Bracing Branches

“Along the western coast of the United States, there are huge groves of red cedars. They grow tall and lovely and appear to be very strong. But their roots are shallow. When one falls, others often follow. Do you know what holds up these beautiful trees? They lean on each other. Their branches touch and support one another. Not one of them can stand alone.”
“Bits & Pieces” magazine*

Many moons ago, when I was young and green as a writer — no, I wasn’t even a writer, I was a struggling grad student — by a fluke, I managed to land a book contract. I was in my early twenties and very excited. But a few months into the project, it became painfully clear that I was in way over my head. One morning, I called my beloved mom, Dorothy, in a panic and started crying. She assessed the situation and uttered two words, “Call Peter.” Peter was my older brother. Feeling that all was lost, I called him and promptly started crying into the phone again. Pete assessed the situation and said, “I’ll be right over.” He zipped across town to my apartment and sat down with me for hours.

In his calm, steady, reassuring way, Pete started asking me questions, helping me organize my ideas, making me see that I was farther along than I thought, and that this was a project I could manage. By the time he left, I felt more hopeful — the tide of disaster had turned. Ultimately, I co-authored my book with an experienced writer and learned a ton from her. The end result was a how-to guide I felt proud of. But getting there wasn’t easy. I’ll never forget how Pete rescued me that day.

That was the first time someone engaged in a book-rescue mission for me, but it wasn’t the last. Over the years, I experienced many moments while writing when I’ve felt overwhelmed and confused and lost. I couldn’t see the forest for the trees. And time and again, family and friends have jumped in and helped me get on track: They believed in me. Bless them all forever!

Sometime soon, maybe even today, you too, may be lost in a forest of words. You may feel confused and overwhelmed. When you reach that stage, instead of wandering aimlessly, why not reach out and ask for help? Someone you know and love who loves you is out there, ready and willing to give you a hand. The gifts they bring of hope, perspective, belief in you, and a fresh eye or a better plan may be just what’s needed to jump start your project so you can keep going — and write on.

*Many thanks to my friend and mentor Dr. Rob Gilbert for donating a treasure trove of “Bits & Pieces” to me (check out his wonderful Success Hotline: 973.743.4690).


About karinwritesdangerously

I am a writer and this is a motivational blog designed to help both writers and aspiring writers to push to the next level. Key themes are peak performance, passion, overcoming writing roadblocks, juicing up your creativity, and the joys of writing.
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4 Responses to Bracing Branches

  1. Your brother Peter is such a nice brat. I hope everyone has one like him. I feel lost too, a lot of times that’s probably why I do not write everyday or as often as everybody else on the blogosphere. But this post of your gives me hope!

  2. Hello,

    Thanks so much for your note. I know how lucky I was to have my brother’s help and how lucky I am today to have my family’s support and help from my friends. And I know, lovely eloquent paradise, how hard it is to keep writing when no one is standing over your shoulder and urging you on. Keeping yourself motivated
    isn’t easy, which is one reason why I started my motivational KWD blog. I’ve visited your site and I know that you are a gifted writer. You have so much to say and you say it so well! Here’s a Zen saying I love: “On whose door does the moonlight not shine?” When you feel low about your writing, just think of the moonlight shining on your door and let it speak to your heart and soul — and keep sharing your beautiful thoughts and ideas. The world needs them more than ever and always.

    Write on,

  3. Patricia Carrigan says:

    Oh Karin, what a wonderful, wonderul blog you have. You give such a lot to your readers and I for one am incredibly grateful. Why, I have no idea, but the following piece came to mind with all the others I’ve had in my life but I had to tell you this tiny vingette.
    A long, long time ago I was writing a think piece for the Sunday Times in Johannesburg. Struggling to find the right word to use in a sentence I was despairing. It was insignificant but upsetting as I had to mail the piece that very evening. My Dad had had a bad stroke and he and Mum lived with us. My study was off the living room and all was quiet in the big old farm house where we lived. The girls were right down the other end doing their homework, Mum and Dad were in their living room overlooking the garden and I sat wading through Roget’s Thesaurus to find my “word” that wasn’t there.
    I heard a shuffling behind me and Dad, leaning heavily on his cane, came through the door. “Can’t hear your typewriter,” he said, sitting down in the one armchair I had in my study. I looked round and told him it was hard work and I’d never be a writer. “With that attitude you won’t” he said and Mum came in with a cup of tea and my tears started. Paige skipped through and sat on her Grandfather’s lap while Lisa sauntered in with the dogs. The study was too small. I could feel the panic worsen when Dad said a word and Lisa said another and Mum verbally changed the sentence. Paige who was seven years old, jumped up and down and said, “Yes, yes, then you can use this….,” and through the tears I looked at the page in my typewriter. The word fitted beautifully and they all sidled out, even Dad, who hobbled. I finished the piece and it was published the following Sunday. The first of a few I wrote for the Style section before leaving South Africa..
    Before and since I’ve led an entire life among the cedars you wrote of this morning and know I too have been leaned on. We are all dependent on others because without this our lives would never right themselves after a setback, could never achieve unattainable feats we felt were out of reach, and could never bring back our personal “terra firma”. Our roots are shallow as a lifetime is a short time and living in a cedar forest is a wonderful joy. Thank you for giving us the piece from your friend, Dr Rob Gilbert. I’ll check out his hotline too. See you Thursday night.
    grateful thanks, as we all write on,
    Pat Carrigan

    • Dear Pat,

      Thank you so very much for your lovely note — your kind words of encouragement about my post mean so much to me! I write it to encourage us all and I’m so grateful to know that it is proving helpful! And thank you, Pat, for sharing your own beautiful writing story about a moment when your own family lifted you up and supported you. Where would we be without each other? A dear friend of mine says we’re here to rescue each other and this is so true. We’re all living in a red cedar forest and when our branches touch, we strengthen each other.

      Write on, Karin ________________________________________

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