What makes you cry?
C’mon, I know you do. And if you don’t, you should.
I’m talking about a good kind of cry. The kind that lifts your spirits while at the same time aches your heart because you don’t know if you’ll ever experience that particular moment again.
When mulling ideas for a new book – and new scenes within a book – I try to think of things that make me cry, and create scenarios around that particular instance, building up to it then coming down, and building up to the next one. If you’ve read Wish, there’s one moment late in the book that, universally, when someone blesses me with sharing their thoughts on the story, gets them pretty deep down. I think the reason for that is that it speaks to something we all feel at some point in our lives.
And I think that’s what makes the best “cry moment,” the kind that – no matter if the story involves time travel or major league stadiums or hang gliding or walking on the moon or three-headed monsters who play Texas Hold ‘Em while dangling their tentacles in a hot tub – a person identifies with and instantly remembers a moment they felt precisely the same thing.
I’m working on those cry moments right now while imagining my next book, and I keep a little log of them, whenever I see something or experience something in life that socks me right in the gut. It doesn’t have to produce a waterfall of tears and moments of disorientation or shuddered breathing. It can be as simple as a heart flutter, a sudden and brief blurring of vision, or that sometimes too-familiar lump in the throat.
Here are a few of mine… lots, as you can understand, revolve around the kids…
• looking at photos of the kids and feeling like I’m not savoring their childhood enough, or that I won’t remember it
• Christmas morning
• thinking about what it was like when my wife and I were younger
• old dogs
• puppies and their moms bonding and, ultimately, parting
• watching the kids play
• watching my wife walk on the beach
• thinking about the kids growing old and moving out
• watching my oldest son walk away to experience the time of his life at a camp
• watching my middle son tie a fly for trout fishing and realizing that he’s doing that because I taught him
• daddy-daughter dances with my little girl, and thinking of dancing with her at her wedding
• goofing around with the kids and seeing them laugh and be silly and feel on top of the world because of something I’m doing with them
• looking at my wife smile
• that moment when you realize you just witnessed God answering a prayer
Hold on to those cry moments. Embrace them. Cherish them. The late basketball coach and valiant cancer fighter, Jim Valvano, in his famous speech at the ESPY Awards in 1993, said it this way:
“To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. Number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.”