, before they break into bits, before the ash trees finally turn to ash.
By Laura Moore
I tried really hard to make my story fiction.
I wrote down what I knew to be true and then I let my imagination sprinkle it with details.
I changed the setting.
I stretched out the timeline of the characters's relationship.
I imagined a dramatic fall at the end, where the stranger reached out and caught the protagonist, uttering a poetically perfect phrase that wrapped up the tale with a tightly looped ribbon.
And in the end--despite the story being 75% real--everything about it felt false, forced, fake. It felt overly convenient and unrealistic. It felt all pie-in-the-sky, all naive, all sickeningly sweet.
When I pictured it in the hands of a reader, I could imagine someone snickering. "That would never happen," the guy would say. Or "now, now, you unsavvy, little optimist. Do you really think someone is going to buy this [insert eye roll] little tale?"
Each time I imagined the story's reception, I returned to the piece and revised the living daylights out of it, spending hours word-smithing sentences, altering images, deepening my characterization, heightening the drama, searching for ways to resolve the issues, before tucking it into a drawer and starting the process again a month later.
But no matter how many times I did this, no matter how many active and inactive months I spent, every time I read the story out loud, something always felt off.
Having been nose deep in writing books and articles and workshop notes, I wondered if perhaps this piece was hopeless. "Sometimes a story just isn't salvageable," a small press editor said in a workshop. "Before you invest a significant amount of time on a project, you need to decide if it's really worth it."
If the story had been 100% fiction, I think I would have said it wasn't worth it. I think I would have pegged it as a troublesome pest. I'd have chalked it up to a learning experience, a part of the process, a step along the path to getting better.
But the story--the true story--was real and because I knew it was a good one, I couldn't let it go. It happened five years ago, and yet time didn't render it any less significant in my life. Even more, each time I told it aloud to friends or to strangers sitting around a table, people were moved, stunned, silent, as they listened to each detail.
I knew there was something to it. There just was, and so no matter how immature or optimistic the story sounded, I couldn't bring myself to toss it into a slush pile of experimentation. I couldn't accept that it was an unsalvageable beast. I couldn't close out the document for good.
So I kept revising.
For seven months.
I kept trying to figure out what was wrong. I kept trying to figure out how to fix it. And the more I worked on the story, the better it got. The sentences were certainly crisper, the images were definitely more evocative and the story fit more snuggly into the plot arc.
But despite all of that, it still sunk flat on the page. It still didn't sound right. It still wasn't fixed it, and I couldn't figure out why....
Until two nights ago.
I printed out my latest round of revisions and gave the story to my husband. He offered me his feedback and then we discussed it. As we talked, something clicked and I realized what was wrong. I had been spending the majority of my revision effort trying to make the unbelievably real (although very much real) things in a fake story actually sound like they could happen.
I was making excuses for coincidences. I was building a case for strange exceptions. I was ignoring what made the story good to begin with. By attempting to fictionalize it, I was standing behind a curtain with my hands and toes and head peaking beyond the edges. "I am real. I am here. Let me out," the veiled version of me was saying. And I was too focused on my mission to listen.
My story didn't need to be fictionalized or exaggerated or drawn out. It didn't need to be tidied up and I didn't need to make excuses for it.
I just needed to tell it. Honestly. In the form that best suited the purpose.
I just needed to let it be what it was.
How true is this about life? About ourselves? About every small thing we force fit into places it was never meant to fit?
The minute I went back and erased the falsities--the minute I accepted the truths--the seemingly insurmountable barriers, the unsalvageable sentences, the naive images, they all fell away. And while I have no idea whether or not this story will ever get published, I do know that I fixed the problem. I do know that it no longer sounds naive. And I do know--without a shadow of a doubt--that it was certainly worth the effort to save it.
By Laura Moore
Sometimes it's really hard to be positive.
I've not only made it my resolution pretty much every year of my life, but I've tried to make it my mission, my mantra, my battle cry.
