I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Friday, March 11, 2011

Don't Feed The Alligators

Nature walk.

The words sound so soothing, don’t they?

My husband and I thought so when we scheduled a nice little walk through God’s creation one day on vacation. We started off following the peaceful, shaded boardwalk. I was prepared—water bottle in hand, rarely worn tennis shoes on my feet. Ready for the perfect afternoon…

We were so conned. (You saw that coming, didn’t you?) As soon as we paid our admission, the path turned into a rocky dirt road, lined with palmetto bushes and stubby trees—pretty much the same kind you see along a Florida highway. The sun beat down, and the occasional benches were placed yards away from the only available shade. The path stretched on and on in a straight line. We started counting how many birds we saw—the nature thing, you know? I think we made it to four.

By the time we reached a mile in, we were rationing our water and I found my shoes weren’t as sensible as I’d thought. Half a mile more and I was sweaty and limping. Still staring down a straight line of dirt. Taking pictures of the alligator signs and mile markers since there was nothing else to see. No other pedestrians joined us—apparently everyone else had gotten the memo.

Finally we reached a roughly paved road—the halfway point. Oh, and a pond with a few more birds! At this point, I had three blisters, so I stopped and pretended to admire nature until my husband offered me his socks.

No. I could handle this on my own. I started walking barefoot, aiming for every available bit of grass and praying for no sticky-burrs. Then I gave in and took the socks while the people who were smart enough to take the tour bus (although…to see what?) rode by, staring at the weird girl walking beside the road in men’s socks.

The last mile was pure agony, but with the help of my joke-cracking, sock-lending husband, I made it to the end. The goal. And we saw the gorgeous beach* and picked pretty shells as souvenirs for this particular, um, memorable journey.

The point. Right. Well, I was going to post pictures of my blisters, but maybe I should try to make this writing related. How about like this?

Published author. The words sound so…well, they make you smile, don’t they? A little bit giddy? Don’t worry—I’m not writing to tell you that you’ve been conned. :-) But the writing journey can be a bit like that “nature” walk, so here are a few things we can learn from that horrible-awful-rather-funny experience.

1. Be prepared. You don’t know as much as you think you know. Be willing to learn, to pay for the conferences or craft books or courses you need to hone your writing.

2. Persevere. Even if you have people pointing their fingers at your writing and marking it up. That stuff happens. Just keep moving and learning and growing. Don’t give up.

3. Don’t do it alone. There are organizations and fellow writers out there ready and willing to help, to mentor, to lend you their socks…although personally, I’d suggest requesting a cute pair of flip flops instead.

4. Nature walks could be a perfect place to kill someone and hide their body. Hey. Just had to throw that out there.

5. The writing journey probably won’t look like you expected it to and it might take longer than you thought it would. But that’s okay. Unlike that particular event in my life, you’ll see the joy in the journey, and the lives you impact with your words will make up for the sweat and the blisters along the way.

What's something you've learned along your writing journey?
~ Jenness Walker

*Disclaimer: The beach wasn’t actually at the end of the path. We drove to it. But work with me, people.


  1. You had me until #4 then I couldn't stop laughing!

    I like to know where I'm going and exactly how to get there. When I travel to unknown territory, not only do I have my navigational system, I also keep the atlas on the passenger's seat and a set of printed directions tucked in the pages. So when I realized that my first story was going to be a book, I ordered, begged, borrowed, and - well, no, I didn't steal - got my hands on as much information as possible. I wanted to know what to expect. Over the years, I've learned a lot and still seek to learn. I am thankful for authors who have "made it" who are willing to share their wisdom (and body-stashing nooks) with those of us trying to reach that first plateau.

    What caught my attention was the title of the blog. I finished a mystery which cries out for a sequel. In the sequel, the heroine is dumped in a swamp where she looses her cell phone while trying to escape. Later, the park service discovers a dead alligator. They perform a necropsy and discover her phone. I don't know if that counts as feeding the alligators or not.

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  3. Loved your post! Yep, can see a nature walk being the perfect place to hide a body. lol

    Something I've learned? The I saw the flower syndrome--telling the reader that the heroine saw something. I've learned instead to look through her eyes and describe it, tell how it made her feel. Very simple, something I should've know, but somehow missed. Thank you Amanda!

    It's so true, though, about the writing life not being what you expected. I think when we first start, we believe these amazing stories in our heads are somehow going to write themselves or come tripping off our fingers onto the computer screen. Then, when they don't, we go back and learn the "how" of writing. It's so amazing for me to look back over my writing life and see the incredible improvement (thanks to Susie and Rachel) I've made. So far it's been a great ride! (or walk in the park)
    Great job, Jenness.

