train wrecks and snowflakes

The importance and dire need of education in our culture is becoming clearer every day. Though I myself am neither a parent nor a teacher, my heart aches to see a better cultural climate for future generations.

I’m picturing a literal train wreck. I imagine that each individual car of a long freight train is self-destructing, disintegrating under its own weight. The conductor boasts about taking out many sections of the railroad that was laid in front of the train. He himself is boarding a train for the very first time. Many people can see that this is a problem and have spoken up, including some of those who are putting together this train. But the coal is being stoked and the trip is going to move forward as scheduled. Most people are already aboard the train and can only hope that it will stay on the tracks. Some are excited about this new conductor simply because he’s different.

I see adults who make it a rule not to use “no” with their children, even if that child is running straight into danger. I’m in no position to suggest how anyone should parent, but something abrupt and forbidding is the most appropriate response to a kid who has put himself in danger and does not yet have abstract thought. They must first grasp “no,” the shorthand of “you ought not to do this because X.” Growing up without the word “no” is no way to prepare for the real world. It’s a surefire way to make sure that child is self-absorbed and self-entitled and completely ill-equipped to deal with the harsh realities of rejection, competition, and the fact that he is not in fact a delicate snowflake. Delicate snowflakes do not survive outside the perfectly innocuous environment that overprotective adults have fabricated for them.

Delicate snowflakes become narcissists at best. Delicate snowflakes are unable to develop a sense of humor about themselves, and thus become deluded and seek power to compensate for their lack of acceptance rather than seeking to improve their character. They cannot accept that they are flawed, so they can never be wrong.

It’s pretty clear who our train conductor is. It’s as clear as when Meryl Streep spoke of him without having to drop his name or rank. The disintegrating cars are the people he has inexplicably placed in the highest offices. Betsy DeVos as the Secretary of Education is an absolute train wreck all her own. To watch her trying to answer simple questions from Al Franken and Elizabeth Warren in her confirmation hearing is pure discomfort.

I fear for the future of our children. I’m terrified of what will become of “education.” I fear for a generation of children without “no” in their vocabulary being educated in a system run by a different generation of snowflakes.

More than ever we have the duty to educate children in the home, or wherever we can. What does this mean for those of us who do not have children of our own? They say it takes a village. I believe we need to put as much wisdom and beauty into the world as we can, and to get this wisdom and beauty into little hands. This is why I’m so passionate about writing and illustrating. I want to create something that normalizes big truths to crowd out the “post-truth” that’s happening in our culture. I want little ones to be so smart and so well informed that they are equipped to recognize and do battle with the bad ideas, to recognize that what we are normalizing is not and should not be normal. That there are centuries of thought that came before the ideas of this precious snowflake’s mom that may just be more correct. And I hope that they are secure enough in their character to be resilient, to not be shaken by the “no’s” they will hear all their lives.

What comfort I can find in this situation is that we don’t have to put our faith in institutions. We can equip the next generation to create better ones.

paper cranes and writing chains

Good morning and Happy New Year, creative people! :) I’m excited for the new journey that is 2017, as well as committing to getting more writing done. I got a page-a-day 2017 calendar for Christmas, so I thought it might be fun to make an origami something for every day that I write. I’m committed to having 365 paper cranes (or whatever) to throw into the air next New Year.

The Community over at seanwes (you’ve heard me talk about them before) is going through a writing course together. I had gone through the free 30 Days to Better Writing course when it launched last year, but am excited to go through it again with some accountability from some really great people.

I invite you to challenge yourself along with me. I probably won’t share every day, but I wanted to put this out there as a kick in the pants for a new year of showing up and doing work consistently. Gotta keep the chain going!

30DTBW: Day 1

What made you enroll in this course?

I had made a habit of writing daily for a couple of years, but have fallen off the wagon in past months. When I saw that the Community would be going through the course together, I thought starting the new year going through it with accountability was a good jumping off point to get my habit back on track. I need to be very intentional about writing every day, and a lot. I have a ton of work that I want to accomplish this year and can’t let anything get in the way of my motivation. I can’t get distracted, I can’t make excuses for myself, and I can’t let circumstances or discouragement keep my word count down. I made a public commitment to write a series of books. I’m dying to write and illustrate them, but I can’t illustrate what isn’t written. Having a binder of notes on my desk is not writing. Intending to outline isn’t writing. Telling others that I’m going to write books isn’t writing. I need to get words on the page. I need to write thousands and thousands of words. The fun part will come when I get down and dirty and do the work.

