Tuesday, June 20, 2017

My Favorite Mistake: The Greatest Lesson I've Learned from Writing

I called to congratulate a friend who published a book. Anticipating the publication of my I wanted to know how he felt. "I can't help but see all kinds of mistakes," he said. I was surprised. Given what he could say about this life achievement, he honed in on something negative. I thought to myself what a terrible response—until I did the same thing. In sharing his sentiment, I wondered Why do we do this? What does it say about us? And if what we see in our creation are its limits and errors, why do we create in the first place?

I held my book for the first time (does it sound like a child or what? Labor does have a lot to do with writing a book too) at the NCEA Convention during Easter week. Upon first glance, I was thrilled. "Go ahead and judge mine by the cover," I said. 

I started flipping through the pages and rather than see my stories come to life or examples resonate their inherent truth, I only saw...oh boy....and then I thought...What happened here? ...oops....Why is that there? I frantically flipped to the end wondering how many more mistakes I might find. I left out an entire introduction to a chapter! There is no "about the author." Headings are misaligned, words aren't capitalized...yuck, yuck, yuck. I extended my arms in solidarity to my friend John on the other side of the country.

My disappointment stayed with me until I learned I could make changes with the second printing. Suddenly I had a goal! Let's sell this baby. But I knew too well, most people would see the first iteration. I had to come to peace with what I created; we all have this task.

I decided to try a Sheryl Crow approach and name my favorite mistake. I figured if she could write a song about one, I could blog about it. However, anyone who knows the backstory of this 1998 hit, knows that the song is about her relationship with Eric Clapton. Given his musical prowess and remarkably handsome good looks, I doubt this mistake is one that she really and truly wants to forget. And not much came to mind as a mistake I was okay with... until one did.
In September 2016, Bruce Springsteen released his memoir "Born to Run." A New York Times bestseller I have LOVED talking to people about it. Though about 70% of the story was familiar to me, I was not prepared for was how good Bruce is at writing. I was convinced he had a ghost writer. I figured the eight years it took him to write the book was a code for six years of editing to his two years of pen on paper. I was completely wrong.

I should have known that Bruce would be a respectable author given that he writes all of his own music. One might think that writing music and writing for the purpose of reading are different—they are not. As I write, I re-read my sentences...my ideas and my dreams. At my best, I read them out loud and on a regular basis I find myself almost counting the notes or rather, my words. There is a beat that I find. When I tune in, that melody underscores my entire message. It's a beautiful feeling to "hear" this type of music, or for Boss fans, it's a "Beautiful Reward."

Writing has its own cadence. It rhythm is reflected in the mood of the article or posting. It has an intro, a crescendo and a conclusion, there are pauses and rest, flats and sharps. Sometimes I don't even realize I have moved from one key into the next. Springsteen and the E Street band do this with every song and every performance. I know because I've listened for nearly 35 years. I believe because I have attended 23 of their shows. 

My Uncle Mark got to meet the Boss in Seattle,
He talked to him about...teaching ;-)
I have been holding this realization about writing and rhythm in my psyche until I read a message from my Uncle Mark. My dad's youngest brother, Mark is the man who is responsible for my love of Bruce. He wrote:
Anne, The two best books I've read this year are "Born To Run and Pray" and "Practice with Purpose." My favorite parts are your personal examples about your high school culture. Your writing is well-rounded (Muslims) and developed (incredulous research).  
I love the line, speaking of students/athletes, "Anytime you get them to be quiet they come to know their identity a little more."  Wow, that's a good thought to take forward. Also, "Time is a limited resource," when speaking of game time. Obviously it fits in with Bruce's coda about The River on the tour following, "Wreckin Ball." Waaaaa! (Ha, ha.)  
Loved, loved, loved, "Perfect should never be the enemy of good." This should be sent to Coach Salazar at Bellarmine Prep.  
Last night I just finished Ch. 78 of BTR. It amazed and bothered me the depth of Bruce's depression and how the book almost ends on this. Wow. He, too, obviously has some observations to live by. (I will have to write these down.) 
One night this late Spring after another not so good day I sat down with a beer(s) and realized, for me, the two most comforting books were yours and Bruce's. I still feel that way.
I read his words with tears in my eyes and wondered how I got so lucky to have an uncle like him. He has given me two incredible gifts: words of encouragement (throughout my life) and the love of music. 

Most writers will tell you to find your voice. They will expound on the beauty of finding and using that voice. They have to—writing is just too hard to not have these deeply satisfying, intrinsic rewards. But for me, it's not about finding or using my voice—it's about finding a rhythm. In writing and publishing "ray and Practice with Purpose," I have come to realize that I write 1). because I teach and coach and 2) because I have found a rhythm.
The stories I tell more often than not aren't even my stories. They are however stories that need to be told. I'm not even telling them with my words. No, the stories come into my life have already been written...they must simply be set for a rhythm for others to hear.

Through "Born to Run," and the love of my uncle, I come to realize "My favorite mistake" isn't the errors, the typos or anything negative about my book. My favorite mistake is that I thought Springsteen couldn't and didn't write his book. The error of my ways, help me to realize how his talent is in no way limited to writing music. 

His example, his gifts, his ability to tell a story move us to tears and to new heights because they have a rhythm that resonates with rock and roll. On a much smaller scale, I now know why I write....I encounter the stories, I live for them and through God's gift in me, I get to set them to their own tune. Next time you read, please pay attention to the rhythm—it's there.

A one, two...one, two three....

Photo Credits
And if you would like to order your own copy of Pray and Practice with Purpose, it is available through my website!

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