diving in, at last


my thesis semester found me managing my daughter’s campaign for state legislature. she was one of 4 candidates, and she wound up in a runoff with the older male career politician, an election she lost by the barest of margins. and by the time the last runoff votes were counted, i had 10 days to write my thesis. because it felt right, i worked from the table located in the center of our home – the chrome and glass table that was the first piece of furniture we bought as a married couple. every morning i’d light a candle, push everything and everyone else aside, and get to work. i had no time for angst or indecision. no time to argue with myself or let anything come between me and those notecards.

it was wonderful. you know what i’m talking about – being in that place that defies description where time and doubt don’t exist. that place i never wanted to leave.

but all too soon the thesis was turned in . . . and the first draft approved with only a note from faculty saying they were staying out of my way, leaving it up to me to massage if and as desired.

i wish that’s how i worked all the time – and lord knows, i wish i could get there without all the stress of having to fit it in, but alas. though i come up with more ideas than i can say grace over, and though questions are my native language (next to southern, of course), i have this annoying tendency to think them right out of existence before ever letting them fully hatch. or to run right over them with a ridiculously overloaded to do list.

that’s probably why i collect these stories about people who plunge right into something, making it up and deciphering it as they go. (there are at least 2 more right now begging me to give them some post time.) it’s how i want to be – just follow an interest without having to define, justify, or explain why it’s a good idea, why it will not be a waste of my time. i long to be a story in my own collection.

for more years than i care to count, i’ve carried around ideas for several books and plays, working on them and entertaining myself . . . but only on the inside. now let me be real clear here: nobody’s telling me i shouldn’t be working on these projects. nobody is telling me my ideas are ridiculous or that i’m wasting my time or who do i think i am. i am my biggest wall.

this morning, though, i leapt.

i wasn’t sure which project i’d work on when i got to the studio, i was only sure that it’s time. and without slowing down enough to even begin a thought, i started transcribing newspaper articles about the bank robbery. my maternal granddaddy was the county sheriff, you see, and my paternal granddaddy was the town’s banker, (yep, i couldn’t do a damn thing.) when my daddy was 5 years old, armed bandits came to town. because the vault couldn’t be opened on their schedule, the highwaymen (as the newspapers called them) brought out the whiskey, kept out the guns, and held my daddy and his family prisoners in their own home for more than 10 hours. it’s something that doesn’t happen to just every family, and yet it’s a story that was told surprisingly little around our dinner table. i don’t know that i’ll uncover reasons for the reluctance to talk about it, but i already know that it’s time to tell this story.

and i can’t – i won’t – wait.

p.s. that picture? it’s my granddaddy’s banker’s chair – in its original green leather – and it will be my constant companion as i discover this story.


  1. the_wordgirl

    “i long to be a story in my own collection.” love that line…will be adding it to my good words section of my blog.

    I related to a lot of this. I, too, am an overthinker. I've always been attracted to doers. My boyfriend is one such person. He helps me get out of my patterns and simply leap. It's lovely.

  2. whollyjeanne

    well, thank you. it's one of those sentences i didn't know was there till i was reading before hitting the “go” button. good to be paired with a doer, eh?

  3. Square-Peg Karen

    oh darling Jeanne, I cannot wait to hear the story – it sounds interesting enough on its own – but in YOUR telling, oh, it's going to come alive – cannot wait, cannot wait.

    and Jeanne, ohmy – we knew it had to come – and this is IT – something that we can't say “oh, me too!” to — you think and think before writing and I seem to have lost my think-er — ah well, still so much that's similar — ok, gal – W R I T E (I”m doing a cheerleading thing here – see?)

  4. whollyjeanne

    you haven't lost our thinker, my friend. it's just that yours works so much better than mine – doesn't take you so long to recognize and act on your many good ideas. (i sure wish you'd teach me how to do that, too.)

  5. emma

    You are better than strawberry rhubarb pie with homemade vanilla ice cream on top, I swear! Can't wait to learn how this story unfolds but I am absolutely GLEEFUL that you've begun to tell it.

    p.s. Have been MIA on email, not for lack of love but for abundance of tears. Will catch you up within next few days, I promise. xo

  6. Alicia

    One thing that's been occurring to me a lot recently is that we all have our natural season to bear fruit. Some trees take longer to reach the flowering stage than others. I was going to say more but I want to wait until my head isn't quite so full of other stuff. LOVED receiving your email and copies of all the wonderful comments you left on my blog. Will try to get to some form of a proper reply but for now have been conversing with you in my head. Maybe you heard?

  7. Julie

    Jeanne, How wonderful to know you are all fired up and typing away. As someone once said, Write Drunk, Edit Sober. Just go lickety-split and it will be on the page before no time. Give that roommate somethin' good to chew on and she'll be out of your hair.
    this line is worth gold: i long to be a story in my own collection. there's that all-important word, longing. Loving you, and love you.

  8. whollyjeanne

    i'll keep the light on.

  9. whollyjeanne

    any time i'm typing out a comment or email to you, i'm having a conversation with you in my heart and head – a 2-way conversation – though they're always better then the real you is playing you.

  10. whollyjeanne

    thanks again for the advice about booting the roommate. loving you, love you right back.

  11. angelakelsey

    Jeanne, please, please clear off that table and write from the center of the house and the center of yourself.

  12. whollyjeanne

    you get passed that 3/2 deadline, take a little rest break, then we have much to talk about, my friend. much.

  13. olive & hope

    Jeanne you have me on the edge of my seat (always). I'm hoping that the words are flowing, and I am standing in line to read them.

  14. TheWordWire

    I KNEW I was going to love the end of this story… or the beginning of it as they case may be. I'm so excited for you to have found inspiration to just jump in and go for it. I'm smiling from ear to ear at the thought of it. Good luck — keep us posted!!

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Hey, Sugar! I'm Jeanne Hewell-Chambers: writer ~ stitcher ~ storyteller ~ one-woman performer ~ creator & founder of The 70273 Project, and I'm mighty glad you're here. Make yourself at home, and if you have any questions, just holler.

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