  4. I would love to say that I have learned to be patient. But that would be a lie. So, I am LEARNING to be patient. I may never fully accomplish the task, but I am trying. I'm also learning to lighten up on myself. It is really easy for me to put huge expectations out there, like finish that 100K novel by the end of the week, when I'm only at 70K. It'll get done when It gets done, and I don't need to rush it. I have learned however, that I CAN do this crazy gig called writing. So when I get mid point in a new story and freak because I think it stinks and I'll never finish it, I try to take a deep breath, detach and remind myself that I'm being silly. This too shall pass. But yes, it is a rough journey at points, but with a lot of good things along the way too!

  5. You asked what I've learned...
    As a result of this blog post - particularly #4 - I've learned to NEVER go on a nature walk alone with you! ;-)

  6. Oh, Jenness, you make me laugh. I've got this visual of you walking along in your hubby's socks . . . I knew I liked him!! He's a hero. Does he carry an extra pair of socks now?
    What have I learned along the writing road? You've got to laugh or you'll spend too much time moping and woe is me-ing. Come on, any career field where it's perfectly OK to talk to imaginary people . . . plan out their demises . . . and you don't get medicated or locked up . . . or at last taken to the police station for questioning??!!

  7. Jenness, what a fun post. :) I can't say I've been on a "nature" walk where the highlight was the signs reminding me not to feed the alligators. :) I love how you took that misadventure and turned it into a life lesson. :)

    What I'm learning is to come back to the reason I began writing in the first place. I never, EVER thought I would write fiction, yet here I am. When I doubt that I can do it, I remind myself Who gave me the story to write. Also, that I am the one God gave it to, so I want to write it. :) Does that make sense? Thanks for your encouragements!
    P.S. When I try my hand at suspense, I'll remember your nature walk! :)

  8. Jenness, you cracked me up!!

    What I'm learning especially lately on my writing journey is to dig deeper into my own life's story - my faith walk, my emotions, my own experiences - to help me write characters/stories that really resonate with readers. The DT Retreat really drove that home for me...I love to write funny, but I also want to write moving. :)

  9. Jenness, if this is the same nature walk we've talked about before, I totally understand!!

    When we visited Sanibel Island, I suggested we take a nature walk to this butterfly house at the Ding Darling Preserve. Oh my...talk about a mosquito fest. By the time we reached the lookout tower, I was so ready to stay and call for a taxi. Unfortunately it was a walking path only...walking path from Hades, I'm sure.

    I've learned so many things in my writing journey. Most importantly, I couldn't get where I am today without God, family support, and my friends. Secondly, I learned not to get married to titles because they'll most likely change. :)

  10. Thank you for your story - I'd probably be safe in assuming that next time you'll take the tour bus!

    What have I learned? Any story I write has to be my story, one from my heart, otherwise it comes off being false, staged, and sometimes just plain bad.

    I also learned that I need to put myself into my character's position, feel their pain, laugh with them, get to know them before I even write a word.

  11. Hahahahahaha.... too funny Jenness. I feel your pain. But wait? Why did you change the subject from blisters? My fingers have blisters from all that typing... rewrites... editing... writing... well, you get the picture.
    Great post my friend!

  12. Totally loved your funny story and the way you made it writing related. That's what I've learned along the way: to use real-life experiences as writing fodder. Great post! Thanks for the giggles.

  13. Jenness~ Is it just me, or do you talk a LOT about the perfect place to kill someone and hide their body? I love it, and I love you!! Thank you for making me laugh out loud.

    Which leads me to what I have learned. I have learned not to take myself too seriously, and to have a laugh or two. If you can't laugh at yourself, or sometimes what you've written, then you might need to seek some professional help. =)

  14. I love this post. No wonder you're a multi-published author with lots more to come. You have great way with words, and I ciould have handled the (almost hysterical) picture of the blisters, too. Parallel? Sometimes I think we get blisters writing and rewriting, too, but our we heal and our feet get stronger!

  15. Beth, my hubby is totally a hero. He even offered me his shoes. Which would have been funny, but I was too nice to accept. (Does that mean I'm a hero, too?)

    Jeanne, I have a story that I do believe God put on my heart. It's been slow going on the writing, though, because I'm so afraid I won't do it right. So thanks for the reminder--I needed it!

  16. Melissa, maybe you'll be the next Jenny B. Jones. :-) I have faith in you!

    Lisa, maybe we should just tell everyone never to do any nature things on Sanibel Island? Eat, shop, go to the beach. That's it. :-)

  17. Jennie, I can safely assume there WILL BE NO next time. lol

    Reba...the blisters. Oh, the blisters. I knew I should have stuck to my flip flops in the first place. I ended up going back to the parking lot to change them because the boardwalk was slick. But, you know, since we soon ran out of boardwalk...

    Heidi, it's not because I'm brave and so good at suspense. It's because I'm totally a wimp and can come up with a million ways people can kill ME, not the other way around.

  18. wearing alligators shoes make you so much fun,for me this is the coolest things I had ever seen.