Parents of future high school students, take heed: The Tetrahedral Kite Project is a mess. How do I know? Well, I watched my students flying their lovely creations with their Algebra II class, and I was intrigued enough to want to make one.
“Are they hard to put together?” I’d asked later, when a couple sophomores arrived to my room. They told me it wasn’t difficult to build a tetrahedral kite, but it took a long time. There were YouTube videos aplenty, they said.
The day after school released for the summer, I gathered the YouTube-recommended supplies and went to see my nieces and nephew. Their kitchen table became my laboratory, and we proceeded to build four kites, one for each of them. That’s right, four tetrahedral kites. (This is what I do, see: I get a pretty good idea, and then I take it to the crazy level).
Just try to make four tetrahedral kites at the same time, I dare you. If your story turns out anything like mine, then the tissue paper will stick to the glue in your hair, the string will tangle into a massive ball, you will sweat buckets, and the kites still won’t be finished, long after your stomach is growling and all but one kid has headed for the hills. Then you will go out on a windy day with all four kids and all four kites and promptly fall into an allergic-sneeze-fit from the blast of pollen in your face. Fifteen minutes later, exactly zero tetrahedral kites will have left the pavement.
I knew I had reached a brand-new landscape of desperation when my thirteen year-old niece said, “Maybe we should quit. They’re just not going to fly.”
“But they are! They are going to fly! Run with this one, one more time! But run faster than before! Hold it over your head with both hands this time!” Every word that came out of my mouth had its own exclamation point. My niece looked at me. She put the kite on the ground.
“I’m gonna go see what the others are doing on the playground, okay?” she said. Her face was apologetic as she turned to find her sisters and brother.
But I didn’t stop. I wanted–needed–those kites to fly. So I kept going for a long time, and from a distance, I’m sure I looked like some lady who was passionately tossing four piles of trash into the air. There were tears on my face.
I dreamed about those kites all night. In the morning, I realized that my frustration wasn’t really about the kites because we had all had fun making them, with or without flight. And my frustration wasn’t that I couldn’t get something off the ground. It was that I couldn’t figure out why.
And that particular frustration hits a little too close to home. This year, I realized deep in my heart, I have always wanted to write fiction. Writing a novel was an unspoken goal for me. Even though three of my nonfiction books have been published, I felt fraudulent if I ever said, “I would like to write fiction one day.”
Immediately, my face would get hot. That overwhelming feeling of embarrassment was what told me I had to write fiction. We don’t feel ashamed for telling someone something we would like to do. We can easily say we would like to go to DisneyWorld or would like to learn how to knit. Why would it be so hard to tell someone you want to do something big, like writing a novel?
I think it is because one of Satan’s favorite strategies is to veil our blessings. He curtains them with fear, shame, disdain, and various other negative feelings. Some of our best experiences and dearest friends might have been the very things and people we we sure we wouldn’t like at first. They were blessings behind a veil. We just had to be willing to remove it.
Nobody is going to stop me from getting what God means for me. So I am going to rip the curtain off of my blessing and say it out loud–or write it out loud–today. Here goes: I know that I know that I know that I know I can write fiction. From now on, I am moving in the direction. A few months ago, I completed one manuscript that some early readers didn’t like, but many did. I have revised it, but I think I am still missing something significant in the story. The plot hasn’t exactly gotten off the ground, and that is frustrating. What is more frustrating is that I don’t know why.
But that tetrahedral kite taught me one important thing about my writing. I am not willing to stop. The process can get messy. It can get stuck. It can take a long time, long enough to make me hungry and sweaty, but I am not going anywhere. You will find me here, tears on my face, passionately tossing my words toward the sky.
Knowing one day they will fly.