Bi-weekly chatter about how looking closely at some of the most common expressions in everyday life can prompt new ways of thinking about our writing.
For a good part of 2019 my four kids were living on four different continents.
Africa. Asia. Europe. North America.
So, it made sense that 2019 was also the year I bought a little metal sign that read “Welcome Home” and screwed it into the space between the first and second steps leading up to our front porch. I remember pressing hard on that screw as I turned and turned the screwdriver, the action that would ensure the sign’s attachment to the wood, the porch, the house. I remember thinking: “If I strip this screw because I am pressing too hard, I’ll just do it again. If it strips again, I’ll do it again. And again.” I was determined to affix that sign onto that surface. I believed that little metal sign would do the trick. I was determined to welcome my kids home when the time came.
It did, here and there. By that Christmas, everyone had dragged their scuffed, loose-wheeled luggage up those steps and made it back for the holiday.
Mama was happy.
Welcome home. Welcome back. These calls, these common expressions, these “words on the street” (when a welcoming is relevant) serve as reminders that sometimes we leave or someone else leaves but that coming back, home and/or round again happens and that event can spark the range of emotions. First, we wait (patience, patience, patience!) Then, the day arrives (joy, gratitude, excitement!) And who can forget that extra-special variety of worry that many of us experience when we feel said joy, gratitude, and excitement?
Will it last? Will I lose it?
By now you probably know damn well where I am heading with all this.
First, welcome back! I’ve been on break from the column since November, and I’m glad to be back on this page. So, Happy New Year!
Also, Write or Die is back, too, in a new, fresh way. The energy is electric. I love the look, the reimagining and the added resources all meant to support us scribes. Thanks, Write or Die Magazine for being both hot and cool at the same time.
Now that we’ve got the warm embraces out of the way, what about our pages? Maybe some are blank because breaks were taken, parties were attended, and television shows were binge-watched. No one is naming names. Maybe some pages contain scribbled starts, ends and middles. Maybe when we look at them, these precious documents that once held promise or at least a glimmer of hope, seem to look back at us with whatever the equivalent of puppy dog eyes might be for pieces of paper.
Welcome back. Welcome home.
I say roll with it. Accept the welcome and dive in. We were the ones who put the words down there in the first place and so we can sure as hell finish or at least continue what we started. And if you want to delete and start over, that’s fine too. But accept the welcome to do so.
This is precisely where I get myself into trouble sometimes. I forget that work I started before a break or even way back when may be worthy of revisiting. It’s as if because I gave myself some time or took a minute, then whatever happened before doesn’t count! Not a helpful sensibility.
I’ve put together a list for you (and me) to use that can hopefully help us gracefully fold back into the home that are the pages or the practice we started before we skedaddled in late-2022.
It’s 2023, not 2022 anymore. Go to some of those older docs that call to you, ones that still have energy and that you believe in. Change the file names and put them into a fresh new folder with a fresh new name. If they are handwritten, rip them out of the current journal they are in and staple them into a new one. It’s sort of a Welcome Back and a Happy New Year at the same time.
Play with tense, POV or form with one of these old-but-ready-to-be-new-again pieces. Take one of your stories and try it with a different spin. This may shake something up but in a productive way. Think about all the pulp on the bottom of the bottle of orange juice. When we shake it, the flavor and texture come alive. This can happen with words, form and stories, too.
I’m sure on whatever break you may have taken, reading was done. Maybe not whole books but you probably consumed content that mattered to you and made a mark. How about going back to that, finishing it, if necessary, and writing a review?
Speaking of writing, what about welcoming yourself back to the routine by taking something you’ve started and working on it with the goal of submitting it to this magazine. There are new, fab options like fiction opportunities, a blog that focuses on the writing life, first-person essay slots and space for author interviews.
Finally, try not to worry as the welcome wagon approaches or as you approach it. (Translation: cut yourself slack if you get nervous resuming your routine and opening the old notebooks and files.) Your pages are yours, the work has lasting power and sometimes getting lost means you find something precious that was there all along. One more thing…a welcome home sign doesn’t have to be metal with screws that attach it to wood. Grab a Post-it Note or an index card or a napkin. Add a piece of scotch tape. Find a spot that you look at every day and press hard onto the surface. You never know, it might just do the trick.
Welcome back. Welcome home.