Posted in Between the Lines: This Writer's Journal

Becoming a Real Writer

It doesn’t happen all at once. You become. It takes a long time.

Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit

It doesn’t happen all at once. You become. It takes a long time.

Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit

“You’re a writer, aren’t you?”

Someone asked me that a few years ago, and I had to awaken myself to the reality. Yes, I guess I am.

Even after self-publishing five books, I mentally pinch myself to remind myself that I am a real writer.

What constitutes becoming a real writer?

Is it having a degree? Is it being published? Is it having someone tell you are? While these things might have something to do with being a writer, they are not what makes someone a writer. The answer may seem simple, but it is the answer.


Writing can be public blogs or private journals. Drafts are stuffed in messy desk drawers and stored in computer files. Writing compels the writer to dash home from a nature walk to scribble on a Post-It note. It fuels the coffee and tea industries. It yanks the writer out of bed before everyone else wakes up or keeps the writer up after everyone has gone to sleep. Either way, writers write.

No, it doesn’t happen all at once. It does take a long time. It also doesn’t take a flower fairy waving a magic wand to make it real.

It takes you with pen in hand doing what you love and becoming what you believe you are. Those tears and that leap of joy will prove it so.



Posted in De-Cluttering 2018

Battling the Basement: The Plethora of Papers and Projects

I have gotten started sorting the home education books I am ready to share with others. Those decisions are made fairly quickly. We are nearing the end of our journey (my youngest is a sophomore in high school), so the completed resources are easy to detect. What is not so easy is the next goal: figuring out which papers and projects to keep archived.

There are many opinions on this subject, even within the same family. So, I recommend proceeding with caution. That scrap of paper that looks like garbage to a Thrower is a treasure for the Saver. My husband and I still dispute the wisdom of keeping his kindergarten papers. By the same token, he might not understand why I still have my college research papers and notes. Not to mention church bulletins with poetic scrawls where sermon notes should be. Taking all types into account, here is my strategy for reducing our plethora of papers and projects.

  • Remember the three criterion for sorting: Determine if it will shock, burden, or bore.

    • What could be shocking about home education papers? Journals! Make sure your child is okay with you reading them.
    • What might burden them? Keeping more than they want in their basements some day.
    • What might bore them? Anything outside their interests.

With those parameters in mind…

  • Consider primary interests and future areas of study: My children will not shed tears over discarding their math assignments. But, sketch books are sacred.
  • My interests are not necessarily their interests: I knew I wanted to be a writer at the age of ten, so I shudder to consider throwing out those early drafts. My kids wouldn’t think twice before pitching theirs.
  • Their interests are not necessarily my interests: I might see the value of keeping certain papers for documentation purposes. When a child is on an IEP, it is important to keep records.   Even so…
  • When at all possible, create a digital copy: Most documents can be scanned and stored on a hard drive or in the cloud (password protected, of course). Special projects (like that bug or leaf collection) can be photographed once it has been completed.
  • Keep what is essential: I was aptly reminded by my home-education-store friend that only two pieces of documentation are essential for home school: the transcript and the diploma. I would add the IEPs if you have a special needs child and state-required yearly test copies. But, remember all of these can be stored digitally.
  • Preserve what can be reused or appreciated in the future: One thing I plan to keep is the replica of the Tabernacle. We put it together from a kit at the beginning of our home education years. Since then, I’ve used it several times. This is a family treasure I hope to share with my grandchildren.

I can’t guarantee that I will toss every scrap of paper (I’m sure that my husband’s kindergarten papers and my scribbled-up church bulletins will be in our wills), but with these strategies in mind, I hope to reduced out stack of boxes considerably.

Posted in Between the Lines: This Writer's Journal

Alone, But Not Lonely

Sometimes you have to be alone in order to find out who you are without anyone telling you. Sometimes you have to be alone so you can learn the sound of your own voice.

from You Can Do This by Tricia Lott Williford

As a home educator, I am rarely alone in the house. There were years when finding a place of solace meant sitting in the bathroom longer than necessary or clearing a place in my walk-in closet to have my quiet time. As my children have grown, my moments of reprieve have expanded. They sleep in, and I have a few more minutes before the hurry-scurry of the day. We go off to their activities, and I have time to read or knit while I wait. I leave the radio off in the car on purpose so that I can drown out the cacophony of life with silence.

But, my favorite escape is to my local coffee shop. I pack my bag with my laptop, reading material, notebook, and anything else I might want. I order my signature beverage that the coffeehouse staff knows by heart and find a table. Alone.

Yet, I’m not lonely.

I write. I read. I study. I listen. I hear the voices around me, but mostly I hear my own voice.

That’s important for a writer.

All writers have a unique tone and style. Having time alone allows that voice to be heard. We might not always like what we hear, but we must heed it. This is the voice of reason, our purpose for existing.

Because no one can tell your story the way you can.


Posted in De-Cluttering 2018

Battling the Basement: New Homes for Home Education Resources

After ten years of home educating my children, I have collected around three boxes per year of resources, papers, and projects. (That’s one box per child, and I might be underestimating by half!) That means the equivalent of thirty boxes are stacked (mostly neatly) in various places of the basement.

It is definitely time to share my stash!

But, how? Let’s start with the resources.

  • Distribute textbooks: Many publishers develop new editions of their textbooks. Before textbooks become out-dated, it’s a good idea to give others the opportunity to use them. (Incidentally, older editions of books aren’t less useful. They are less expensive, even free!)
  • Loan literature: These are books and resources to be returned once the borrower is finished. They include classic literature. The newer editions may have more recent commentaries or translations, but the older editions usually retain the original text. When they come back, decide then what to do with them.
  • Reduce the redundant: In some cases, we have more than one copy of a book. If it is a cherished title, keep one and give away the other.
  • Retain the memorable: A few books are simply treasures. Keep them. Set each aside for the child that loved that book most. Then give it when that child has his/her own basement.

My goal is to have two boxes per child–one for favorite books and one for special papers and projects. I’ll write about that second one tomorrow.



Posted in Uncategorized

Reading Between the Lines in Daily Conversations

Prompted by an exercise in The Perfect You, I am considering how to read between the lines within conversations and observations in every day life. As a writer, this is a critical exercise.

It is safe to say that many (if not all) characters within classical and favorite novels throughout the ages have centered around observing people. Writers read body language and interpret it within their descriptive prowess. Tone, innuendo, thoughts, and feelings are exhibited through well-crafted dialogue. Idiosyncrasies are displayed, sometimes with exaggeration, to identify characters’ personalities with their strengths and weaknesses.

But, there is a caution to this activity as well. We can be guilty of misinterpretation, of invading privacy, of indirect (or direct) mockery if we fail to consider the real people behind our characterizations. It’s a delicate tight-rope that all writers walk. We must remained balanced. In all likelihood, our fictional portrayals reflect a nonfictional reality. If we are doing our jobs well, we will speak truth without deprecating results.

This begins with respecting our characters as if they are real people. As we reveal their stories, we determine what and what not to share. How much is too much? In many cases, the less the better. Let each character live. What will emerge is authenticity–a not-all-good, yet not-all-bad persona–that will allow readers to empathize and analyze at the same time.

Perhaps we need more of that in our reading of the people we encounter daily. Because judgment without mercy is tyranny, and mercy without judgment is overindulgence. Both judgment and mercy are required for a fair assessment of a situation. Both are essential for quality writing as well.