Wednesday, September 28, 2016

It's Just Straw Paper

by Yvonne Lehman @YvonneLehman

Several of us go out to eat after church on Sunday. Our number of available women varies. Several who are accustomed to me, hand me the papers from their straws, and the rectangles from around the napkins that holds their utensils. I make bows from those papers and give them to the eaters or line them at the end of the table for the waitress.

Some seem to think I’m creative, but I think I’m just… let’s not say, “Bored,” but antsy, need to do more than just sit and listen or talk. Also, I write with the TV on. I need noise in the background. Makes my subconscious get into gear. And, my fingers need to be moving.

Sunday, there were only three of us. One was new to us, and did most of the talking. While she talked, I flattened the paper, folded each side toward the middle making a loop on each side, leaving two edges hanging down. I placed my index finger inside each loop to fluff it out. Using condensation from my water glass, I wet my finger and thumb, then pressed the middle to secure the bow.

Sometimes when I do this, the sides aren’t even and I start over. Many times my first effort with the water isn’t wet enough to secure the bow and the middle pops up. Sometimes the bow is lovely upon first try. Not often, however. Generally, putting that finishing touch with the water takes several attempts. But when today’s bow was finished, I gently placed it toward the center of the booth away from me, so I could satisfactorily observe my creation.

The other two women didn’t notice or comment. To the constant woman, this was commonplace. The new one was intent upon telling her story. I thought about what they did with their papers.

The new woman removed her straw, crumpled the paper and tossed it toward the center of the table away from her. It lay sprawled in an ungraceful manner. The constant woman rolled her paper around in the palm of her hand until it became a wadded ball. Then she carelessly laid it aside, without any thought to it’s potential or my needy hands. (I could excuse that since the new woman’s conversation was…revealing – or, one might say, a story idea.)

So, while waiting for my fried salt & peppered catfish and non-salt & peppered non-crispy fried oysters, I looked at my bow that went unnoticed by my companions or the waitress.

Those other straw papers, having been abused or pampered, reminded me of the writing process.

If we don't give our story ideas serious thought, it's
like crumpling them and tossing them away.
We can have a story idea in our hands, or heads, so to speak. It’s a good idea, but if not given serious thought, it’s crumpled and tossed away.

We can have an idea, hold it for awhile wondering if it’s of any value after all, roll it around in our heads, but become distracted by something of interest at the time and then carelessly lay it aside to be treated like trash.

The serious writer, however, knows that nothing is just a paper idea. Something good can come from this. I must fold, and smooth, and when it threatens to come apart, it’s as if cold ice water is applied but eventually it warms and adheres and settles into being a lovely little symbol of an idea worked into something that’s symbolic of beauty and a piece of art.

Just straw paper?

No! A lesson about life and how we handle situations, even writing a book, article, or devotion.

We might think our story idea is like a flat piece of paper to be crumpled and tossed aside. Or we can take that idea, work with it until it becomes something creative. Sometimes, no one will notice. But there’s satisfaction in creating something from what may seem insignificant. Sometimes, others will notice, laugh, comment, and enjoy the moment.

What are you going to do with your… straw paper?

Yvonne Lehman is an award-winning, best-selling author of more than 3,000,000 books in print, who founded and directed the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference for 25 years, is now director of the Blue Ridge “Autumn in the Mountains” Novelist Retreat. She mentors for the Christian Writers Guild. She earned a Master’s Degree in English from Western Carolina University and has taught English and Creative Writing on the college level. Her latest releases include eight ebooks for Barbour’s Truly Yours line and a Harlequin/Heartsong series set in Savannah GA: The Caretaker’s Son, Lessons in Love, Seeking Mr. Perfect, (released in March, August, & November 2013). Her 50th novel is Hearts that Survive – A Novel of the TITANIC