They’re called “likes” but the icon looks like a heart so I call them “hearts.” Recently I wrapped up an online workshop that had a discussion board. It was possible to like/heart other people’s posts but I didn’t do it often.
At the end of the workshop I realized my bio page kept my statistics: how much time on the site, how many posts read, topics created, hearts given and received.
My tally: 94 hearts given, 493 hearts received.
My reaction was embarrassment. People had been generous with me and I had not been generous with them.
I wondered what other’s heart statistics looked like. As I wondered about whose to look at, there were two women who came to mind. They were gracious in their comments and asked thoughtful questions. If someone gave an avoidant answer, they didn’t walk away. They stayed and asked another question, couched in kindness. They were consistent, patient, encouraging, prodding, honest, vulnerable, inspirational.
I felt like voyeur as I pulled up their bios. How many hearts had they given? One had given 1000, the other 1800.
94 vs. 1800
Why was I so stingy with my hearts when there was a limitless supply? Love is like that. Limitless. When I give love away I don’t have less. We both have more.
After having written 67,326 words on my novel, this week I realized that it wasn’t working. The scenes were boring.
I dug into Shawn Coyne’s Story Grid to figure out what was wrong. The answer was that I wasn’t writing scenes, I was writing what Coyne calls “shoe leather,” a bunch of words that go from one place to another without much happening.
For a few minutes, I was tempted to just keep going and fix the whole thing at the end. That was pride talking. I wanted to be able to say, “I finished my first draft!” But then I thought of you, the eleven of you who read this blog. Your names are written on a card by my desk. I looked at that list and realized I was on a path to make something that wasn’t worthy of you.
After three days (including nights) studying a story that works, I identified the weaknesses of mine. I’m not sad about this. I’m glad that I figured it out now, before I got any further. And I’m glad about the shoe leather. It will help me on this next, rockier section of the journey.
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Chewing the Cud of Good
A man who is an expert in data analytics for grocery stores left his job to apply what he knows to bring fresh food to food deserts in Cincinnati.
6 thoughts on “Hearts Are Free”
What a valuable notion about limitless supply. Likes or hearts are a way to tell someone ”I see you”. And at the same time a thoughtful comment at the right time is so valuable – you gave those.
Anna, yes, hearts = “I see you.” They’re a way to make it tangible and I was missing the opportunity to do that. Thank you for your comment about my comments!
Luckily there’s always a new moment to be generous with giving hearts, one at a time. Maybe the first one to yourself. I could give one to me. A big one.
What a wonderful idea! Hearts for me and hearts for you <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3
How can you tell, with certainty, it was “shoe leather”?
Chris, thank you for your question. Others have asked, “Are you sure what you’ve written is as bad as you think?” and I know they’re asking from kindness. They want to spare me the agony of rework and I’m guessing that might be behind your question as well. But the question is also forcing me to articulate my thinking–how do I know it’s shoe leather? Shawn Coyne would say that every scene needs to have five components and if they aren’t there the scene won’t work: https://storygrid.com/how-to-analyze-a-scene/. Here’s how I interpret what Coyne says…
Every scene has an electrical charge, either positive or negative and those charges apply both externally (what you see, hear, etc.) and internally (the feelings of the people in the scene, especically the feelings of the hero and the villain). Those electrical charges have got to flip: either from positive to negative or from negative to postive, or they need to become more intense: negative to supernegative or positive to superpositive.
Since I have “Gladiator” on the mind, let’s fast forward toward to the end of the third act. Just as Maximus/Russell Crowe is about to execute his plot to overthrow Emperor Commodus/Joaquin Phoenix (external = positive, internal = positive), his plan is discovered and Maximus is captured. (external = negative, internal = negative). Here comes my favorite scene: Commodus, decending on a platform and in robes like an angel descending to earth, visits Maximus in his cell (chained in a Christ-like pose) and tells him that they will battle/duel tomorrow. Maximus is surprised (“You want to fight Me?”) but Commodus kisses him (a la Judas) and shivs him in the back. Now Maximus isn’t just captive and chained, he is wounded and bleeding and about to face the Emperor in an unfair fight the next day. He is facing not just his own death but the dashing of all his hopes and the likely death of the heir (the son of the woman he loves) and the certain slavery/possible ongoing rape of the woman he loves (external = supernegative, internal = supernegative).
Here’s an example of a scene written two different ways, the first is shoe leather and the second is drama.
First: a wife and husband go out to dinner on a Friday night. It’s been a long week at work for both of them. They go to their go-to restaurant, they talk about work, they talk about what they will do this weekend, they eat their meal, they go home. That’s shoe leather. Externally and internally no electrical charges changed.
Second: a wife and husband go out to dinner on a Friday night. It’s been a long week at work for both of them. They go to their go-to restaurant. While they talk about work, the wife notices the husband is rearranging the items on the table. He’s taken the salt and pepper and the bud vase and the little bowl of olive oil, pulled them from the side of the table and lined them up, stretched like a fence between him and his wife. The food comes but neither picks up a fork. He tells her he wants a divorce. He is relieved to have finally said it. She looks at the fence of table items and one by one, advances each toward her husband, as if it were a chessboard and she is claiming territory. She tells him that they’ve been married for 23 years and she won’t fight the divorce but she is going to get what she deserves. She does not tell him that she is relieved because that would hurt her negotiating position. For the husband, his internal charge went from negative (in a marriage he doesn’t want to be in) to positive (relief). His external charge went from positive (I am going to leave her) to negative (she is going to fight me over money). For the wife, her external charge went from postive to negative (married to soon-to-be divorced) but her internal charge went from negative to positive (unhappy in marriage to relief at the ending of it).