Monday, January 4, 2010


Today has been a day for thoughts and musings about what has come to pass and what may come to be. Why today? I have no idea. It was a busy day, errands to run, helping my husband who is in a wheel chair for an indefinite period of time...just a usual day. But I've done a lot of thinking along the way.

My journey into the writing world has taken another turn. Not unexpectedly, but still not one I thought much about until recently. I have decided to enroll for yet another novel course with the Institute of Children's Literature, and in fact, just sent off the first assignment today.

If my last instructor knew of this, he would probably throw up his hands in disgust. In his last letter to me, he told me that I not only had written a very marketable book, but also that I had all the tools I needed to continue writing, without his or anyone else's help. So, why do I need another course?

Well, I'm not sure. I have begun an historical novel about the Civil War; I have done almost two years' worth of literary research; and I have visited Civil War campgrounds, forts, battle sites, and Underground Railroad "stations." Nevertheless, I feel that I need the expertise of someone who has already published historical novels to get me on the right path. On the other hand, my last instructor would say, "But you are on the right can't get any more 'right' than what you have done to prepare." Still, I have enrolled in a second novel course.

Do you know what a comma is? Of course, you know what a comma is! But...have you ever thought that sometimes your life is made up of commas that come where they are not supposed to? I know, I know, now you are thinking... what exactly does this have to do with what you just wrote?

Well, think about commas for a moment. We use them to interpret the style, the voice and the flow of what we are writing. We are not supposed to overuse them, or use them incorrectly, such as separating a subject or an object from its verb. If we use commas correctly, we are helping to establish a kind of rhythm to our work. But if we use them incorrectly, our work can become disjointed, stiff and hard to follow.

Now, think about your life this past year. Your life, not your writing. Has it flowed smoothly all year? Have you set a rhythm for what you wanted to do, and has that rhythm remained constant? Or...have there been times when life has become disjointed, stiff, and hard to follow, or worse yet, to understand? Have there been commas which have interrupted your style of living, jolted the life voice that you try to maintain all the time?

What does a comma do when it's used incorrectly? It disrupts but it doesn't end what we are writing. IF we're good self-editors ( as we all try to be), when we go back and review, we see that the comma has been put in the wrong place or that it doesn't even need to be there at all.

It's the same with our daily lives, isn't it? When you go back over 2009 and see where the disruptions have come in, no matter what form they have taken, aren't they really the same as commas? For a while, brief or otherwise, our lives have taken a turn or a twist we didn't expect. A COMMA has come into our lives and disrupted it, but we've gone on, right? Maybe it was something that we could change or modify when it happened, or maybe it was just something we had to live with. But we got through it. We re-established the rhythm and flow of our lives, just as we re-establish the rhythm and flow of our writing when we modify or remove the wrongly placed comma.

The next time something comes along to disrupt the smoothness of your life, try to consider it a comma...something that is misplaced, or totally unnecessary, but something that we can modify, replace, or even live with until we can once more concentrate on the rhythm of our lives. Oh...I didn't say it would be easy. But what do you do when your story is just stuck...not going any place, much less where you want it to? Don't you put it away for a few days, and then when you come back to it, you suddenly have a brilliant flash of inspiration and realize exactly what you have to do to get past that point? Even if a misplaced comma is not to blame? can't walk away from life, and say, "Okay, I'll be gone a few days, and when I get back, you'd better be the way I want you to be." But maybe...just maybe...if you think of that twist or turn or disruption as a comma, something that is extraneous to the normal flow of your life but something that is not going to be a permanent fixture, it will make living with it a little easier.

Think about it. Try it. See what happens. And then let me know.