Why write? Motives vary; need universal

Day by Day
Why write? Motives vary; need universal

April 10, 2017
This Week News

By Liz Thompson

I pushed the loaded cart of ancient records, videotapes and books into the used bookstore.

Standing at the cash register, where employees would look through my personal stash and give me a dollar value, I saw books piled so high, they looked as though a breeze would topple them.

Late author and humorist Erma Bombeck once said, “It is probably true that every person has a book in him fighting to get out. What is crucial is that if something is going to happen, the wannabe writer has to commit by putting all those hopes and dreams on the line. It’s time to stop talking about clever titles and get the book written.”

I was overwhelmed — and as a writer, a little discouraged — by the number of books I saw, all these “hopes and dreams” people had put to paper, tape or film. I wondered about my own motivation to write.

I love writing — but bestsellers? Not likely. I write to inspire and inform.

I posted this question on a Goodreads author group: “What motivates you to write with so much competition?”

Sue, who lives in Canada, replied, “My motivation in writing my first book was my desire to achieve wellness. (My book) was never written with the intention to become a bestseller, but rather to reach those who could benefit from the information … and for those who did read it, that is exactly what they reported that it has done for them … mission accomplished.”

Leonide, an Oregon resident, said it seems the world has enough books, so why write another to add to the excess?

“I continue to write books because it is a creative drive inside of me that demands expression,” she said. “There are stories that simmer within and insist on being cooked fully and set out for the feast. Whether they get consumed and appreciated is outside my control.”

She markets, like most authors.

“I certainly hope others will read and enjoy my books; writing the book itself is the most important thing,” she said.

Jim, a cartoonist, said, “As a kid, once a week I would head down to the bookstore for a portal into another world. Every week I’d get to tour an exotic location and imagine another life. I just want to give that experience to someone else.”

Lily in San Francisco writes because if she doesn’t, she feels as if part of her has checked out.

“It’s as important to me as food,” she said. “The words are like a communion wafer that melts on my tongue, nourishing body and soul.

“Writing itself is a mysterious act. Putting symbols on a page not only connects us with our own inner worlds but also with others.”

Kate loves used bookstores.

“I still remember the joys of rooting through the secondhand book shop … hunting for a Georgette Heyer novel that I didn’t already have (since they were out of print). Sheer joy to find one and hold it close … until I got it safely home. It was a ticket to another world.

“We authors capture what’s in our heads in words. Black on white. It has no substance until the reader re-creates the people and the world inside their own head. It’s a kind of miracle. No images provided … only words, yet their imagined movie of your book will have scenery, props and characters fashioned by them from just words.

“With 7 billion people on the planet, there’s a good chance that at least one of those people will connect with your story.”

Don of New York said, “I must write, and I even wake in the middle of the night to pen down a thought that comes to me, or risk losing an amazing idea for a story or a book.”

Rita, who lives in Australia, said simply, “I write because I can!”

I left the bookstore $5 richer. My discouragement fled soon after and new words swirled in my head.

A writer friend a little closer to home, Janet Shailer of Grove City, said, “My mind always has ideas flying around, like a plane waiting for clearance to land.”

Eventually, our ideas land and words appear on the page. And so our story begins.

Slow down and enjoy life’s read

Day by day

Slow down and enjoy life’s read

By LIZ THOMPSON
Wednesday June 18, 2014

What page are you on?

I can tell how much I’m enjoying a book when I don’t want it to end. Slowing down only delays the inevitable; the last page, the final word. Next I’ll be searching for the sequel or another book by this author.

Some people struggle to read and find it hard to study and learn; it can be a real problem to overcome.

But I’m also talking about those who can read fine but don’t want the task. They stop and look to see how many pages they have to read, bemoaning the fact they aren’t close to being finished — wasting time being frustrated instead of enjoying the read. The end will come soon enough.

We do that same thing when we check our watch every few minutes or wish our days away, when we spend time worrying or wanting a bad day to end. We’d be better off by making the most of the moment.

Maybe it’s a human condition where we push forward, in essence, to simply get all the pages turned and the book finished.

As a teen, a reading test showed I was a fast reader, yet my comprehension lagged. Reading fast has served me well in some respects, but proved detrimental when typing what I was reading. By reading so fast, I often skipped entire lines. The same proved true when playing the piano while reading the music.

In time, I learned to pace myself for accuracy in typing and playing music. As a result, my comprehension improved and I enjoyed more what I was reading or playing.

Our personal life is a unique book, one I believe is written by God. Not one book, or life, is identical. That’s remarkable. We need to listen and watch thoughtfully as each page is turned, knowing the end will eventually happen.

In May, we were camping in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. On our campsite, we had a screened room but we kept the front open during the day.

A yellow butterfly was darting frantically in this room, seeking an exit. I tried to help it out with my hands and hoped it would alight on my cane when upheld, to no avail. It was almost painful to watch as it hit the top and sides, coming so close to the exit and starting its mad path over again.

Finally, it escaped. We sighed with relief. Two days later it happened again, and I was able to use my hands to ease it to freedom. The flutter of its wings was both a thrill and a warning.

I found my heart rate was up after it flew away, and it reminded me how we sometimes spend a lot of time flying around seeking freedom, often refusing help. We see children acting much like the butterfly until they realize accepting help and guidance is good.

Life lessons are a gift.

I’m reminded of the final page analogy when someone dies and I attend the funeral, memorial service or wake. In April and May, I attended four such events, although in the same time frame six people I knew left this life: three friends, a brother-in-law, a neighbor who was also a friend, and the pastor who performed our wedding ceremony many years ago.

In retrospect, we think of these lives and their legacy.

I believe it’s unhealthy to compare ourselves to others. That would be like saying all the best books, poems and the like have been written. Why should we try to write anything?

I refer to other writers who inspire me; I don’t stop writing, thinking it doesn’t measure up, although I often choose to toss writings or completely rework them.

So with our lives. We spend time reworking ourselves and tossing out the garbage, so to speak. That’s a good choice.

When I attend memorial services, I try not to compare my life to theirs but I take inspiration from them. Those who volunteered — I might support these causes. Those who had great humor — I might catch myself when I grumble. And those who were humble — I’m reminded to check my ego at the door.

The list goes on.

When I fail to do what is good and true, I look to change that, often thinking of those who were positive influences on me.

Life moves fast enough; no need to push ahead. Turn your life pages slowly and enjoy the read.

 

Remembering Ruth Jividen

Day by Day

Remembering Ruth Jividen
By LIZ THOMPSON
Wednesday June 18, 2014

There’s no timeline to friendship.

One friend came into my life in 2007.

Ann Reynolds hosted our Sawyer Drive Ladies’ Gathering, surprising us with a special guest who lived around the corner. Ann said she was a special lady she had known since childhood.

“She went to school with my mother and aunts. As an adult, I really got to know her,” Ann said.

When this guest started talking, I asked for a pen and paper. I wanted to share her stories with others.

After this day, we met often. She talked, I wrote. I read it to her, she edited. I submitted. Together we wrote eight “Ruth Remembers” columns, which were published here from 2007 to 2011.

Her stories were a hit in our little ‘burb.

You likely have read much about Ruth Sawyer Jividen, her homestead that was sold to the city weeks before her April 14 death, and the closing of Beulah Park, which was named after one of her aunts.

Much history of our small town is linked to her family. After all, she was the last direct descendent of Hugh Grant, the man who cut down the first tree and built the first cabin here.

So why write more, and why should you read more about Ruth?

Ruth was more than the history she knew so well and lived for close to 99 years. She was an example to the following generations and had messages to share. All you had to do was ask her. Ruth could tell a story about growing up in Grove City with remarkable clarity and detail, remembering names, dates and places.

