I Read: A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

You ever find an unread book on your shelf that has been there so long you can’t even remember how you got it? As an avid reader, I don’t have many of them, but this was one.

It’s been with me so long the page edges are browning and the cover has faded, as I’m sure it’s shifted into various sun-bleaching positions as it’s followed me. I’m thinking it was a gift, probably from a grandparent when I was a little girl. It has a 1987 copyright, and I could tell from the un-ridged binding it had never been fully read.

I do remember attempting to read it when I was young, but something stopped me only a few pages in. As a kid, it could have be as simple as the total number of pages or the tiny print or the lack of pictures. But whatever it was, it didn’t grab me. Surprisingly so.

Because I really enjoyed it. It’s about Sara, a young, rich, and extremely kind girl who is left to attend an all-girls boarding school. She’s prone to telling imagined stories, both to herself and any classmate that will listen. At first, they’re fanciful and fun, making the other girls laugh and stare at her in mesmerized wonder. But when her father unexpectedly passes away, leaving her penniless, her stories almost become necessary for surviving her new life, filled with labor and void of much food.

Let’s just say, as a writer, while I can’t identify with her, I can understand.

I think for most kids, it’s second nature to tell stories. Playing “pretend” is something you’re never taught how to do. It just happens. Your room becomes a castle or a cave, your toys loveable friends or inscrutable villains, depending on what your story needs. And finding friends that will follow you on your dreamed adventures is an amazing gift.

For me, when I wasn’t creating solitarily on my parent’s computer, I jumped between playing Barbie’s with the neighborhood girls and War with the boys. Believe it or not, the Barbie storylines took more deliberate, concentrated telling. The war stories, imagined while crammed behind a rock wall in preparation for battle, came much more naturally.

Then, as a kid gets older, physically or mentally, the stories become harder to believe but even more important to tell. For Sara, she struggled to see the point in continuing with her stories when life continued to remind her they weren’t, and would never be, real. Inevitably, though, she kept dreaming and eventually found joy again in her wasted life.

For me, my stories can become harder to believe because I must criticize and dissect and analyze every decision and element. As I imagine it is for most writers, every word I put to paper must be second-guessed. And while I live to tell stories, writing them sometimes seems like a pointless chore.

So I could wax poetic about this book, this story of a girl who wants desperately for her stories to be realized, finding me now when I’d appreciate it most, but that all sounds too corny to me. It really was just sitting on my shelf, and I needed something to read, so I grabbed it. But I’m glad I did. It was a good story of perseverance and strength. I really enjoyed it and the little girl who was obsessed with “make believe.” I enjoyed it even more that it all worked out in the end.


The Final Season: Was the Marathon Worth It?

Ok, so I took a much longer break than I meant to. Oops. But onwards and upwards.

When I finished my marathon blogging run of posting something for every game the Atlanta Braves played last season, I imagined my first post after the season would be a reflective one. After all, I did the marathon as a way to challenge myself to be more consistent about writing. Sure, it was a little a bit about my love for a team I’ve followed for over 20 years, but mostly it was about setting a tangible goal.

Was it worth it?

I think so. I posted 162 times over 6+ months, and, in terms of length, they were all legitimate posts, too. There were a couple times when I felt like just throwing up a picture with a witty comment and being done with it, particularly for the mid-week games on the West coast. (And, for a few of those, I must admit, I did post the next morning instead of waiting up for the end of the game.) But, no, I didn’t do that. I wrote full posts of around 1,000 words every time.

I wrote at the beginning of the marathon that I didn’t think the challenge would be finding stuff to write about, and I was right. I brainstormed a massive list of potential topics to pull from, and when I finished, there were still topics left.

However, I also wrote that I thought the real challenge, as it probably is for all writers, would be to make each post worth reading, and on that effort, I’m not sure I passed with flying colors.

Along that line, I told myself that once a post was up, there would be no editing. It was published. It was done. So I did very little reading back of what I posted. Of course I edited before I posted, and I did – a couple times – see something after I posted, like a misspelling, and allowed myself to change it. But for the most part, posted equaled finished.

That’s how my quality check pans out. It’s very easy to go back and read through some of my posts the purpose of reflection. And what do I find? The quality certainly varied. I think a lot of that had to do with the topic I chose for that day. It’s obvious, to me the reader, which topics really inspired me and were easy to approach, like those related to childhood memories just poured out of me, while other, more technical posts didn’t.

I also learned the quality of my work tends to suffer when it’s two in the morning and I’d rather be sleeping. Shocking, I know.  Same goes for when I was semi-sleeping and forcing myself to stay awake to finish. Those posts, and you can probably tell them from their lack of coherence, were some of the worst. That, friends, is called procrastination, and is, thankfully, not something I am prone to. But when you’re blogging for the 15th time in 17 days, it may not always be the most appetizing pursuit, so, yes, I was known to put off working on a post until after a game was over. And, of course, as divine punishment, I swear those were the nights I was stuck with a less than inspiring topic that seemed to stand between me and the page.

But that exercise did teach me a good lesson. While I may not enjoy writing on command, I can do it. It can be done. So, in that sense, there’s no excuse for not writing at least something, say, six out of seven days a week. Writing every day, whether it’s 500, 1,000 or 10,000+ words, can be done. It can be done early in the morning or late at night or on a lunch break. Even on the busiest of busy days, there are 30 minutes that can be cut out for writing.

I know this now, and I’ve found it easily implemented in my own life. I’m happy to say that habit I started has stuck with me, and I’ve written a lot over the past few months I haven’t been blogging, whether it was work on my book or on short stories I hope to post here soon.

So, because of that, I’m glad I made myself take on the crazy marathon. It gave me a clear goal, which I also learned is something I desperately need to be successful. It gave me a purpose for this blog, which helped to keep it going. And it showed me the concept of ‘sitting your butt in the chair’ truly is the only way to write. To be a writer, you have to write. Seems simple enough, yet it is a concept many find difficult to grasp. And you have to do it even on the days it’s the last thing in the world you want to be doing. Practice does make (closer to) perfect. And that’s all writing every day is. Not chiseling away on the next, great American novel. It’s just practice.

My final thought, which I have to say as I was focused on the Braves, is that it was sad to see the season end the way, via the extremely liberal “in-field” fly rule, the lack of opportunity to play more than one playoff game, and the farewell error from a certain, future Hall of Famer. But that’s ok – that team is young and full of talent. Next year should be a lot of fun. (Alas, hope springs eternal.) I doubt I’ll be documenting it, though. Onwards and upwards.