Freezing laughter in amber

the boysPut down that pen and look around.

As writers, we can get stuck inside our heads, spending more time with our characters than with those around us. Bad idea. We need the real world to inform our writing. The way a niece’s fingertips brush the hair from her face and behind her ears. How an uncle’s stammer has his relatives biting their tongues as he struggles to loosen his. The way the water distorts an image reflected in a glass, turning it into a fun house mirror. We draw on our own experiences to breathe life into our work.

Use all your senses to experience life. Not just as writers, but as parents, as children, as friends, as colleagues. Amidst the chaos and stress of daily living, there will be moments we will want to freeze, like living things caught in amber, so that we might hold those memories safe and bring them out when we want to remind ourselves there is wonder in the world.

With each passing year, treasured faces disappear from around our tables. Distance and death sever our tactile connections, but not our memories. And that’s the key. We must make those memories now to be able to retrieve them later.

The things we remember usually aren’t Memories with a capital M. Often we don’t so much create them, as they just happen. My children most remember not the ride at Disney World or the laser light show, not the intergenerational family dinners or Christmas mornings. They remember not the awe-inspiring, but the laugh-inducing. They recall the leftovers forgotten in the Orlando restaurant, the beach campfire in July, and the bedraggled child-made ornaments I stubbornly put on the trees each Christmas. As with a well-written novel, it is the little things, the human things, that touch us.

This holiday season, hold the people you love close. When you dust off those memories, listen for the laughter echoing down the years.

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