Fanthology 12.30.2020

Lists and goals and inspiration from other writers … it’s the End of Year edition!

ScreenCraft shares Aristotle’s six golden rules of screenwriting. (These apply to novels too.)

Authors Publish has cobbled together words of wisdom from 43 writers with its list of rules for writing.

Over at Writer Magazine, they delve into the task of writing goals, sorted by where you are in your project.

Ever the proponent for positivity, Good News Network lists its 50 good news stories from 2020.

I Do Declare: It’s not sweet sorrow if it’s 2020 you’re parting with

Dear 2020:

I’ve been thinking about our relationship a lot lately, looking back at all the hopes we once shared, all we’ve been through. It’s quite a bit to mull over: lots of emotions … regrets … tears … hand sanitizer. And in the end I came to a decision.

There really isn’t any easy way to say this, 2020, so I’ll just state it as clearly as I can.

After consulting a few online therapist websites, Dr. Cloud’s “Necessary Endings” book, and a couple of friends over a glass or three of wine, I realized it’s time to make a change.

You and I need to go our separate ways.

Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t all bad. There were happy times, especially in the beginning.

I started the year with high hopes and firm plans for a productive 12 months.

I even made jokes about your name – all in good fun, nothing hurtful, of course – like how we could see our futures so clearly (playing on the “20/20” theme) and the old saw about hindsight and how history would point to this year as a moment of clarity.

It’s weird, but now it seems like more of a joke that I ever thought that way about you.

I know that sounds a bit cold, but let’s be honest, I’m not the only one who’s been cold in this relationship. Clearly your mind has been elsewhere this year. Maybe we should just accept that things have changed and both of us move on. Or if it helps, we can say it’s not you, it’s me.

Wait a minute. I take that back. It is you. All you.

I’m not trying to be cruel, but some things need to be said. And you need to hear them.

I mean, what happened? We met, we were having fun, and then your whole personality changed. Like someone flipped a switch. There we were, moving merrily along in the first few weeks, and then – wham! out of nowhere – you shut me down.

You were so controlling. I hate that. And at the same time, I had to deal with your wildly erratic mood swings. You’d set arbitrary rules over how you thought I should live my life, and then you’d change them the next day. How selfish and inconsiderate! And you never discussed any of that with me beforehand. Did it ever occur to you that I don’t want restrictions like that in my life?

Sometimes it was frightening wondering what the next day would bring. You made me fear for my life, my financial security, and even my toilet paper stock. Seriously, 2020, what kind of relationship is that?

And then you got really dysfunctional. You tried to drive a wedge between me and my family, especially during the holidays. You kept me from gathering with my friends. You barred me from restaurants. You forbid me to go to church. I could hardly go out in public, and when I did, I had to shield my face.

So yeah, I’m over this. I think it’s best to part ways before things get toxic.

And yes, before you ask, I am seeing someone new. It’s serious enough that we’re making plans and dreaming big dreams – far more than you and I did in the last few months. 2021 holds more promise, more hope, and – bonus! – 21 is drinking age. Who wouldn’t be happy with someone who can stop by the wine store on the way home?

By the way, we’re not on a break. This is a breakup. I’ve already returned all your CDs. Please don’t call me again.

Good luck.
Shelia

Fanthology 12.23.2020

It’s the Christmas Eve-Eve edition!

From History.com, details of how 25 Christmas traditions got their start.

Oprah Magazine has a nice article on 30 unique Christmas traditions to start with your family this year.

Ever wonder about how St. Nicholas morphed into Santa Claus? National Geographic and Biography.com have all the goods on that.

There’s actually a St. Nicholas Center, with info (including activities and printouts) specifically for kids:

I Do Declare: Outside God’s birthing room, I ponder what it means to wait

The last few days before Christmas tend toward an almost magical tranquility.

A peace begins to seep into the general holiday milieu. A wispy cloud of serenity settles over the bustle, slowing the frantic pace for all, with the possible exceptions of clergy with unfinished sermons, last-minute shoppers, and travelers whose itineraries have been usurped by weather.

Neck-deep in the season of goodwill, I send them good thoughts and press on with the holiday baking.

It’s a gentle glide into the most silent and holy of nights. All things calm. All things bright. Accompanied by the unhurried tinkling of bells, of course.

At least that’s how it is most years.

This year, though. This year is … well, let’s just say it’s different.

This year my experience is not so much enveloped in magical tranquility as dumped into a hospital waiting room. Sure, it may be a metaphor – and I can’t promise it won’t end up mixed – but it’s still the last place anyone wants to be at the end of an excruciating year of delays and pauses and postponements.

In most waiting rooms, it’s bleak and drab. The passable furnishings and nondescript wall décor fail in their one job to comfort and reassure. And it’s isolating, with interpersonal connections alternating between idle chatter and weighty silence. Worst of all: the exit is nowhere to be found.

The one cheerful exception is the maternity floor, where no one cares about chairs and paintings and intellectual level of chitchat, because joyful anticipation is front and center.

A quick glance around, and I wonder how my normal holiday good nature morphed into an incessant wait-wait-wait. Has all that happened this year conditioned me to see only a lackluster passive waiting area, even in this merry time of year? What am I waiting for now?

Conversations may be shallow, but the question begs to be asked: Is it because the inert activity of waiting cannot generate more depth, or is it because I have switched all rapport to receiving mode? When small talk subsides, do I prefer to flounder in the silence or accept the quiet invitation to reflect?

So many questions, so little patience I have these days to ponder them.

But I can reflect. Reflections lead to observations, which turn to insights, which become discernments – some of them pretty wild, like the one that screams out in answer to my questions:

Girl, you are outside God’s birthing room. Get on your knees.

And here’s how I know this is true: Waiting is a torment – unless you’re outside God’s birthing room. Out here, exasperation and indifference evolve into expectation and hope. Even the relatively quiet actions of meditations and prayer can be energizing if you’re working with God’s playbook.

And inside the birthing room? In there, it’s active and alive and spirited – literally. A great labor is happening, with precise detail. God is creating life – a prerogative that belongs solely to Him – as a deliberate choice.

Amid the pain and blood, with all the preparation and provision happening in that birthing room, we cannot lose sight of the fact that God is doing a new thing for the singular purpose of saving us.

God chooses us. And He keeps choosing us. Every year. Every day, actually.

This insight isn’t new. I’ve always known this as truth.

But maybe my head needed my heart to hear it too.

Maybe that’s what the wait was about.