“She used to know the names of every family in Grove City,” Ann said. “She enjoyed talking to people more than talking about her.”

At her memorial service at St. John’s Lutheran Church, Pastor Don Allman said she was not stuck in the past but understood how the past shapes us.

“Ruth moved forward with the times, building on her foundation of faith and her experiences,” he said.

She was ready to meet her maker.

“Why am I still here?” she asked me weeks before her death. I reminded her that God knows the number of our days and we had to trust him. When we sang Precious Lord, Take My Hand at her memorial service, I knew that is exactly what Jesus did when she left this earthly life.

When she was 95 1/2  (she made sure I included the 1/2), I asked if she would write a letter to Jesus for my book. I’m glad I had a pen and paper handy because she took one breath and said, “Yes, dear Jesus … ” and shared her thoughts.

Once again, she talked, I wrote. I read it to her and she said, “You got the good stuff.”

“That sounds like Ruth,” Esta Fields said when I told her the story. “She was the sweetest little thing I ever knew. We could talk about anything. I just loved her.”

History connected them. They met five years ago when Harrisburg United Methodist Church was having its 200th anniversary, where people dressed in period costumes. Esta and her sister, JoAnn Freeman, borrowed bonnets from Ruth, but Esta first met her when returning them.

They became fast friends.

“We hit it off right away. When her health failed a few years ago, I stayed with her till her strength returned. I was glad to do that,” she said.

Esta was modest about the many ways she helped Ruth.

Ruth’s many friends in town readily lent her a helping hand, returning years of her generosity.

Don Yors, a lifetime resident, started working for Ruth’s first husband, Lem Seymour, doing odd jobs at age 13. He knew Ruth for more than 62 years and said she always made him feel like part of the family.

“She did a lot for me, was generous and always met me with a hug,” Don said. “She and Lem had a Swap Shop in the old blacksmith shop. I worked there, too.”

Don became a master welder and blacksmithed as a hobby. He was making a rose for Ruth out of pewter. He was going to give it to her, but they didn’t connect. It was placed in her casket.

Ruth kept copious notes, and I found a eulogy reading, in part: “If my parting has left a void, then fill it with remembering joy.”

Ruth touched many lives and will be missed, as her life becomes part of the Grove City history she loved to share.

218

Ruth Sawyer Jividen, 2012 when she was honored at the Civic Women’s Club of Grove City, Ohio.

 

Priority lists…

Day by day

Priority lists good for life as well as chores

by Liz Thompson
THISWEEKNEWS.COM
Tuesday January 21, 2014

Each new day is a gift. As years pass, seemingly faster every year, I become more aware of this reality. I try to start my days with a prayer that I’ll use my time wisely.

In the 1980s, I took a time management class at my workplace. My most valuable takeaway was to make daily to-do lists and prioritize them. The goal was to end our day with a lot of the tasks crossed off.

Years passed and I became a true list maker: grocery, daily to-do, what to pack for a trip, Christmas cards and gifts, and even books I’d read. Sometimes when the day is through and I read my list(s), I add accomplishments completed I hadn’t planned on and cross them off, too.

The last 10 days of December, my daily devotional book was about priorities. The author took each letter of the word, discussing what should be foremost in our lives. I realized that I don’t often list my life’s priorities; they are in my head and heart. This is not the popular bucket list or New Year’s resolutions I speak of, but what uses my time and talents and what fills my heart and mind. The order shifts with life circumstance, with many being constant.

Recently, I was reminded of a visual illustration. You have an empty jar — any size, you choose. You fill it with various small marbles or pea gravel. The jar is mostly full. Then you realize you still have some larger stones you need to put in the jar, but they won’t fit.

Start over and put the larger stones in the jar first. Then sprinkle the small gravel on top; these stones shift around and settle into the cracks and crevices. Some empty spaces remain. The jar represents our day, or life, and the large stones are our first priorities; the smaller stones are minor events. If those don’t all fit in our jar, or life, we’ve only missed out on something of lesser consequence.

