Make it Happen

My dad used to have an expression: “Make it happen.” He used it in many different scenarios, but the ones I can remember most vividly are pretty similar. I would want something desperately. Who knows what? To be chosen for something. To go to some special event even though I was busy. To accomplish something. And I would be confiding in him, as I often did, and complaining at a level that was close to despair that it wouldn’t work out. There were too many obstacles, too many x factors, too little hope of success.

Always, he would wait until I was finished. He didn’t interrupt me; he let me get out my tirade or woebegone mope. Then he would look at me, raise his hands out, palms flat, and say, “Pippy, make it happen.” (Pippy is my family’s nickname for me.) He always said it with such confidence.

I suppose there’s a chance that if you didn’t know him, this might sound arrogant. And indeed, there were times when this annoyed the crap out of me. “I can’t just ‘make it happen!’” I’d say. “I have no control over this.” Which would only bring about a repeat. “Just make it happen.” After much pouting and flailing and possibly a long list of rebuttals, I would invariably find a way to make it happen. Because if you want something bad enough, you can almost always find a way to make it happen.

And for the record, there was a sister phrase to this. If I was talking to him about a situation that I genuinely had no control over – and there was any possible way that he could help me where I couldn’t help myself – his response was an equally confident, “I’ll take care of it.” If I protested, “But Dad…” he’d repeat, “Pip, I’ll take care of it.” And he would. It’s one of the things I miss so greatly about him.

Recently, I’ve been itching to get away. I mentioned my February super-mega-slump-of-doom, which is part of it, but I also feel a floundering. A restlessness. An aching desire to be inspired and start something new, holed up by myself somewhere with a beautiful view, stuck in my own head with silence and ideas and characters I’ve yet to get to know. I want to go to the beach. I don’t know why, but my mom agrees that this feeling is bred into my DNA, that something in the ocean water calls to something in my blood.

But of course, I told myself there’s no way to go to the beach right now. For one thing, it’s winter. No one goes to the beach in winter. Plus, I can’t afford to go on vacation. I can’t spare the time away from home and my various writing groups. It would be selfish and self-indulgent and self-important to spend money on me in this way, as if I can’t be creative and get work done at home. I tried to talk myself out of it.

It wouldn’t go away. I heard my dad telling me to “just make it happen.”

So I thought, what the hell? I’ll at least post something on Facebook and see if any of my friends or family happen to have a beach house I could stay in for free. Probably not, but it’s worth asking, right? I posted a status about it and got nothing but jokes, which is about what I expected. I don’t exactly run in the circle who own their own vacation homes.

So… I tried. I needed to let it drop. But my dad’s can-do attitude kept nagging at me. Obviously, I can’t vent to him anymore. Instead, I vented to others. After looking at rentals online, I discovered that off-season is significantly cheaper, and that I could get a super tiny efficiency condo for just a few hundred dollars for a whole week. I told my husband first. And you know what? He told me that we should make it happen.

Hub-a-dub pointed out that I made a couple hundred dollars on my most recent short story, and that we could count the trip as a work expense. (I have this fantasy that I’ll write thousands and thousands of words on a new project. I don’t know how realistic that is, but it’s definitely a working trip.) He instantly saw that this isn’t a whim for me, but a very deep need I can’t explain. He told me we’ll find a way to make it work.

But I still felt guilty. So I told my mom, gauging her reaction. She, too, told me that she thought it sounded like a wonderful idea, and that I should pursue it. I don’t know how I got so lucky to have been gifted not one but two ultra-supportive parents, but I was.

Of course, there were immediate hitches. The first being that the super cheap price I first saw was so cheap because it was not actually on the beach. It was a bit of a walk, and there was no view. The view was integral to my plan; I needed to see the coast while I worked. That was the whole point. An extra couple hundred bucks seemed too much. But in the spirit of “making it happen,” I made a self-conscious request to my husband, my mom, and my brother. For my birthday this year, could they contribute to my beach-stay fund?

Three resounding and immediate yeses.

I know that I’ll never stop missing my dad, but in the sweetness and support that my family shows me, I see him. So to my mom, my brother, and my husband: thank you for encouraging me to “make it happen.” And when that wasn’t enough, thank you for “taking care of it.” I love you all so much.

I’m going to the beach.


Blog readers, this means I won’t be posting next week. (I plan to unplug.) Hopefully I’ll have some good stuff to talk about after my trip, so I’ll see you all on the flip side!

When was the last time you did something important for yourself? Is there something that you desperately want? Do you think you can find a way to make it happen?

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  • Excellent post. You sound like you had wonderful parents. How blessed to have that support system in place, to include a strong memory of one throughout your life. That has molded you well. Enjoy the beach. I take off to the beach at least twice a year.

    Hope Clark

  • TrudieMarie


  • Bree A.

    Aww, this made me tear up at the end! What a great support system! I too am fortunate to have a supportive family, but I know so many people who don’t, and so I felt connected with you on this. 🙂 Hope you have a great trip and that it’s as productive as you want!

    • =D Thanks Bree! I’m glad to hear you have a great family too. It really is something special.

  • Missy Frye

    What a fantastic plan! You’re mighty lucky to have such a strong support system. Enjoy your writer’s retreat.

