An unexpected gift

Anyone who reads this blog probably knows that I’ve been struggling for months over my second novel rewrite. I’ve cried, despaired, eaten far too many bags of pretzels and printed out hundreds of pages. I’ve done character analysis and plot outlines, I’ve killed off one character, only to find her sneaking her way back in (risen from the dead, like Jesus). I’ve written myself into a hole, clawed my way back out, only to fall back down again.

For me, rewriting is harder than the actual writing since the original version plants firmly in my head and any deviation feels fraudulent and forced. It’s impossible for me to see my own work objectively. And since the characters are inside my head, since I know them intimately, it’s so very, very difficult to walk that fine line between how much to show and how much to tell and how much to allow the reader to figure out for herself.

I spent sleepless nights hunched over my computer, muttering to myself and shoving pretzels down my throat. I dragged myself to work, came home and took a nap, got up and ran, ate, and started all over again.

I was exhausted. I cried a lot. My face broke out in pimples (pimples–at my age!). I was kind of , sort of a mess.

And then this arrived in the mail. It arrived unexpectedly, with no preamble. It arrived simply, in a standard brown box: A writerly care package from the very lovely Tele Aadsen.

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Inside was everything I need to get me through this rewrite struggle, and each gift was beautifully wrapped in newspaper, which I loved, loved, loved.

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The stash included: Writer’s Block Coffee (oh, oh, oh!), socks to keep my toes warm (Tele, how did you ever know that my feet are always, always cold?) and, of course, this:

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Two of my favorite writing foods, pretzels and chocolate, combined together. Oh, heart be still!

Best of all was the handwritten letter accompanying the treats. It was two pages long, and I cried when I read it, cried at the idea of someone taking the time out of her busy life to connect (and Tele, who not only is a beautiful and talented writer, also commercial fishes in the summers, a time-consuming and tough occupation).

Why do we so rarely send handwritten letters? I think I’m going to have to start doing so more because it meant so, so much to me to read the words of another writer written out in her own hand, not typed on a machine. It added an intimacy, a closeness. It made me feel special.

So thank you, Tele, thank you from the bottom of my cynical and exhausted and yet still-hopeful writer’s heart. Thanks for taking the time to make me see that I do have what it takes to finish this book. Thanks for believing in me. And, most importantly, thanks for reaching out across the miles and sending a little bit of much-needed love and hope and understanding my way.

I think we all should do this. We should take the risk (and face it–it is a risk to send someone an unexpected gift, it’s putting yourself out there, it’s making yourself vulnerable, and that’s not always such an easy thing to do) and send care packages every once in a while to people who are struggling or sick or injured or feeling a bit low. It doesn’t matter what it is, it could be pretty soaps or teas or a pair of warm gloves. It doesn’t have to be new stuff, either; repackaged or re-gifted items are just as appreciated. You don’t have to spend any money or even send a package, you can simply jot off a quick a note or card or message: I see you. I hear you. You matter.

We all need outside verification and lord knows writing can be insular and isolating and depressing as hell. Heck, everyone’s life can be insular and isolating and depressing as hell at times. So let’s try to be there for one another, let’s reach out and connect with writers or friends or bloggers or artists or Twitter followers who are having a rough time. Let’s open up and give them a little bit of ourselves, let’s make them feel special and validated.

Joan F. Marques said, “It’s easier to take than to give. It’s nobler to give than to take. The thrill of taking last a day. The thrill of giving lasts a lifetime.”

Let’s all add a little thrill to our own, and someone else’s, life.

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9 thoughts on “An unexpected gift

  1. What a lovely, lovely gift. Tele is a special person. And you are, too. Every one of your tweets that pops up in my “mention” box is is a little gift, and I appreciate that. Thank you, and keep on writing. You will finish this book and it will be great.

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  2. That is so special, Cinthia, and timely of Tele 🙂 I would love to write longhand but my handwriting is atrocious and my fingers cramp. Yet, the last bit of longhand letter writing I did was apparently a source of joy for one of my friends, in spite (or maybe because of) my handwriting and the fact that I spent a good portion of the letter complaining about my handwriting. She said she laughed through the whole thing. Actually, it was just a card but now I really want to write her another one. I love it most when I can make people laugh 🙂 Hang in there with your novel. You do express so well what terrifies me about rewriting … so much so that I keep finding other things to do. One of these days … . Enjoy those pretzels, that coffee and the cool socks!

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    1. Oh, handwritten cards/letters are so special, aren’t they? But alas, like you my handwriting is so awful that even I can’t read it most of the time (I half-write and half-print and mix upper and lower case together in a mad jumble). Rewriting is dreadful. I think it should be one of Dante’s levels of hell. P.S. Please send your friend another handwritten card. I know she will love it. P.S.S. I also find other things to do. In fact, I spend a good part of last night watching “Toddlers and Tiaras,” a perfectly horrid but fascinating show, and now I’m trying to find a way of mentioning it in my rewrite, in order to justify my having wasted so much time, lol. Hang in there. P.S.S.S. Pretzels really, really help. Cheers and take care.

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    1. Ha, ha, my chocolate covered pretzels did grant me ingenious ideas. They are, sadly, all gone now. (P.S. Plot outline=bullshit lingo learned in graduate school to make us feel as if we knew more than we did.)

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