Keep in mind that the small joys are no less important.

I asked some friends what their priorities are at this point in their lives. The answers have a common thread, partly because my friends and I are of a certain age.

Don Huiner, of Columbus, wants to become a better, active listener and talk less. “You know me well enough to know that’s not going to be a walk in the park for me,” he said.

Irveline, from Columbus, says her priority for this year is to teach her grandchildren, ages 2 to 20, Dutch and Welsh, which is their ancestors’ mother tongue.

“My priority for the year will be to say it like it is,” says Linda Sturm of Gahanna. “Procrastinator is a pretty word for sloth. I’m not procrastinating when I put something off; I’m being a sloth. By being honest with myself, dropping the window dressing, I hope to be more productive.”

Clay Cormany of Worthington says, “For me the ‘t’ in priorities stands out with t standing for time and a wiser, more productive and less self-centered use of it. That means more time spent playing with my grandchildren and seeing the world through their eyes; more time spent showing my love and devotion to my wife; more time visiting my 90-year-old aunt, who’s my last living link to my parents’ generation; and less time playing computer word games.”

“I want to spend as much time as possible with my grandchildren while they’re young, and my children,” says Judy Hannigan of Grove City. She hopes to start visiting people in assisted living and spend time with shut-ins, like she used to, because they may not see others very often.

My daughter, Mary, wants to be more like the biblical Mary and less of a Martha. See Luke 10:38-42 for the story about Mary listening attentively when Jesus was their guest while her sister, Martha, was busy working.

Elizabeth, my granddaughter, wants to make God’s purpose for her life her highest priority.

If we put these and similar long-term priorities in our jar first — and probably keep them there to remind us — we’ll have room for the small surprises. We’ll still have empty spaces of time open for contemplation, recreation and rest.

No matter what we place in our jars, Zig Ziglar sums up time management well: “Spend time with those you love. One of these days you will say either, ‘I wish I had,’ or ‘I’m glad I did.’ “

If you have the desire, write, share and enjoy

If you have the desire, write, share and enjoy
By Liz Thompson
November 20, 2013
ThisWeekNews

Everyone has many a story to tell. Is it “worth writing a book about” is a question I hear often from people with stories they think are worth the ink.

Recently, I was at Praises Books and Gifts in Lancaster where they hosted a book signing for my second book. Sitting with me was Kathleen Welty who has three stories in this book, along with 14 other contributors.

Since I live in Grove City and grew up in Westerville, Lancaster obviously is not my hometown but it is Kathleen’s. She let friends and family know of the event and many came to see her and meet me. The best experience of the day was meeting these old friends and family of Kathleen and others who attended.

Kathleen’s inspirational stories show how God has touched her life. All three were accepted by the publisher, while some others, by other people, were not. They didn’t fit the theme but were well written.

I fought for one of Kathleen’s stories to stay in the book. Three times it was cut and still kept showing up in a new working manuscript. The third time, I said that it must be meant to stay in and the publisher agreed.

This day, I met Kathleen’s longtime Campfire leader and we talked about how different it was from my Girl Scout experiences. Some friends since first grade showed up with smiling faces and warm memories.

One woman asked about getting published. She had heard of an online service where she could self-publish and she kept talking. When she stopped, I asked how much she had written.

“Nothing yet. But it’s about relationships,” she said.

“Is your goal to simply be published or to tell the story?” I asked.

Her answer was to tell me the experiences. I was hooked and told her I’d read it but she had to get writing. I suggested she sit and write from the heart telling the stories just like she told us that day.

“Don’t edit or worry about sentence structure, just write freely,” I said. “Edit later and do lots of it.”

Our Grove City Writers’ Group supports this idea of editing well and often and that editors are our friends. I have always believed that. We all agree, too, that we can’t have a thin skin if we are going to be writers — published or not. Not everyone reading our work will like it. I don’t like every book or article I read, do you?

