A Gentle Story Not a Sexy Story
I wish this was a sexy story about sexy things but it is not. Writing, binging sleep, and doing it all again the next day is decidedly not sexy. And, it’s a bit isolating if I’m honest. Daylight savings, cold weather, varients etc… keep a girl quiet and inside.
During one of those quiet, post-bed binges, I sat down to write and had this thought: who could possibly need another one of my stories?
In a world with so much going on, writers fear the answer is, nobody. Nobody needs another word from you.
We writers go through this crisis of purpose all the time. Why do we labor over the right word here, the appropriate comma there? There are masses of people truly suffering the slings and arrows of life and here I am spending an hour over a tiny little funny phrase, trying to get it right. How privileged, how pampered am I? Good God, Ann, get over yourself.
Before I wrote fiction I wrote scientific papers on mental health and exercise. My mentor would ask me a question and I would start to answer by saying, “I think,” and he’d interrupt me “Nobody cares what you think. Even your mother doesn’t care.”
“Rude,” Is what I would think. And then I would think even louder, “My mother does indeed care. And also, my mother doesn’t care what you think. So there.”
What my mentor was trying to say in his inelegant way was, “Give me the data. The facts. Not your opinions.”It’s a very common thing for women to qualify statements with I believe or I think.
We learn to soften the delivery, step on no toes, and we end up wondering if our words matter.
This morning while sitting on a dock of a wide and lovely brackish pond, I watched maybe one hundred geese take off from the water. It was thrilling. Two hundred wings beating the water, heads bobbing, wild honking displaying the physics of flight. Off they went except for one goose who tried but didn’t clear the water surface.
I held my breath, urged her on.
“Lady,” I said out loud. “Get going!”
She beat the water with her wings. Rested. Her head pivoted and she seemed to look at me and say, “WTF, help me!”
What to do? Even if I could get to her I wouldn’t be equipped to take her in my arms and fly.
I said as gently as my anxiety would allow, “Go on.”
I was more invested in that goose than I’ve ever been during a football game (no offense NFL).
I watched her flap and flap until she did it, she took flight and went off in the direction of her flock. I exhaled. She did it on her own. I didn’t have the tools to help her fly.
All I could do was watch and write about it.
This is why I write. Stories are my tools for reaching people I can’t physically get to, the masses I can’t comfort or sit next to and giggle with, or help fly. Those I can’t help in a measurable way.
My mentor would argue that since there’s no data, I only think I’m helping.
And I would say, I do have data in the form of emails, letters, and quick comments from you, my readers. And that is all the data I need.
If you have ever had the thought that nobody needs another word from you, another cool hand on a warm forehead, another kindness handed to a stranger in the way of a smile, that nobody cares what you think, I would argue: people care. The world needs you and your supportive tools, whatever they may be. That’s why we are here on this earth. To help each other, bond,snuggle when it’s dark, and create better news.
And sometimes to write about it.
Big thank you to Samantha Hoffman for editing this piece. She edits all my essays. Click for her services.
If you want to read a story I don’t tell very often–you can read it here. https://anngarvin.net/heres-a-story-i-dont-tell-very-often/
If you want to read about how ducks take off I looked it up here.
How nice it was to see an email from you in my inbox this morning. It made me smile. I care about your stories.
Thank you. I care about you. Thank you for being here,
This is the essay that I needed to get me up and out today. If a goose can do it, so can I.
If a goose can do it so can I!!!
More kind words, more cool hands on warm foreheads…yes, we all need that. TY.
We do. Thank you my beautiful friend.
Please don’t ever quit trying!
I won’t. Please keep reading.
“More cool hands on warm foreheads”…….and “to create better news.” Amen sistah! Love this!
Sistah! You got that right. We need to stick together.
Thanks Ann, It’s not the flock of birds in flight that have room to spread their wings it sometimes takes a struggle to soar through the sky in full sight.
Bingo. Thank you Susan. YOu are a gift.
Ann, I loved your piece, and tweeted it. Thank you for your honesty and courage.
You are so welcome. Thanks for being here to read. Thanks for joining the story!!
I need another story precisely because of life’s sling and arrows. I need to laugh,smile. During this covid(ack!the c-word!)&quarentene I discovered British fiction. Written by women. I love it!The charecters are not perfect or young and regurley break out of boxes perscribed for them. Its pure fun to read. Keep writing.please.
Thank you Cheryl!
