I teach my reading students that thoughts are part of action. Saying “I hate reading” undermines the action and possibilities of saying “I will read 10 pages a night”. I try to teach them to say “I read blogs” and understand that reading a 400 word post is still reading, and worthy of being considered even though I am asking them to read textbooks and novels.
This came to mind as I set my pen to write “To triumph requires action. I have done nothing.”
Everyone thinks I was an English major in college (except the English majors, to whom it is clear in the first few exchanges that I did not.) In the grip of pragmatism and apathy, I chose journalism. I love books. I am passionate about stories. I wrote in high school and early parts of college because stories bubbled into my brain, and I likes spending the pages unraveling what the story in my head looked like in pen. Journalism is about stories, but it is not about writing. It is about reporting. Journalism is about saying something big in a small space. It is about using common words to express uncommon feats and ideas. I found it incredibly stifling. After graduation, I wrote nothing for three years.
At some point the stories, or at least the characters, started bubbling into my brain again. I made a conscious decision, and I worked at writing. I wrote poetry, tried on a novel, discovered my best form was the short stories. While I never published – and that’s because I worked at writing, but I dabbled at getting published – eventually my short stories became strong enough for personalized rejections.
Rejections doesn’t sound like something to celebrate, but personalized rejections – editors telling me why they considered the story for so long, why they liked it or why they rejected it…in the novice writing world: pop the (cheapest) champagne.
And today, it’s easy to look back on that as my triumph. It was a huge triumph for me, moving from writing nothing to writing something worthy of response. Yet thoughts are part of action, and what needs to be acknowledged — all of us need to do this from time to time – are the current triumphs, however small I may perceive them.
In two busy, intense (yet “non-working”) weeks:
This essay is the only thing I’ve written (drafted, revised, completed) — but I found time to write it.
I discovered a story I can’t wait to write.
I started a poem that, edited, will be worth sharing.
These are some of my writing celebrations, large and small. What are some of yours?