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

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Writing—a non-solitary activity

Delores E. Topliff

Have you heard of Helen Palmer, author of children’s beginner book, A Fish Out of Water? If not, it may be because she was the wife of children’s author, Dr. Seuss, who’s fame greatly outshined her. Palmer’s story is about a boy and his fish, Otto. After buying the fish, the pet store owner warns the boy: “Never feed him a lot. Never more than a spot! Or something may happen. You never know what.” (Do you see familiar influence here? Can you imagine their household conversations?)

The boy brings his fish home and decides that he knows better than the pet store owner so feeds the fish the whole box of fish food. The rest of the story illustrates what happens if little boys don’t listen. Eventually, the situation is solved, but the pet store owner again warns the boy never to feed Otto too much. This time, the boy listens.

Writing is no solitary activity. We are influenced, encouraged, and at the very least tolerated, by friends and family members. Some understand us more than others, but their input balances and calms us, sometimes even helping untangle plot or character problems as complicated as the Gordian knot. The solution may even be the sameusing an editorial sword as effective as Alexander the Great’s to slash through the dreaded knot.

In turn, our verbal and written life responses influence family and friends. After observing wrong, my older son once whipped out a pen and wrote a first quite good poem on the back of an envelope. When our friends read, they thought he had copied one of my published poems. It bore similarities, we’re cut from similar cloth, but was his original. They encouraged him to write more. As exercise and polish skill, our relatives and friends usually gain greater communication freedom, too.

John Donne wrote, “No man is an island entire of itself…” That's also true of the writing community. Our life connections influence each other, going far. In fact, going so far, we can’t see where they stop because like the proverbial pebble dropping into a pond, the resulting ripples travel outward forever.

What about you? Describe a valued life connection that has blessed your life and communication. Tell them so. Also, April 1st is always a fun day for me. Enjoy yours. 


  1. Love this post! Our words have such a powerful impact. Because of negative comments from an art teacher, I didn't try to use a potter's wheel for 40 years. And because an English teacher encouraged me, I always believed I could write.

  2. I'm so glad that you proved the art teacher wrong, and that you listened to the English teacher and are more than off and running! In fact, you're showing up often in the winner's stable. Keep it up!

  3. What a fun post! I'd never heard of Helen Palmer. How encouraging for your son that your friends mistakenly thought you were the author of his poem! You're a valuable friend in my life. I so appreciate how you pray!

  4. So enjoyed this post today. Reading it reminded me of the blessing that each of the Ponderers is to me -- how we met through My Book Therapy and committed to encouraging and praying for one another as we pursued our dreams.

  5. Dee, you always have the most interesting information. I had never heard of her either.

    I remember around 13 years ago talking to a woman in an antique store about being a writer and she said her daughter was an author. I asked her name and she told me and then said, "Have you ever heard of ROMANCING THE STONE?" I gasped. Of course I had. Her daughter wrote that. She gave me her daughter's phone number and I actually got to talk to her for a while. But that was not my most important connection. My most important has always been, the Ponderers and of course Suzie Warren.

  6. What fun to hear from each of you, which also demonstrates the blessings of interconnectedness. I love you all.

  7. I never heard of Helen Palmer. What a great story.
    As far as writing goes, I started out by connecting with a small critique group that was very bad. A couple of the members took it upon themselves to rip other peoples work apart. So I quit, but someone noticed and pulled me into another group. There I met the sweetest woman who encouraged me. Follow that with the encouragement and camaraderie we have between the ponderers, I stayed the course. Otherwise, I probably would have quit writing years ago.

  8. Fun post, Dee. The imagined conversations at Helen Palmer's house makes me think of The Princess Bride line: "Stop that rhyming and I mean it." :-)

    1. Laughing out loud, Jenness, as I picture that scene in the movie. ;)

  9. Dee, I loved this post. I have never heard of Helen Palmer, but my boys could probably benefit from reading her book. ;)

    Beth was my first connection in the writing world. She encouraged this woman who never, ever thought she could write a book. Then I got to meet you, Alena, Roxanne and eventually most of you Ponderers. You are an encouraging group.

    Dee, you have been a great encouragement to me. I still think back on some of your words and prayers over me. You bless me.

  10. Such an interesting post, Dee! And I do agree that writing is a non-solitary activity. My friend, Shelly Dipple has been a great encouragement, as well as the Ponderers and a critique group. My daughter, Sarah, is also an encouragement to me. Thanks for the reminder!

  11. Friends' input, encouragement and direction-indicating critiques are the fuel that push us forward. Thanks for each of your comments.

  12. Wonderful post, Dee. I giggled about their household conversations comment. I'm a huge fan of Dr. Seuss, but I didn't know his wife wrote too.

    My oldest son writes beautiful poetry, and some of his wordsmithing mirrors mine. My younger son just changed his major this semester to English with a concentration in writing. I like to think I've had some influence on his decisions. Both boys inspire me daily to keep reaching for my dreams so I can model the same for them.