Open Your Eyes

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First, a brief announcement: I’m hosting two book giveaways this week. If you missed the first interview, click here. Tomorrow you’ll find the next interview and book giveaway. Winners to be announced on Sunday.

Now that that’s out of the way, let me tell you what’s been on my mind lately. My good friend Sharon Van Zandt had this lovely quote on her blog:

Always be on the lookout for the presence of wonder.
E. B. White

If you know Sharon, you know that she deeply believes this.

That quote takes me back to an incident last week. After we watched Ender’s Game (in case you’re curious, I enjoyed it), a friend of mine introduced me to a new toy store in our area. She searched for toys for her toddlers. I went along for the ride.

I’m glad I did.

I wish I’d thought to take a photo of the inside of the store. Picture a wonderland of toys on low shelves (at a kid’s level) or set up in inviting displays. The store featured the kind of toys you might have grown up with: Etch A Sketch, stuffed animals, puzzles, books, dolls, building blocks, train sets, and trucks—all for a new generation.

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We lingered in the store until the salesperson calmly informed us that the store was closing. I admired her restraint. While we browsed, she had remained at the register instead of following us around, forcing a snappy sales pitch on us and other guilt-inducing suggestions for making kids happy. (“Don’t deprive your kids of the new Mega-Block Tower Set. Only $69.99.”) She allowed us time to look and reminisce. Also, she didn’t try to hustle us out of the store. You know that look: the salesperson stands at the door with a key in the lock, giving you strong vibes to get out.

I’m glad we took time to stop and look and play. (I feel sorry for any parent who dares to bring a child to that store. You’ll never be able to convince him or her to leave.)

Sharon’s post and my trip to the toy store reminded me of what I’ve been missing lately. Because I have a goal for NaNoWriMo, word count has been at the forefront of my mind. I lost sight of the goal I had when I first began writing: to write with eyes filled with wonder.

The quote Sharon included was incredibly apt, because E. B. White’s writing, particularly Charlotte’s Web, has always embodied wonder to me. It reminds me to stop and look at life with the unbridled enthusiasm of a child.

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I know. We don’t stay children. We grow up and have jobs and mortgage payments and kids and cars that need repairing. People we love fall ill and we suffer the grief of loss. Others annoy or disappoint us. Wonder is difficult to sustain in a world determined to beat us down. We go through life with our eyes squeezed shut instead of open in wonder.

Iconic books like Charlotte’s Web acknowledge that sad things occasionally happen. But the fact that sad times occur does not negate wonder. Wonder is not a bury-your-head-in-the-sand, rose-colored-glasses feeling. It is countercultural—an intentional response to a jaded mindset or a busy, hurry-it-up lifestyle.

That’s why we have to fight to hang on it, to avoid treating it as if it’s just for kids or the hopelessly naïve. It takes determination to be watchful for those wonder-filled moments where we feel glad to be alive. (Sing it with me: “The hills are aliiiiiive with the sound of music!”) It means being willing to look foolish as you stop and look and play. For me, however, it means being willing to sacrifice my word count goal, if at at the end of the day the answer to the question, “Am I having fun writing?” is no.

When was the last time you felt wonder? Don’t you think it’s time you did? I dare you to open your eyes and embrace the wonder. To help you along the path, I’ve decided to be spontaneous and send one person a print copy of Charlotte’s Web. (I didn’t see an eBook listed.) If you’ve never read it, comment below and I’ll enter your name in the drawing. If you’ve read it, feel free to tell me what you thought about it. Or, share a moment where you were filled with wonder.

Have a wonder-filled day!

Etch A Sketch from cotradeco.com. Charlotte’s Web cover from Goodreads. Kid looking amazed from parentdish.co.uk.