Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Little Things

The end of every year is always a time of reflection and anticipation. Each time it rolls around, (every year it seems to come faster) I try to remind myself to take comfort in the little things as well as the large. Not living the life of the rich and famous, I don't have a life crowded with massive accomplishments earning me plaudits from millions. I try to remember the small triumphs: dinner was on the table every night of the year. My kids are bringing home exceptional report cards, you can see the floor in the living room (okay, in patches. But it's there).

It's the same thing when I'm writing. Although the joy of finishing a draft is magnificent, there's also the pleasure of finishing a chapter or a scene. There's the thrill of writing an especially good piece of dialogue or finding exactly the right word to describe the crispness of fresh linen sheets (or whatever).

Huge accomplishments are fantastic; but what constitutes 'huge' varies from person to person. To one writer, nothing counts except their book being atop the New York Times bestseller list. For another, it's holding a copy of their book for the first time. For yet another, it's triumphantly tapping out that last sentence in that seemingly never-ending first draft.

When I write, I try to focus on the small steps on my way to my destination. I cheerfully admit this may simply be an act of self-preservation; as I've noted in previous posts this year, I'm not the Speed Racer of writers. I'm pleased when I come up with a new plot twist, when my characters start evolving into real people, when I see my word count is actually increasing. Some days I'm pleased to finish one sentence (okay, that's rare, 'cause it's sad).

Look around you. Pat yourself on the back for all the little things you've accomplished. Certainly, large events are deserving of massive applause, but remember all the little steps it took to get yourself there.

You sat down. You wrote. You won.


  1. Great post, Elspeth!! It's been a good year. I've a lot to be grateful and thankful for, and a lot to look forward to. In my writing, I'm so proud of how far I've come in the past year. I'm hoping I can learn as much in the next.

    Best wishes to you on the coming year.

  2. "You know, this is just the perfect little reminder I needed today, Elspeth," said The Old Silly as he patted himself on the back with a comforted smile, "Thank you, good post and muse, and Happy New Year to you and yours!"

  3. I enjoyed this post. As the year comes to an end and I look back, I love how far I've come.

    Have you seen the movie "What about Bob?" I always think about Bill Murray's line, "Baby steps, baby steps", when I'm working.

    Happy New Year!

  4. Jemi; You should be proud! Best wishes to you for a prosperous 2010!

    Old Silly; I'm glad I was able to elicit a comforted smile, but I can't imagine your accomplishments as anything but formidable. Happy New Year to you and yours!

    Carolyn; I'm glad you liked it! Wise words from that movie. Wise words,indeed. Happy New Year!

  5. Thanks Elspeth - you are so right. Sometimes I need to give myself strokes for breathing and sometimes I need to stop and notice that I am in fact alive and well and living in a good time with good people.

  6. I so agree with you. I love it when at the end of the day I can look back and know I wrote something I'm happy with whether it's a chapter, a scene or a simple paragraph.

  7. Good post. Great reminder on reflecting and appreciating our accomplishments and blessings, no matter how big or small. Sometimes the *little* things we encounter and conquer in LIFE are deserving of massive applause!

  8. Jan; I so agree! Sometimes I have days where I'm thrilled I've just made it through with small scraps of my sanity!

    Jane; It is one the best feelings in the world, isn't it?

    Crystal; I'm so pleased you liked it. Little things should be accomplished. Sometimes they're far trickier than big mountains.

  9. Elspeth - You are absolutely right about how important it is to focus on the small accomplishments we've made. It's much more satisfying that way. After all, the old saying is that every journy of 1000 miles begins with one step. Every book of 90,000 begins with one paragraph. I think you're right that it's important to focus on those steps. Thanks for the wonderful perspective!!

  10. Thanks for the encouragement, Elspeth! And you're so right...I think every time we sit down and write we should give ourselves a big pat on the back.

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  11. Excellent post, Elspeth. I felt I was useless today, but your post has lifted me up. Thanks!

  12. Thanks Elspeth,

    Too many times I kick myself for not accomplishing more. But I have accomplished a lot this year. I finished my trilogy. I wrote out a query. I finished editing my first book of said trilogy for a fourth (and final) time. I even started a new story. Little things, big things. All are steps in the right directions.

    Happy New Year!

  13. You sat down. You wrote. You won.

    I just had to repeat those words, because that is all there is to life. When there are so many little triumphs in our life, why do we moan about not having EVERYTHING?
    Excellent post, as always. Thanks


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