a day in the life

Oliver Jeffers is an amazing artist, and kids everywhere love his video. This is pretty much how writers spend their days. Telling stories, checking things off lists, hunting down lunch. Not a bad way to make a life, yes?

I’m really lucky I get to do what I love for a living. I feel a sort of a sense of responsibility to enjoy that as much as I can.

~Oliver Jeffers

magic. chocolate. earth.

magic chocolate earth

magic chocolate earth shoes (and paws)

I was exploring character development with a group of third graders recently. They sat cross-legged before me on the floor, notebooks spread on laps. They had already sketched characters into these notebooks. Superheroes. Strawberries. Superhero strawberries. Whatever their imagination had delivered. Now they were getting to know these creations. Getting to know a character can be a sticky endeavor.

What does your character love, I ask. What do they fear?

You mean, what am I afraid of?

I want to know what your character is afraid of.

Can it be the same thing I’m afraid of?

Yes. It often is.

I posed question after question. They pondered. They wrote. What kind of shoes does your character wear, I asked. You can tell a lot about a character by the shoes on their feet.

Blank stares.

Well, take a look at your teacher. What can you tell about her by the kind of shoes she is wearing today?

She’s fancy. She’s pretty! She’s super-stylish.

Exactly. Now what can you tell about Bodie by his shoes?

He’s super fast. He likes to run!

Okay. And what about my shoes? What can you tell about my “character” from my shoes?

One hand shoots into the air.

I can tell you’d rather be in bed right now. 

Um …

Because they are slippers. You wear slippers every day because you’d rather be in bed. 

And so we move on. The writers discover the details of their newborn characters, and I have a newborn thought to ponder: Do all the children believe I have been wearing bedroom slippers to school?

These are my favorite shoes. I went into the store, and the side of the box said “Magic: Chocolate/Earth.” I like magic (the kind that invites wonder). I like chocolate (any kind). I like earth (and Earth).

What’s not to buy?

So I bought the shoes. I wear them all the time. Four seasons. Inside. Outside. No one has ever said they look like slippers before. Maybe people are more polite than I have been led to believe.

Today I ate lunch with a friend who is starting her own business. She used to struggle into corporate attire every day. Today, she wore jeans, plaid sneakers, a brown t-shirt and a funky knit scarf with a skull motif. This afternoon she is painting the inside of her new retail space. Paint splatters her hands, her shirt, her shoes. Now she is free. Free to dress in a way that matches her identity. Free to be the character that she has always wanted to be.

I am a writer. I often write propped up by pillows in my bed, with my dog at my feet. This happens to be my most comfortable writing pose. Aside from the meetings, the residencies, the conferences—where I want to be more than anything else (as a writer) is curled up under a pile of blanket and dog. Writing.

So, all things being equal, yes, much of the time I would rather be in bed.

This is who I am. As a character. As a human being. I don’t want to squeeze myself into any other pair of shoes right now. I don’t intend to do that sort of disservice to my soul again.

I have two friends who have received bad news this week—the kind of news that drives you to revise your will and clean out your journal because you’ve been slapped with the unnerving reality that somebody else could be sorting through your belongings long before you are ready. These two aren’t done fighting their battles, by any means. But due to the nature of their journeys thus far, both understand that fighting doesn’t always mean getting what you want, at least not necessarily when you want it.

Which got me thinking. The last time I saw these friends, what were they wearing on their feet? Were they comfortable in their own shoes? I believe they were. They are. They are also those rare and blessed creatures who are equally comfortable with no shoes at all. They are comfortable just being—untethered from expectation, and clothed in gratitude and grace.

What are you wearing on your feet right now? Is this how you want to walk in the world? If not, may I humbly suggest that you try on something new?

If the slippers fit. Wear them.


%d bloggers like this: