Saturday, June 5, 2010

Students of Life

"You learn something new every day," the old adage goes. A few words easily dismissed as cliche; all but forgotten until we hear it again.

I know this to be true for myself. It is only 9:30 in the morning, yet today I have already learned lessons in 1) Human disasters, 2) Human kindness, and 3) Humorous humans.

1) Some of my family spent ten days in Pensacola, Florida. They enjoyed the beautiful beaches, photographed the dolphins and stingrays near shore, and frolicked in the ocean waves. Just after they left early yesterday morning, the unfortunate news hit - the oil from the BP spill had made its way to Pensacola. I learned of the disaster, and find it hard to measure that news against the bright, beautiful photos they've shared on Facebook. No doubt Mother Nature routinely causes disasters all her own, but I've learned I find it all the more troubling when devastation is man-made.

2) I came across an article about an organization called Back On My Feet. It's a cause devoted to the homeless population in a way I'd never even fathomed before. The ingenuity of the idea, and the kindness of random strangers never ceases to amaze (or uplift) me. Homelessness is a cause near and dear to my own heart, and learning of BOMF was like being wrapped in a warm hug. I learned the human spirit is incredible. I learned there's always more I can do for others.

3) I learned what Gerber Graduates Lil' Crunchies taste like. Okay, maybe it's not the most profound discovery, except for the manner of my taste-test. My one year old was eating them in his high chair when I leaned in to squeal "Si! Si! Si!" in the silly way that makes him laugh so hard. That's when he sneezed. And the contents of his mouth shot into mine. After I gagged, spit, and rinsed, I had to laugh. I learned laughter is and will always be the best way to soothe my nerves and anxieties.

We do learn something new each and every glorious day we're given. I think as writers, we have to open ourselves to these things. It's our job to note the way our bodies react to situations, to better describe them on the page. We must be keenly aware of sights, sounds, feelings, etc., to bring them to life for others.

I have a notebook with me pretty much at all times. One of the more important purposes of keeping one on hand is to record emotions. Think of the happiest times you've had, the saddest, the most you remember exactly how and where your body trembled? Your cheeks hurting from smiling so hard? Your throat tightening painfully from the struggle not to cry?

The next time you open your mailbox or inbox and find a rejection, take a moment to write down exactly what it is you're feeling. Whether you cry, get angry, are still just as hopeful, write it down. Because I guarantee you incorporate your own emotions into your writing, and I believe the authenticity of the author's emotions ring true in the writing.

Remember that every new event you experience, with all the lessons you learn daily, you're not only growing as a person, you're growing as a writer. I don't want to miss a thing. I try to remain an apt pupil as a student of life.


  1. ...your words speak true.

    In order to write something accepted by our peers as genuine, one needs to be sensitive to their surroundings, and always remember the details. How did it taste? What is that smell similar to? What shade of blue is that girl's nail polish? Absorb it all. Every ounce of every moment. Then bring it back to life with the power of your fingertips...

    Great post Helena:)

  2. such a beautiful post, Helena! and so so true!

    thanks for this reminder -- it's something i need to tell myself as well :D


  3. Elliot & Tahereh, thank you. :)

  4. Very inspiring post! I'm so glad I read this. Now I don't feel like I suck so much at life :D

    Also, you've won an award on my blog! Go check it out!