Black Diamond Wisdom – Writers Take Note

24 Apr

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 sayβ€”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 knowβ€”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 Responses to “Black Diamond Wisdom – Writers Take Note”

  1. Carrie Rubin April 24, 2015 at 7:42 pm #

    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. πŸ™‚

  2. dkatiepowellart April 24, 2015 at 8:29 pm #


  3. crimeworm April 24, 2015 at 10:14 pm #

    Smart boy – and great skier!

    • Jilanne Hoffmann April 24, 2015 at 10:20 pm #

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

      • susanissima April 25, 2015 at 4:50 am #

        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.

        • Jilanne Hoffmann April 25, 2015 at 9:07 am #

          Yes, that push. The great leap of faith. Gotta do it! And if you can do it for yourself, it’s good to have others who will push you. Cheers!

  4. cleopatralovesbooks April 25, 2015 at 5:17 am #

    What a brilliant piece of wisdom and so much better that he realises that at 11 than later on in life even if he forgets every now and again.

    • Jilanne Hoffmann April 25, 2015 at 9:09 am #

      I forget every now and again, too, and I’m soooo much older “and wiser” than he. LOL

  5. FictionFan April 25, 2015 at 3:39 pm #

    Yes, you are evil! πŸ˜‰

    • Jilanne Hoffmann April 25, 2015 at 10:52 pm #

      Having an evil mother is good for one’s character, isn’t it?

  6. robincoyle April 26, 2015 at 11:29 am #

    You have one smart son! I also love that your panic button is Facebook!

    • Jilanne Hoffmann April 26, 2015 at 1:48 pm #

      Better than the one that deploys missiles, eh? Yes, he’s a smart cookie, and I love him dearly. πŸ˜€

  7. Margarita April 26, 2015 at 1:42 pm #

    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! πŸ˜‰ xoxo

    • Jilanne Hoffmann April 26, 2015 at 1:49 pm #

      You are soooo right, Margarita! I keep learning and relearning that. One of these days it will stick. πŸ˜€

  8. alundeberg April 26, 2015 at 7:32 pm #

    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 April 26, 2015 at 8:31 pm #

      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. πŸ˜€

  9. Catherine Johnson April 27, 2015 at 6:15 am #

    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 April 27, 2015 at 9:30 am #

      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!

  10. 5kcane April 27, 2015 at 4:01 pm #

    I like the post, inspiring! Just start working on something and before you know it, your done.

    • Jilanne Hoffmann April 27, 2015 at 4:07 pm #

      Or as Annie Lamott says, “Bird by Bird.” Thanks for stopping by!

  11. Ste J April 28, 2015 at 2:59 am #

    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.

    • Jilanne Hoffmann October 8, 2015 at 9:07 pm #

      I missed this comment when you first posted it. My apologies! Yes, we’ve already forgotten this bit of wisdom and moved on to other issues. πŸ˜€ How’s your progress?

  12. heylookawriterfellow April 28, 2015 at 5:39 am #

    This post has everything: a clarion call for organization and a “poop-or-get-off-the-pot message.” I am shedding a little tear of joy.

    • Jilanne Hoffmann April 28, 2015 at 9:05 am #

      I aim to be a one-stop shopping experience. Grab a tissue when you arrive.

  13. Mrs. P April 28, 2015 at 4:56 pm #

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

    • Jilanne Hoffmann April 28, 2015 at 6:05 pm #

      Yes! I will do just that. Maybe I’ll accumulate all of his words of wisdom into a chapbook and give them back to him when he has kids. Thanks for the idea!

      • Mrs. P April 28, 2015 at 6:16 pm #

        πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€

  14. Gretchen McCord DeFlorio April 28, 2015 at 6:01 pm #

    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 April 28, 2015 at 8:49 pm #

      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.

  15. Kate Johnston April 29, 2015 at 4:39 am #

    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!

    • Jilanne Hoffmann April 29, 2015 at 10:18 am #

      Get into that study and get it done! Sometimes, I think one must reach a certain level of desperation to overcome that moment of inertia. πŸ˜€

  16. ThisKidReviewsBooks April 29, 2015 at 4:01 pm #

    Great analogy from your son! Great post from you! πŸ˜€

    • Jilanne Hoffmann April 30, 2015 at 9:25 am #

      Thanks, Erik! I’m sure you never grumble and groan about getting things done. πŸ˜€

  17. Sheila May 5, 2015 at 7:52 am #

    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.

    • Jilanne Hoffmann May 5, 2015 at 11:27 pm #

      Well, just because he’s figured it out doesn’t make it any easier to do something about it. Just more aware. But I guess that’s half the battle, eh?

  18. roughwighting May 8, 2015 at 5:41 am #

    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. πŸ™‚

    • Jilanne Hoffmann May 8, 2015 at 2:10 pm #

      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. πŸ˜€ Thanks for stopping by!

  19. Celine Jeanjean May 14, 2015 at 8:43 pm #

    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!)

    • Jilanne Hoffmann May 14, 2015 at 9:48 pm #

      Oh yes, I’ve read it. Anne Lamott is a Bay Area native, so she’s very popular around here. Lots of wisdom in her words. Lots. Her facebook posts are also awesome, if you ever feel the need for a pick-me-up. Thanks for stopping by!

      • Celine Jeanjean May 15, 2015 at 5:15 pm #

        Oh thanks for the heads up I haven’t checked her facebook – but I’ll be sure to!

  20. liam hoffmann October 8, 2015 at 11:16 am #

    really, mom? you HAD to post that?

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