Being published or seeing a byline really does hold a personal thrill but I believe writing is about expressing our thoughts, recording personal and family history, sharing our experiences and more. Most artists I know of different mediums are compelled to express themselves.

Also recently, I had the good fortune to talk with the Current Events group at the Upper Arlington Senior Center. They asked me to talk about my life as a writer. I still need to remind myself that, in fact, I am a writer. It’s such a natural act for me and I’ve been blessed with venues like this newspaper, magazines and my books to express my thoughts and experiences.

Having been a reporter in Upper Arlington for two years, this was especially pleasant for me. I did quite a few stories on members of this senior center and other senior citizens in this lovely burg. Their stories often were the stuff of history books, or what they should be.

My Uncle Walter and Aunt Eva Page lived there for years and of course I visited as a girl and as an adult. I used to love hearing my uncle tell stories of his life on the farm on the East Side of Columbus. He wrote them down for his grandsons. My father-in-law made tapes of his life in Southeast Ohio as a coal miner and all his other experiences.

Things I heard growing up from my parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents seemed so distant from the life I knew. But these are tales of the people who helped form America’s history. They lived it, fought in the wars for our freedom and raised families against many odds. We can learn from this generation and need to listen.

Many have written their stories and been published. But whether or not you get published, I encourage you to write, share and enjoy.

Government shutdown turned park to crime scene

Day by Day
Government  shutdown  turned park  to crime scene

By LIZ THOMPSON
THISWEEKNEWS
Thursday, October 24, 2013

We’d planned our trip for about six months. My Girl Scout training of 10 years taught me to “Be Prepared.” In any case, reservations at a national park can only be made six months out.

The Great Smoky Mountain National Park is a feast for the senses. October is our favorite month to camp. Crisp sweet-scented air, cold nights, rustling leaves underfoot, fewer campers and mostly the older set, like us, who are ready for conversation at any time and respectful as to when to interrupt others to engage in that chat.

Campfires are welcome as the temperature dips throughout the day and we get a lot of reading done while listening to the rushing creek.

We arrived on Sunday, Sept. 29 and planned to stay two weeks. Our campsite was all set and, a little weary from a long drive and the work, we were about to claim our chairs to relax. Before that, we walked to get a newspaper at the camp store. That’s when we read the headline that the government might shut down at midnight. If that happened, all the more than 400 national parks would close.

Tuesday morning the park ranger confirmed the outcome. We were told to pack up and go home; or wherever your next visit was to be. Home for us.

We headed to town for a cell phone signal only to be met with rangers at the visitor center setting up the orange cones, yellow tape — it felt like a crime scene actually — and we made sure we could get back into the park to retrieve our gear.

“Yes, but make your arrangements and be out by Thursday noon,” he said.

So the task of taking down what we had just put in place began. Campers started to vacate quickly. The local news station came through the park to get on-camera interviews asking the question our lawmakers should be asking, “How does this affect you?”

We enjoyed our last day as much as possible and when we drove out Wednesday morning, only four trailers were left in our area. To see the rows of vacant campsites was eerie at best. As we left the park, roads were blocked and when we got to one point, we had to open a metal gate and shut it after we passed through.

We didn’t see another car until we hit town, about 10 minutes or more out of the park. Not the usual occurrence.

While we were packing our campsite, it brought to mind what I’d heard over the years; different versions of, “If you had to leave your home quickly, what would you take?” The thought being, if you were to never return or if the house was on fire, what would you deem most important or irreplaceable? As long as my family was safe, the things don’t matter, in the long run.

Would I pack a suitcase full of the things of my life? Could I really do that? Pack the important things in a case or box? Not really. It’s the people and memories that matter.

While I sat by the rushing creek at our campsite, I was surrounded by memories we had made in the Smokies since 1977. I was sad we had to leave so quickly and 12 days before planned.

