A Better Reason To Write

January 20, 2012 at 11:35 am (Uncategorized)

I’ve always liked seeing my name in print. I also like getting paid for my work, which proves I’m not just a whore for by-lines.

Neither of these was motivating me yesterday. I was barely recovered from a bout of stomach flu. My 8-year old son, Andrew, was sick—with something that sounded a lot like tuberculosis— at home, missing his fourth consecutive day of school. And, I was on deadline. After calling for two complete rewrites of a newsy article I pitched nearly a year ago–and then falling silent for months– the magazine editor suddenly wanted a third complete rewrite. In a day. (Since I used up my quote of bad words describing my love of by-lines, I’ll contain my thoughts about this editor).

It’s a testament to how much better my overall health has been—in spite of the recent joint and neurological problems—that I was able to turn it around. It’s not the best piece of writing I’ve ever done. But I did it.

I felt curiously empty about finishing an article for a national magazine—maybe because I’d been thinking about it for so long, or because I didn’t have time to fret over the last draft. I emailed the thing off and crawled back into bed.

As I was heading into my bedroom, Andrew asked if he could use the computer. I figured he was looking to score extra of his usually carefully rationed screen time to play on Lego.com or watch a Shaun the Sheep by streaming Netflix. I was too tired to wrangle over the exact number of screen time minutes he should get on a sick day. “Just don’t overdo,” I said, as I pulled the blankets up to my chin.

“You have no idea what I have planned,” he said.

That almost got me out of bed.

But I dozed, only half-hearing the printer wheezing in the next room. He’s been known to print out so many images from Lego.com that he’ll deplete our color ink cartridges in one sitting. So, when he came into my room a little later bearing a sheet of paper, I figured it was to show me the latest Lego Ninjago set.

“I am so proud of you,” he said, handing me the paper. “You got that article written in, like half an hour.”

I looked down to a brightly colored card he’d made on a computer graphics program he’s teaching himself. The writing was a little shaky, since he was is just getting the hang of free-drawing and writing with the mouse. He translated. “Congratulations. You finished the article.” Spelled his way, is read, “Congradootions you finsht the artacel.” He’d decorated the card with hand-drawn stars and a thumbs-up, and pasted in clip art of an orange tabby and flowers.

See for yourself.

It is, hands-down, the best reward for my writing I’ve ever received. Better than any paltry check or prestigious by-line. Getting the respect of an 8-year old boy is way cooler than any of that.

What’s the best reward you’ve earned for a challenging work project?


  1. Leanne Shirtliffe said,

    That had me in tears! Vivian left me a note last night (I had been out to the dentist and then to crit group) that said: “When you come to kiss me, wake me up.” Bless her.

    I also love how she sees herself as a writer and that it’s “normal” to sit with a notebook for hours. William? Not so much.

    I wrote a piece for a writing magazine (Albertan) that took the life out of me. My reward was when I finally put my voice into it. I can’t write un-personal stuff.

    • Rebecca Stanfel said,

      Those kids sure know how to make us cry. I love Vivian’s note to you. I love that she’s a writer too. And it makes sense that William is carving his own path down the slope.

      It’s funny. I had been yearning to get back into long-form journalism. I had quit trying to make a place for myself in this end of the business when I got too sick to make deadlines. I’m glad I busted through lackluster editorial feedback, not feeling well, and multiple rewrites to see this latest piece through. But I’m just not sure I want to stay with news writing anymore. I find my personal essays so much more rewarding. I think I can leave behind the new writing on my terms now–or not. We’ll see. But I do get what you’re saying about not wanting to write un-personal stuff.

      I love hearing from you, Thanks for commenting.


  2. Marianne said,

    I’ve always liked Andrew. I need to get my kids a computer graphics program so they can do this for me instead of the games they play on there now. But I would also probably need to tell them they have to make me cards so that they would realize why I bought the program 🙂

    • Rebecca Stanfel said,

      Yes, it is important to clearly convey expectations to our children. “You can have this. But only if it is used to glorify me–your lovely and wonderful mother.” 🙂

  3. Amy Pridemore said,

    I LOVE that kid! He is the smartest, most creative, sweetest kid ever. Takes after his mom 🙂

    • Rebecca Stanfel said,

      He loves you. But I think perhaps you might be biased. I should start blogging on the days he’s a total turkey. That will provide a more balanced perspective on your god-son. 🙂

      I love you.


  4. Paul said,

    Good One Andrew!!!

    • Rebecca Stanfel said,

      Yes, he scored some major points. And wii time.

  5. Randy Bekkedahl said,

    Congratulations Rebecca on getting your article into a national magazine! I don’t know how in the world you did the re-write while with the flu, I can’t imagine how hard that would be, but am proud of you for doing it!

    I too had the flu (which is why I’m behind everyone else). But half-way through the vomiting phase I developed breathing problems, so my wife ran me up to the ER and they kept me for 8 hours while checking my heart and lungs (which ended up being fine). They don’t know what caused it, which seems typical of auto-immune reactions–they never have an easy answer, or at least a “normal” answer.

    Hang in there Rebecca, and keep writing, I love reading your words. And if you don’t mind telling us which magazine it will appear in, I’d love to read it too!

    • Rebecca Stanfel said,

      Thank you, Randy,

      Oh your experience with the flu sounds awful I hate emergency rooms. I hate going through all the testing–and then just getting another round of head-shaking and scratching at the mysterious ways of auto-immune diseases. I hope you are feeling much better and able to stay out of the clutches of the White Coats.

      Thanks for support. I feel good about seeing this piece through. In some ways, I was fortunate that it got stalled in editorial limbo along the way. I only had one frantic re-write episode. It also feels good to have been able to work on a deadline and write something journalistic for once. My background is in longer-form news writing, but this is my first attempt to get back into this side of the writing world since I got sick. Meeting deadlines in the midst of medical crises was too much for me. I’m not sure I want to continue pursuing news writing, though. I’ve become invested in writing more personal pieces and I feel like I can do more by writing about life with a chronic illness.

      Perhaps I overstates the magazine. It does have a national readership, though it pegs itself as a magazine about the West. It’s called High Country News. Have you heard of it? I will be sure to send a link to the piece when (if) it finally gets printed. I have written personal essays for them before.

      Sending healing thoughts your way.


      • Randy Bekkedahl said,

        I love High Country News! I used to subscribe, but when I had to cut back on expenses, it got let go. I do miss it. They always find the best writers! So will look forward to seeing your piece.

        Hope you are feeling better, or at least are getting rest when you need it.

        I need to go start dinner for my mom and my lovely wife, who will be getting off work at 6 pm.

        Happy Trails to you,
        Until we meet again,
        Happy Trails to you

        (I can’t remember the rest of the song…..)


  6. Ellen said,

    That’s a beautiful post, Rebecca. Thanks for sharing. XO

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