I often wish to see a tornado from up close — close enough that I can see it lifting trees into the air and blacking out the sun, but not so close that it destroys our things or kills us all.
You know… reasonably close. So it almost destroys our things and kills us all.
The closest I’d ever gotten was when our firstborn was an infant and we were out in the yard. He was on a picnic blanket beneath the maple trees, and I was nearby cooing to him while I did yard work. The sky was bright and sunny, and there was no wind. It was the perfect day.
… until it wasn’t.
In a matter of minutes the sky filled with grey clouds that moved quickly and churned in places. A breeze turned into stronger winds. And stronger. The sky grew dark grey. Scary dark. Almost black. Then the wind started to tear leaves off of the branches above the baby and throw them into the yard, down onto the blanket.
The change happened fast. I’d never seen anything like it. I grabbed the baby and the blanket and ran for the house. By the time I got to the house, the sky was black and larger branches were now flying through the air in wild directions.
Somewhere nearby, a tornado was coming.
We hid in the basement until the storm passed, and were safe. We found out later the tornado had touched down a mile away and levelled a family’s house to rubble. (Thankfully no one was killed in the area)
Years later, I was out in the yard with my children and their cousins, watching them bounce on the trampoline and enjoying the sound of their laughter and bossy instructions to each other.
Suddenly, I heard a strange sound behind me — an other-worldly whoosh. Like what I imagine it might sound like if a portal to another dimension opened up. I turned to look and saw nothing.
Well, not quite nothing. The air shimmered strangely, like it does over a hot grill. A tall and silent column of shimmering appeared right there in our yard, maybe 12 feet from where I stood. At its base, I noticed a circle of grass lay flat and the blades flapped like they were being blown by a strong wind, but just inside the column. The grass just outside the circle remained still and untouched by wind.
The circle was about 12 inches wide and it was moving, gyrating slowly past me.
“You guys! Look!” I called to the kids, who stood at a distance and watched.
This was my chance! I could literally reach my hand into the mini twister and feel the inside of it! Maybe even stand inside of it as it passed over.
I jumped into its path and watched the blown-flat grass circle jitter toward me. It was ten feet away. Six feet. I started wondering if this was a good idea. Five feet. What if it would capture me, twirling me endlessly and I could not escape the vortex? Four feet. What if there was no oxygen in there? Was I about to be suffocated to death in some strange deadly ballet? I stood fast, wondering how crazy this all was.
Then, as if sensing me and deciding against the encounter, the vortex wiggled its way around me. I watched, fascinated, as it went around me. Now, as it wiggled on a new path away from me, I stood fast, second- guessing myself. What if I’m worried about nothing? There was no debris, after all — it’s probably just a little puff of air, just enough to make grass flap. But what if I was right about the no-oxygen thing? I get my breath taken away by a gust of winter air — how would this go? For a split second, I wished I knew more about the science of air.
The vortex kept wiggling farther and farther away. Ten feet. Twelve. My opportunity was literally leaving and I just stood there watching and overthinking things. Fifteen feet.
No! I forced my legs to move and bolted after the shimmering vortex. I could at least put my hand inside! I could at least experience the feel of it. The column was at 20 feet now I ran after it, my arm outstretched, probably looking insane to the children who watched.
I was four feet from the shimmering column, my fingers so close. I would soon experience what the inside of a tornado felt like. How many humans had ever had that thrill and lived to tell about it? This was going to be epic.
As my fingers reached out, mere inches from the shimmering column, it vanished. Just disappeared. I stood on the grass where the circle had been, and felt no breeze nor saw no shimmering. The vortex was gone and I had missed it.
Do you ever feel like that? Inches away from something powerful?
Wanting to write a book can feel like that, torn like that — all at once a scary thing to flee from, but also something powerful and alluring that could transform the whole landscape.
Maybe it even feels like standing there, fingers outstretched, dying to move yet feeling like you can’t.
Ever feel that?
You’re not the only one. Trust me, after 20 years of writing and working with writers, I can tell you this is common to us all.
If you’ve been thinking about writing a book, a story, or your own personal memoir, I just want to encourage you to go for it. Take the risk.
Just don’t do it alone. Have people alongside to keep you safely on the ground.
If you’re feeling stuck I’ve got something that can help.
In the next week or two I’m launching round two of Write Your Book in 90 Days.
Sound impossible? The first group wrote their first draft in SIXTY days!
And they walked away empowered, invigorated, creatively refreshed.
If you’re tired of feeling stuck, Write Your Book in 90 Days will help.