What I Learned in November

Emily over at Chatting at the Sky has made it a practice to record the things she learns each month. It’s a valuable habit, this habit of reflection, and so I’ve been joining her in it this year. If you’d like to join us as we remember, you can comment on this post with what you learned, or head over to Emily’s site and link up there.

1. I have plenty of time to write if I make it a priority.

In November, I finished the fiction MOOC I was taking, I wrote several blog posts about the Syrian refugee debate, I wrote and submitted two articles (both of which were accepted!), and I finished NaNoWriMo. As an added bonus, my house is still standing and my family was fed and our clothes were washed and my daughter is still alive. Now that I look back on it, I’m not sure how I managed to fit all of that into a full life, but it emphasizes that fact that, for me anyway, not having time is not an excuse not to write.

(That said … I haven’t written much of anything since the day before Thanksgiving, for a variety of reasons – not the least of which may be the simple need for a break from the flow of words.)NaNo-2015-Winner-Badge-Large-Square

2. I often pursue things that interest me with single-minded intensity.

This can be both a curse and a blessing, depending on how I use it.

In October, I found myself absorbed by the debate surrounding the President’s plan to bring Syrian refugees here to the US in the wake of the attacks in Paris. I’m not sure what it was that captured me so completely, but it held my attention, and I found myself reading (and reading and reading) articles and stories and opinions about it. At one point, I started to tell Jonathan a statistic about refugee employment rates, then stopped myself mid-sentence and said, “You know that this isn’t the only thing I’m thinking about these days, right?”

There’s good to this, of course – that it helped me become more informed about this particular topic, and helped to open my eyes to broader issues in the world – but also bad, in that I spent a fair amount of time and energy on something that, in the end, I can do little to change or affect.

3. Snowshoeing on a moonlit night is much noisier and less idyllic than it sounds.

Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend, I had the opportunity to go snowshoeing with friends by the light of the moon, thanks to my loving husband who stayed home with Katie and encouraged me to go adventuring. I’d forgotten how noisy it is to tromp through the snow – the constant crunch of metal biting can make it difficult to carry on a conversation. Plus it was cold.

It was fun, and a good time with friends, but not the idyllic outing you might imagine.

Check out this excellent cell-phone snap. I’m the one who didn’t quite manage to get her headlamp off in time for the photo.


4. Carved pumpkins rot with amazing speed.

I intended to cook our jack-o-lantern down for use in breads and pies and all things yummy, but I waited a few days too long. Yeesh, was the inside of that thing nasty.

5. The ability to walk opens up the door to all kinds of new trouble.

Case in point (please ignore the messy state of my pantry):


6. Being published in a large publication opens you up to hurtful comments – but that can be a good thing. 

I had an essay published on Good Housekeeping this month. It’s the single most-read piece of writing I have ever shared, which is exciting and a bit heady. It received some unfriendly comments (both on the site itself, and in other places that shared the story).

I’m not naïve, and I knew even as I submitted the piece that it would likely receive some ugly replies. The Internet can be that way, and I was writing about a topic that tends to stir deep emotions. I braced myself for nastiness.

But that nastiness has been good for me, for a few reasons. First, it helped me to let go of what others think of my words. And second, in what may seem to be a contradiction, it reminded me that I need to be mindful of the inadvertent messages I might be sending, of the way my readers might take things. 

They’re in tension, these two ideas, but it’s a good tension, for while I do not want my self-worth or even the direction I take with my writing to be determined by the ways that others respond to what I say, I should strive to be thoughtful and kind in my approach, to ensure to the best of my ability that the words I use do not cause unnecessary pain, to try as much as possible to consider points of view other than my own. The negative comments I’ve received have helped me to think about my own view, my own opinions, and to evaluate whether they might need changing or tweaking to better fit reality. And so, while it can be a painful process, I’m hoping they help me to grow.

Those are my lessons from November. What about you? What did you learn?

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