  • 🙂

    • I wish Disqus hadn’t done away with their “like” button on comments. Plz to consider your smiley “liked.”

  • Lura Slowinski

    Good luck on your retreat! I hope you get good writing done. I’ve never gone on a writing retreat before, but I’ve been thinking lately that it would be a lot of fun. Maybe I’ll have to look into ways it would be doable.

    • Thanks Lura! This will be my second, the first being a super productive one with friends. If I can get as much done on this one as I did on that one, I’ll be a happy hiker! I wish all writers could go on at least one at some point. It’s really special.

  • I’ve got a backpacking tent and a good pair of hiking boots if you want to save a few hundred bucks. 🙂 Seriously, sounds fun. I’ve had mixed results on vacations where I wanted to write. Vegas hotel rooms work well, cabins in the Rockies, not so much. Sounds like a great plan for you though!

    • Somehow I think your boots might be a bit big for me. Hehe. I actually did consider camping (my husband is in that biz, so he has all the stuff), but the practicality of laptop + sand, no charger, etc. held me off. Luckily, this worked out for me this time! I actually don’t think I’ve ever had an unproductive trip. I always get at least some great thinking done, and worst case scenario I’ll spend a lovely week recharging and refreshing the creativity bank. 🙂

  • Regina Richards

    I agree with your mom and hubby. This is not an indulgence. It is a necessary part of the creative process which is a vital part of what makes you who you are. And I love who you are! I am also so glad to hear another child of an alcoholic say they felt gifted with a wonderful parent. There are no perfect people, but often imperfect people still make awesome parents, siblings, spouses, children. Thanks for sharing about your dad. I’m going to look for something in my life where I need to say to myself “make it happen.”

    • You are so sweet. Thank you, Regina! And yes, I know what you mean. There really is no such thing as a perfect parent. My dad had his problems, but he was a spectacular father — especially before his alcoholism got really bad at the end. Personally, I would much rather have a dad like him who cared deeply for his kids and gave us all he could of himself than a sober dad who was detached or missing. He gave me so many wonderful lessons and memories; I really am lucky. And I’m glad to hear you feel gifted too. I hope you find the magic it takes to “make it happen” with something special. =)

  • Melissa Crytzer Fry

    Oh, Annie… this brought tears to my eyes. Your relationship with your dad comes across so clearly – so special and beautiful – as does your relationship with your husband and the remainder of your family. I say GO FOR IT! I’m so excited and can’t wait to hear what you share with us upon your return.

  • Patrick Lee Marshall

    Annie, you can’t imagine how well I understand this. I hope you get more than you hoped for from this well deserved break. Have a marvelous time.
    I have been procrastinating about doing the same thing, getting away, to Munday, Texas and Wichita Falls…don’t ask, and thanks to you and your dad I am going to make it happen!

    • I will enjoy every minute of it. =) Thanks Patrick; and here’s hoping you get your own get-away very soon, and that it’s all you hope for.

  • So much beauty in this post. I think I would’ve liked your dad very much 🙂 When I was working on my last book (and even when I work on my current one) I’d wake up extra early to make time for fiction. This is not easy for me, since I’m really not a morning person, but what keeps me going is this mantra, this idea that no one else is going to make it happen. So on days when I want to crawl back into bed I tell myself to make it happen, and I push through.

    I’m so glad you’re going to the beach! I completely understand the need…I was born in a coastal city (Lima, Peru) and grew up in Miami, so my past 3 years living in Austin have been the longest time I’ve ever been away from a beach, and there are times when I feel a part of me is missing when I’m away from the ocean, and that I find parts of myself when I return to it. I hope you’ll find that and so much more!

    • I love that you use it as a daily mantra. I should try that. I definitely struggle with waking up early. Even though I feel most productive in the morning, I’m far from a morning person. Interesting to hear it’s not me who feels so drawn to the ocean. (Although yours makes more sense than mine, since you lived there for so long and I never have.) I think saying that “I find parts of myself” describes perfectly how I feel. Thanks so much, Natalia.

  • Sometimes parents know the right thing to say to just the right people. I think that’s the perfect thing to say to a person like you. My dad always used to say, “Just keep marching.” So I don’t quit. No matter how long it takes or how grueling the conditions when I want or need to get something done.

    Enjoy your time away!

    • A person like me, eh? 😉 He did usually know the right thing to say to me. “Just keep marching” is a pretty good mantra too! It’d be hard to go wrong with that. Thanks Nina!

  • Awww, this post was lovely! And I wondered why you’ve been so quiet. I hope you’re having a wonderful, relaxing, and inspiring time away. <3

  • jclementwall

    I’m late getting to this, but it made me tear up. LOVE this post. I’ve been feeling similarly. Think I need to “make it happen.” If you’re already gone, I hope you’re having fun and finding the story inside you that longs to be discovered. If you haven’t… that’s still what I hope. 🙂

  • So glad you took a break! And just wanted to say again how fabulous the Writer Unboxed post is. Happy to say– I KNEW IT! 😉 You’re a perfect fit.

    • Thank you so much, Nina! Your approval means a lot to me, since you passed the torch! =)