Then life decides to shake you up a bit. It’s not a particularly big shake, but it’s enough to let those little, less important parts fall through the gaps to the bottom of the jar. If you’ve read any of my previous articles, or tried to have a normal conversation with me, you may know how important stories are in my life. And in the past few years, I’ve been creating stories of my own.
I’ll freely admit that I’ve been obsessed. Outside of work and other immutable commitments like serving at my church, I spent most of that year doing nothing but writing or editing. My friends will testify that when they ask me what I’ve been doing, I’ve undoubtedly been writing, and the conversation will devolve into a rather one-sided discussion of various writing techniques. When I’m on the bus, I’ll be listening to podcasts about the art of writing. And you know, I’ve loved every minute of it.
But it does mean that other areas of my life have been woefully neglected. Despite moving cities recently to be home with my family, I’ve spent less time with them than I probably should have. Quality time with my dad was dragging him into my room and having him listen as I did my “read-out-loud” editing pass and getting his feedback.
After sending that manuscript out, it was straight into the next ones, in case that story didn’t work out. Until the scare this week, when our family thought for a few terrifying hours that something might have happened to my dad. He’s already had a few major medical issues in the past, and with each one it gets harder and harder to brush things off with a “he’ll be right”.
It wasn’t anything much this time, but it was a wake-up call for me. To have a passion for stories is a wonderful thing. To struggle and sacrifice to reach your dream is admirable. But it’s not the be-all and end-all. There are other people and other things that are more important. You will only have one set of parents; in my case, one mother who decided to stay at home to care for her kids, and one father who worked hard to support us, and yet was there for all of our events, big and small (not that it stopped him from sleeping through school concerts!).
So to everyone who’s in the middle of NaNoWriMo at the moment, spending every spare moment writing and desperately racking your brains to think of what to do next, so you’ll be able to keep up that word count: Go for it, and good luck. But don’t forget to hug your parents, kiss your kids, spend some time in your husband or wife’s arms. Don’t forget to simply talk to them and enjoy their company.
As for me, I’ll be sitting here next to my dad as he dozes in his armchair, watching the rise and fall of his chest, knowing how lucky I am to be able to do that. And refusing to let myself take that small miracle for granted.
Leanne Yong is an aspiring author who is working on her second young adult novel. Check out her blog at Clouded Memories for more information and a journal chronicling her latest foray into novel writing.