What are 3 ways you think writing will benefit you?

  1. It will help me accomplish my primary passion, which is to write a series of books normalizing the ideas of the Great Books of Western civilization for a young audience. This is something I need to be transparent about and start talking about (even though that’s something very uncomfortable for me) if I’m going to commit to actually getting it done. Research and study and reading and bouncing ideas off of people much smarter than myself will also be a huge part of the first stages of this project, but they don’t mean anything if I’m not putting words on the page. I need to write an awful lot of content before I can start editing and shaping it into the form of a publishable book.
  2. I know from experience that writing helps me cope with depression and anxiety. It is my reflection time. I fell off the writing wagon for a good portion of December, and I could see a huge difference. I was irritable. I was more impatient. I was missing out on that first-thing-in-the-morning therapy session to clear my head and focus my heart. As an introvert, I desperately need this time of reflection and focus and “me time.” I had been doing a lot of extroverting without taking time to reflect and recharge, and it was taking a toll on me big time. My husband was also laid off in November, so with him being home all of the time it was more difficult for me to get any time to myself. Writing helps me articulate those things that are weighing on my mind. I can leave them on the page and go forward with my day without those things still rattling around in my brain. I was leaving these thoughts in my brain, and they were becoming heavy.
  3. If there’s one skill in the world I want to hone the most (out of way too many things I’d love to be good at), it’s writing. I have many interests, but the thing I truly want to be in life is a writer. So it’s crucial that I practice this skill every single day without fail. I can’t call myself a writer if it’s not something I do obsessively. Writing is a muscle I need to flex more than any other creative muscle because it’s the thing I care about most. The more I do it, the more I’ll love it. The more I love it, the more of a priority it will be in my life. The more priority I give it, the more likely I am to keep going and succeed. It’s the thing I want to build momentum with, and I build momentum by doing, by writing a lot, by showing up every day.

What are you afraid of when it comes to writing?*

I’m afraid of my writing being useless. Brain dumps are therapeutic, but I feel the pressure to make things that have purpose. When I write, I want it to help someone. I want my words to be part of a greater whole. I don’t want them to sit silently in a long string of meaningless journal entries.

On the other side of that coin, if I write something that is intended to be shared, there is a ton of vulnerability in sharing those words. Will people get what I’m putting out there? What if I’ve been too vulnerable and transparent and the wrong person sees it and judges me for it? What if no one sees it and I’ve done all that work and poured out my heart for nothing? If I’m putting myself out there as someone who’s passionate about writing, there’s the expectation that I shouldn’t completely suck at it. If I’m projecting myself as something, there’s the pressure to be competent.

*These unfounded fears are exactly the reason I write this blog. There are thousands of ways that Resistance sneaks into our brains and makes us believe that our work is meaningless. Mind over matter, friends! Show up and do the work so the Muse can get stronger than these stupid little fears that try to trip us up and keep us from going further up and further in.

What sacrifices will you have to make in order to carve out half an hour a day for writing?

The only thing really required of me is to be more disciplined and focused. I already am in the habit of waking up at 4am to write (now I couldn’t get up later if I tried). I get up, shower, get dressed for work, make a cup of coffee, then sit at my desk. I usually have 30-45 minutes of writing time before I have to leave for work. The temptation is to fill that time with other things I need to get done. I very often fill that time with other tasks, and that’s something I need to get out of the habit of doing. Those things need to go on a to-do list for later on in the day. The chunk of time between 4:30 and 5:30 a.m. is non-negotiable writing time. It may be necessary to set aside a chunk of time after I get home from work to see that those things get checked off the list so I’m not tempted to carry them into my writing time.

 

What are you doing to encourage your creative momentum this year? In what ways are you committing to showing up every day? What do you look forward to saying you’ve accomplished by the end of 2017?