When I feel negative energy building inside of me. I force myself to step back. I force myself to sit down. I force myself to breathe.
And then I run my mind through all of the reasons I should be thankful. I think about all of the people who are enduring far worse things than I am. I think about how lucky I am in the grand scheme of grand schemes.
I grit my teeth. I make myself smile. I force myself to keep on keeping on.
It's not a big deal, I say: deal with it. Lots of people get sick. Lots of people are taking care of sick babies. Lots of people have bad skids, but it will all pass. At least nothing is serious. You will all be able to move on. You have problems with a light at the end.
Some people would give anything to have that.
So accept the help your family offers, eat your chicken noodle soup and cuddle your baby. Take your medicine, make the most of the sleep you do get, and look toward the light. It's there even if you are too frustrated to see it.
By Laura Moore
We fill journals and scrapbooks with what we value.
We write poetry and stories. We take photographs. We paint pictures. We run our hands through clay and pull it up and around our ideas.
We carve and chisel. We bend lines in and out of thoughts, in and out of emotions, in and out of memories.
We create artifacts, things that capture the intangible, treasures that connect us to others, to feelings, to places we can no longer hold.
These artifacts are gems, and each time I hold one in my hand, I feel connected to something bigger than myself. I feel reverence and admiration. I feel humbled and honored and moved.
For a long time, I assumed they were necessary if we wanted to immortalize anything, and I feared that whatever we didn't capture--whatever we didn't write about, photograph, draw, sculpt or paint--would eventually be lost, buried beneath the burden of displaced sand, beneath the weight of present moments, beneath the heavy pull of time.
But yesterday, as simple as it might sound, I realized that some things just live on. Some people can survive without paper, or clay, or canvas. I realized--quite jarringly--that the human spirit doesn't necessarily need to be drawn or painted or described within the context of any one thing in order to stay alive.
When I logged on to my Facebook account last evening, I saw that one of my former teammates wrote a tribute to her cousin, Robyn, who had died from cancer seven years prior. I had never seen a picture of Robyn before, and I didn't know she was related to my former teammate, but the moment I saw her name on my screen, the moment I read of her ailment, the moment I revisited her story, I knew exactly who she was.
See, another friend of mine, a friend who entered my life six years ago, happened to be Robyn's best friend. And as she and I grew closer, I got to know Robyn--or at least the memory of Robyn--through her. My new friend frequently told me about her old friend, sharing stories that acquainted me with a kind, bright-eyed young lady filled with grace and courage, bursting with ambition, emanating with a spirit that always felt bigger than words.
Despite the fact I have never met Robyn, despite the fact she and I never physically shared any sort of space in the world, I still felt connected to her. I still felt like I knew her. I still felt like she was someone who needed to be remembered, and because of that, I have remembered her. My ears perked up with each story my friend told. They perked up when my husband's best friend earned an award boasting her name. And they perked up yet again yesterday, when my former teammate, a teammate I never knew had any connection to her, mentioned her in a touching tribute.
And so last night as I connected the dots, as I recalled all of the pieces of Robyn that I had unknowingly carried through time, I realized how alive she really was in me even if our paths hadn't crossed, even if I hadn't seen anything written about her before, even if I hadn't seen--prior to last night--her face staring back through pixels on my screen. I realized how emblazoned her spirit was in this world. I realized there was something more to staying alive than finding a space in artifacts, in pictures, in things.
I realized that the spirit inside of us--the spirit we give to others--is what remains, what carries on, what lives. It is what immortalizes us, it is what enlivens the art we leave, the artifacts we give, the things we hold. It is what expresses the intangible, what makes a young woman whom I never met rise to the tip of my thoughts. It is what connects us to something more, what feeds us, what inspires us. It is what makes us ethereal and substantial. It is what keeps us alive regardless of whether or not our heart beats, regardless of whether or not time holds us still, regardless of whether or not we can lift our lips and smile.
Rest in peace Robyn.