Black Diamond Wisdom – Writers Take Note

Yesterday, at 10:59am PST, I despaired. Piles of research lay scattered about my desk, in my backpack, across the kitchen table. Papers I’d been shuttling around since last fall.

I was trying to finish a revision of a nonfiction picture book I’ve been writing since last September, but I felt scattered. And I couldn’t figure out how to end the story. The answer must be lying somewhere in those papers, but I had been avoiding organizing them for days, weeks. Dare I say—longer?



My testy ADD self thought it would take too much time to organize all that stuff, so I kept shuffling through papers, finding and losing and finding and losing and getting confused and starting over and losing and losing and forgetting what I was looking for because I’d gotten distracted with some other tidbit of info that may or may not have been important. And did I remember to mention I was in despair?

At 11:17am, I pressed the panic button:

Screen Shot 2015-04-24 at 6.38.44 PM

and let my despair pour out on a FaceBook nonfiction PB group page. Suggestions and encouragement began to flow downhill, because as you know—I was in the DEPTHS of DESPAIR.

WOW Nonfiction Archeologists pulled me from the mire and slapped me up one side and down the other. Gently. I was to stop fretting and start doing. Thank you for the tough love!

I made the historic decision to get organized. Three hours later, with folders labeled, quotes unearthed and highlighted, and background info reviewed, I had a revelation:

Brain Working at Lightning Speed

Brain Working at Lightning Speed

“Gee, that wasn’t so bad.”

Someone please kick me the next time I avoid organizing myself and my materials.

Not only did I find all the missing quotes, plus ones I hadn’t remembered to mark, I also went deeper into the sea of my story.

I had been fiddling with facts and had forgotten why I had started writing about my subjects in the first place. I reached the heart,


and I knew what needed to be done. Thank you WOW-ers!

But that’s not where the story ends.

Last night, my 11-yr-old son spent two hours moaning, flopping about, and moping while trying to avoid writing answers to homework essay questions. Oh, the hairy eyeballs, the pouting lips, the grumbling and growling that I endured.


No, this isn’t my son. Just his attitude.


“I can’t do it! It will take too long! It’s too hard!” (The genes don’t fall far from the tree, eh?)

Once he focused on his work, it only took him an hour. Problem is, he started his homework at 8pm. I insisted he stay up until 11pm to finish. Am I evil?

When I tucked him into bed, I asked him why he couldn’t just skip the moaning and growling and get on with it. His response:


“Mom, it’s the difference between standing on the upslope of a black diamond ski run and the downslope. When you’re standing up there looking down, you think there’s no way you’ll ever be able to do it. But when you’re at the bottom, you can look up and say it wasn’t so bad.”

Oh, be still my beating heart!

What are the odds we’ll both remember this tidbit of wisdom when we need to?

45 thoughts on “Black Diamond Wisdom – Writers Take Note

  1. Carrie Rubin says:

    Like mother, like son. Here’s to both of you getting back on track. And wow, that’s quite the insight your 11-year-old has. Kind of makes up for him procrastinating with the homework. 🙂

    • Jilanne Hoffmann says:

      My husband took him down a few black diamonds this winter for the first time. Lots of cajoling, just like writing. 😀 I stayed in the cabin, took walks in the snow, and read. Much safer for my knees.

      • susanissima says:

        Great post! It boils down to that first slide forward, tips down, whoosh…whether it’s a mountain or mountains of paper. Sometimes we need a nice little push. Great that your FB buddies were there for you.

  2. Margarita says:

    Contrary to popular belief, Jilanne, I’ve always maintained that it is our children who are here to teach us, not the other way around. My daughter has been a peerless teacher to me! 😉 xoxo

  3. alundeberg says:

    I love this post, because it’s so true. There’s always something that is so easy to, but we just do not want to do it. I think your son has not fallen very far from the tree in more ways than one: he also has a way with words.

    • Jilanne Hoffmann says:

      He does have a difficult time processing passages (although he excels in reading) and then figuring out how to answer essay questions related to what he’s read. But he used to have trouble writing fiction, too. His ideas would outpace his ability to get them written down, and then he’d forget what he wanted to write. So he would get frustrated before he even started. He’s overcome that difficulty, so now it’s just all this internal processing and then being able to write down his thoughts in nonfiction format that’s frustrating him. I’m guessing that the essay portion would have taken the average 5th grader about 30 minutes, but it took him an hour once he stopped anticipating the agony of doing it. But yes, he has come up with some beautiful analogies and metaphors at the most unexpected times. I love it when it happens. 😀

  4. Catherine Johnson says:

    How funny you were in it together. My son has terrible issues focusing in class so he always brings work home. Glad you’re sorted.

    • Jilanne Hoffmann says:

      Oh, I know how this goes. I can’t work if there’s any kind of conversation happening around me. Even music. It has to be wordless. I don’t know if it will be easier for my son the next time around, but I hope so. Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Ste J says:

    Keeping it in the family, wisdom wise. Of course it will all be forgotten soon such is the joys of human nature. Now if only I could make the effort to do the same.

  6. Mrs. P says:

    That explanation must go into the incredibly wise words from the mouths of babes…and give it to him when he has children!

  7. Gretchen McCord DeFlorio says:

    Smart kid ya got there!!
    FYI, the experience you both had is what has been THE most challenging aspect of running my own business. Almost every day I say to myself (unless the chickens are around, in which case I say to them): “I ain’t doing bad — Just imagine what I could accomplish if I was organized!!”

    • Jilanne Hoffmann says:

      Yes, we’d all be world-beaters if we could just get organized and overcome those little thoughts that tell us something will take too long or that it will be too difficult. Those thoughts feed the procrastination peacock to bursting, making it want to lie down and rest till the urge to do something passes. Thought your chickens would like the analogy.

  8. Kate Johnston says:

    Before children, I prided myself on my organization skills. Now, fuhgeddaboudit! I am organized on the surface, and have my piles neatly arranged, but underneath it all it is mayhem. I have a feeling, after reading your post, if I took a day, I could get my entire study in order.

    Kudos to you and your son for buckling down!

  9. Sheila says:

    Hahah – that’s true that the thought of getting organized is just as scary as those black diamonds. But it is nice to look back afterwards and realize it’s done. It’s great that your son figured that out at 11. I’m a lot older than that and still haven’t figured these things out.

  10. roughwighting says:

    Your son is brilliant. And totally correct. I hate standing up there at the top of the slope, looking down, worried that I really just can’t do it. But then, when I ski fast and fun and don’t kill myself, when I’m at the bottom, I think, “now what was I worried about?” That’s the same as writing, to me. Getting started on that slope is sooooo hard. And the same with organizing my quotes/chapters/files/thoughts. I’m with you – I get piles and piles until finally I despair and panic. Once everything is back in its place I think, “never again.”
    Until the next time. 🙂

    • Jilanne Hoffmann says:

      Ah, yes. We are creatures of the same cloth. I don’t try the black diamonds at all. I’ll stick with the writing. It’s scary enough. And it usually leaves my body intact, unlike skiing. 😀 Thanks for stopping by!

  11. Celine Jeanjean says:

    That’s quite an insight from your 11 year-old! He’s wise beyond his years… Your post reminds me of that book by Anne Lammott — Bird by Bird. In case you haven’t heard of it, the title is based on a time when her younger brother left a bird project he had to do for school until the very last minute and when it came down to it, he was overwhelmed by the task ahead and couldn’t get started. Her father just told him to take it bird by bird and it wouldn’t be so bad. I love that little anecdote (and the book as well for that matter!)

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