The sadness also came on another level that is difficult to put in words. I could almost see the people who carved out this particular national park so many years ago. In my mind’s eye, it was in black and white like a documentary. Then I realized if the park were to never reopen, the forest would reclaim all that man had made for access to this natural wonder.

The few campers still remaining on Tuesday milled around and talked. One couple from Arkansas were traveling all around the country visiting national parks for another few weeks and would have to figure out whether to go home or find a state park.

A couple from Illinois came to enjoy the sound of the creek. He had gradually lost most of his hearing but five years ago got a cochlear implant. A man from North Carolina had questions on details about leaving and said, “I don’t want to get political but …”

How could we not get political when the whole mess was just that? We all agreed, shook our heads and kept packing.

Will we return again? The Good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, yes.

Local author Liz Thompson writes the Day by day column for ThisWeek News.

The little things…

Day by day

The little things paint our days, make up life

By LIZ THOMPSON
THISWEEK NEWS
Monday August 19, 2013

It’s all a matter of perspective.

“That’s a cute dress,” I said to the young girl in the library. Since she was wearing leggings, I added, “Or is it a top?”

The Dad answered with a smile, “It doesn’t matter what it is called as long as it twirls!”

“Will you twirl for me?” She did. It was a great dress or top for twirling.

I found myself smiling for a long time after I moved on from the girl who loves to twirl. The 30-second conversation and a smiling twirl brightened the rest of my morning. Even now, hours later, I can still see her shy smile as she started to spin and the crooked smile of the Dad telling me, “See?”

How we see our day to day lives; the significant things and the moments paint how we count our day as a success or not.

Songs and poems have been written about the little and simple things in life that make it all worthwhile. My life experience has proven it really is the moments that make up the whole.

We have friends with acres of corn who offered to let us pick several large bags.

This was an unexpected and delicious gift. That we had so much we were able to share with our neighbors and family, made it more special. After we blanched, cooled and cut the corn off the cob to freeze and I realized I didn’t cut my fingers once — which is kind of a big deal for me — I was even more grateful.

More than once in my life, someone has told me to look out a window or out at something — a bird, flower, person — and I find I’m looking too far away when it’s right near me. Often I have missed the chance to share this sight because I looked too far.

That reminds me of the idiom about not being able to see the forest for the trees. Being too wrapped up in the details to enjoy the general situation.

One night I was peeking out from under our covered patio to see if there were stars in the night sky. I caught a glimpse of a shiny thread and followed the line only to see a spider the size of a silver dollar propped in the middle of its web.

Had I stepped two feet to my left, I would have walked right through the center. My focus was too distant to see the whole picture.

No matter what we think or what people tell us, time doesn’t really fly. It feels like it when we realize a month is almost spent or summer is almost over. Children back to school already? Where did the summer go? we think. Of course, it didn’t “go” anywhere and our minds tell us this fact but before we know it we are getting our cool weather clothes out again.

We have moved so many times that we remember what was happening at any given time by saying, “Where were we living then?” Our moves and various homes are markers for our life moments; where and when our children or grandchildren were born; when we started or left a certain job; and when time started flying by too fast and the little life moments became more precious to us.

I know when the latter started happening with me. It was when I slowed down a little at a time. Sure, life happened to slow me down but now I count it as a blessing in disguise.

When my youngest grandson, 13, asked me to do exercises with him, and I asked what kind — chin ups, pushups, sit ups and more — I said my sit ups aren’t the kind he described, and would he prefer a game?

He agreed and we played Tiddly-Winks, his choice, and he still beat me even though I said, “I grew up playing Tiddly-Winks.”

Then we played the card game War and much to my surprise, I won. We played till I had all the cards. My grandson said, “That never happens!” I said that is does when you play long enough. While we played, we also talked, laughed and joked. We enjoyed the moments.

It’s all about perspective. I see it clearly.

A quote by Frank A. Clark sums it up well.

“Everyone is trying to accomplish something big, not realizing that life is made up of little things.”