I need the stories and the writing too. More than I ever thought.
Much love to you,
You hit the nail on the head for me today! This is a hard time of year for me and I’ve been feeling like I don’t matter. I’m grateful that I read your essay to realize we all matter. Maybe I don’t have the biggest audience, but I do have people who care about me. I need to let them help me and trust them more. Love to you <3 with gratitude!
So glad you are here. I think we all need a little reminder every once and awhile.
Well, you have my audience. xoxo
We need a reminder that is for sure.
So, yesterday I met with my online writing group. We meet bi-weekly, chat about our writing goals, word counts, agent queries, and what comps work best. We give each other a boost of confidence that may have lagged in the preceding weeks and plan what we’ll wear to each other’s book launch parties. At the end of each session, we tell each other about the book we’re currently reading.
One of my friends asked, “Sandra, who’s that author you always talk about?” That author is you, Ann Garvin! I tell them how much I love your writing, the support you offer to others through the Tall Poppies, and how masterfully you capture the heart and humour in your characters. I’ve probably mentioned Peanut a time or two as well!
If you’re looking for “data,” I can assure you, you hit the highest points on the chart. Your words matter. Your voice matters. You matter! Thank you.
I’m all choked up right now. Wow. This is the loveliest letter and you are always the sunniest presence whenever I “see” you. Thank you. I’m so honored by this. YOu must keep writing–never stop. We need people whose hearts are exposed like ours. xo
Dear Ann — Receiving your message today as we reflect on the news of the world on high alert again versus recalling how good it felt reading Thought You Said This Would Work is a piece of evidence of how much warmth and understanding you bring to readers.
Just the inspiration I needed this morning to get my butt in the chair and write, write, write. Thank you.
Thanks for being at the event last night. I think being in the presence of writers is a must.
I’m that slow-to-soar goose – THANX for cheering me on!
slow and steady wins the race !!
Feelings are a response to data. They help us understand what to do with information. Data is a tool. Feelings are the muscles that get the work done. Work like helping a friend in pain.
Well said, Evie. Perfectly saiid.
Thank you…well said…Would that this could be spread world wide…
Oh me toooo. I truly wish this.
I had to laugh, really…about the mentor…my grad school mentor, a PhD in genetics had a hard time with integrative philosophy and therapies…his mantra, ‘how do you know?'(aka give me the data!) to which I would reply, ‘because I know!'(aka my mother doesn’t care what you think, so there!) … As usual your words brighten my day! Hope you’re well, Ann. xo
hahaha They were all cut from the same cloth!
Glad you are hear to laugh with me.
I absolutely loved this story. I plan to share it with my writers’ guild — kind of a parting (borrowed) gift of wisdom as I step down from the president’s role I’ve held for three years. I’ve been the voice calling from the side “you can do it” and now it’s time to say that to myself. Thank you for sharing your words.
You can do it, Jeanne!!
Thanks you, what a compliment that you will share this.
So glad you’re here.
You are so welcome.
Oh Ann Garvin, this is beautiful. And a balm, in these times that leave us all questioning what matters, and who cares. Then your words – connection, it matters. ❤️
Oh Kate, thank you. Connection…it’s everything.
I really love this…and really needed it. Thank you. 🙂
Thanks for reading and saying so. I love the support and we all need it.
Thank you so much for your words today – they were just what I needed to hear as we head into a difficult time of the year for me (and for many others).
For me too. I am a solar powered plant with my family scattered. I see you.
Thank you for this, Ann. I really needed to read that! The story of the goose touched my heart. Thank you!
You write to reach the people you “…can’t comfort or sit next to and giggle with, or help fly.” That is a kind and generous motivation, and not one that is commonly articulated by authors in their quotable quotes. Most writers express what the work does for them because what the reader receives is so subjective and beyond the writer’s control. A fascinating essay in this regard, I think.
I’m a caregiver and then a nurse naturally. So I guess that’s why. Thank you for writing.
I received results from a writing contest, and whoa, one of the judges just had it out for my MS. Downright unkind things. But, another had really good things to say, she didn’t judge it harshly–in fact she gave it high marks, and she even went through the MS with helpful notes. A third was middle of the road with a few notes.
I realize reading is subjective, but had I stopped at the one who went on a tirade, I might never want to write again. I just have to learn to take criticism with a grain of salt, which isn’t easy, but it’s the only way to go forward.