Monday, February 17, 2014

Life Lessons from Geometry and Cookies!

I was trying to figure out what I wanted to post today, and then I remembered this post. It's from a few years ago on my personal blog, but it really spoke to me. So I edited it (slightly) and reposted it here. It's funny how, even years later, you can be dealing with the same thing in a new way.

And that thing right now is shapes.

Things are "simple" with shapes. Square. Triangle. Circle. Rectangle. Pentagon. What you see is what you get. Count the sides and there's no room for question. A square is a square is a square is a matter the size or color or location.

But when you think about it--really think about it--it does matter. 

If you flip a rectangle over a few degrees, you get a diamond. If you make that loop in the circle a little too long, you get an oval. There are other types of triangles: obtuse, acute, right. I think math-people would say all those are very different things, even if they are essentially the same.

That's the whole point of this post: everyone is different. Every blog, every book, every writer is different. Even if they are essentially the same.

Why am I talking about this? A few reasons. (stick with me)

1) I overheard a customer talking about books. She said that all books are a formula in certain genres, so she was going to read that genre anymore. It stuck with me because even if there are similarities in the way things unfold, each story is different. The words and rhythm of Author A are different than Author B. The character has a unique story to tell.

2) I stumbled in a conversation that someone only needed to read one blog--because they were all the same anyway. This, of course, isn't true. Every blog is different. Sure, they may share meme's and review the same books, but the opinions, ideas and voices of each person are so incredibly different and the experience and connection with each blogger will be unique.

3) I'm an author now (ha, still weird to say) and that means people get to read my books. There are people who will love SALT, people who will like it, and others who will hate it. This is the nature of the beast. And I'm okay with that, because reading is subjective, but just because a reader hated SALT doesn't mean a reader who loved it was wrong. Or vice verse. We all have different tastes.

4) With NoVa TEEN Book Festival just weeks away, I'm getting down to all the nitty details. All the small moments that build into the big event. I'm not the best at the small details. I know them all, I see them, but I'm not always the best at implementing them. I'm a dreamer. In life, in writing, in editing, I like the big picture. But I have to do the small things, to be detailed, even if it makes me occasionally feel like a square peg that's trying to fit in a round hole. Does that mean I shouldn't do them? No, it just means I should know my weaknesses and find people who have those qualities in excess. (Which is what I've done in life, in editing, in writing and in event planning.)

I was thinking about ALL that. About how we put ourselves in these boxes. About how we make life this checklist and force all the things around us to fit into it. And it doesn't fit. But we shove anyway. We twist. We pull. We push. We trim. We shape. We want it to fit. And then we wonder why, in the end, we're tired and broken.
Here's why:  a square cannot be a circle.

Well, &%^#! What now? What do we do when we can't be the fill the kind of need that exists? When we can't be the type of blogger who brings in 15 bazillion unique visits in a day? When we aren't the kind of writer that makes words flow and dance and hearts stop beating and tears fall because the lines are so good?

You're right. We quit. We don't try to find a place to fit. We don't create something new. We stop existing and disappear.

I bet that's what Augustine Rodin did he got the idea for The Thinker--he laughed and threw away the design because it was too different.

I bet that's what Oatmeal Raisin cookies did when they couldn't be Chocolate Chip--just stopped existing because they weren't good enough.

And when JK Rowling had an idea about a little magical boy named Harry with black hair, a scar and glasses, she completely scrapped that idea because it was too hard and too scary.

Oh wait. They didn't? You mean, The Thinker is one of the most famous sculptures of all time? And people actually eat Oatmeal Raisin cookies? And--what??--JK Rowling is like the twelfth richest woman and one of the most influential women in Britain?

Fine. But what does all this have to do with shapes and blogging and writing and event planning-- I'm so confused?!

It has to do with this: BE YOURSELF.

We're taught that in elementary school, but somewhere along the way we forget. We become so obsessed with fitting into the mold, we forget that we are supposed to be different! We are different. Every person has something about them that's unlike anyone else, even if sometimes it seems essentially the same. No two people are alike. And you know that saying, "Opinions are like noses. Everyone has one." And they are all uniquely different.

So what if your blog only has 200 followers--that's awesome! Remember when it was you and your best friend and some random kid who entered a contest? You've come far! And no one comments on your reviews? Oh well. The four people that are reading them are listening to you. And that post you wrote last week really affected someone. Don't stop speaking out.

SO WHAT if the words in your novel don't make you want to cry at every line. Who wants to cry at every line? Just write the book! Just tell the story. Let it suck...and then fix it. And take criticism. And then fix it. And fix it some more. And make the words flow. EVEN IF it doesn't sound like author A & B. I'd say that's good! I don't want all my books to sound the same. I don't all my characters to have a dead mother or a dead sister or a crazy boyfriend. I want different. That crazy aunt who talks to the flowers in her closet--I'd read that. Write it. Find your voice---YOURS.

And so what if those ten people hated your book. Remember that email and that tweet from that girl who LOVED it? It matters. This story matters and the next one matters. Every story you write matters to someone so keep writing.

No one else can tell your story or fill your role. Only you. And if you don't do it--if you don't step up and be yourself and take a chance--then no one else will do it for you.

Not me because I can barely do it for myself.

Not that whole team of people who are helping you accomplish this big dream. They wouldn't even have a dream without you.

Not that girl who doesn't know there's an entire world of blogs out there and she's missing out and people who could be her friends for life because she won't even look around.

Not that girl who thinks all books are the same.

Not that agent who's waiting for a story just like yours. Or that editor who's been dreaming of your book and didn't even know it.

Only you.

Everything has a place it belongs. And eventually, even the square finds a place to fit.


  1. I think this is a great post for all debut authors to read, especially if they are feeling discouraged over reviews. We can't all please everyone. We write the stories we want to tell and hope they find a home with someone.

  2. Nice lines: Shapes and us, you know its true, most of time we try to fit in the mold but fails every time we tried and suddenly one fine day mold fits around us, and everything gets perfectly fit and makes beautiful picture... Waiting for that fine day...:)