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  • Writer's pictureSarahHauer

Squandered Gifts

I was listening to a Christian podcaster, Chris Stefanick, interview writer, Paul McCusker, on saints and story telling. ( They were joking around and sharing story ideas they've considered over the years. One of their ideas hit me a bit. It was the idea of a cartoon for children about child superheroes or something along those lines. One of the superheroes had the ability to turn himself into other things. Problem was, he turned himself into a tree and couldn't turn himself back. At first, I was like, that's brilliant! The idea of impulsively squandering gifts to show off is needed in this world of immediate gratification. I started talking back at my phone telling them to write it as if they could hear me.

My mind wandered into a different area where that idea is also beneficial. What about the misuse of a talent or gift because of lack of self-esteem? Where did that self-esteem issue come from? What about the opposite - lavishing too much praise on a talent that isn't actually there? Or rewarding undeserved effort?

That same day I heard that podcast, I had a conversation with a gentleman on the challenges of Gen Y growing up getting ribbons for showing up and not learning the lessons of how to win and how to lose properly with dignity. Pendulums do swing in opposite, sometimes extreme, directions. Every time parents think they have found the answer to proper parenting, a new problem appears.

When I was a kid, I wanted to be an Archaeologist. But, I also had ideas of being a writer. There is a vast difference between the two careers. The biggest one being that writers must be self-motivated. Well, independent novelists anyway. There are no deadlines given from outside sources. All motivation is internal, even if writing for a paycheck, because there are other ways of paying bills. In fact, writing pays next to nothing these days.

The other thing with writers is that they are vulnerable to criticism. Not because of over-inflated egos; although, there are plenty of those balloons floating around. It's because writing is so internal that criticisms are automatically personal. They have to be. A writer's must-have for any level of success is a skin of iron. Permeable iron. Just enough breathability for the stories to get out. Enough protection to take the hits. The opposite swing of the pendulum is bad here too. Zero criticisms ends in zero growth.

When I was in the sixth grade, out of the blue, I wrote a children's story about a boy and his puppy. I showed it to my teacher. She loved it! She wanted me to rewrite it over the summer so she could send it to a publisher she knew. I squandered it. I left the notebook with the story in it lying around most of the summer untouched. August arrived, and I decided to get to it. Except, I couldn't find it.

I searched all over tearing the house apart. One of my older sisters came home. I jumped all over her demanding to know what she did with the notebook with my story in it. I described the notebook and its contents. She said, "I thought it was garbage, so I threw it out weeks ago."

Weeks ago. And I hadn't noticed. I hadn't protected my own work.

And her description of "garbage" probably only pertained to the notebook lying around, not the contents. She probably hadn't read it beyond a cursory glance. But I took it personally. Deeply personally. I took it as a criticism that meant I had no talent as a writer. The hit of the one comment erased what my teacher said months before. How sad is that?

It was my own fault. I didn't take care of my own gift. That superhero kid who turned himself into a tree didn't take care of his own gift.

Unfortunately, I think we are riddled with people who squander their gifts and by doing so we diminish how beautiful our world could be.

Chris Stefanick and Paul McCusker, please write that cartoon. I think my grandkids could benefit from it.

Do you have a gift or talent you wish you had nurtured more? It isn't too late.

Thanks for reading!

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Humor In Chaos


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