Friday, May 29, 2009

My Year of Hopefulness - Small moments

Lately, I've been trying a trick on the subway to make my commute to and from work more enjoyable. Trains are packed during rush hour and invariably I end up next to someone with some annoying habit. This morning, it was this woman who was obsessively turning the pages of the newspaper and folding it over, covering the pages of the book I was reading. I normally would have gotten very irritated with this woman. Instead, I looked at this as an opportunity for character study.

I stopped reading my book and just studied this woman. What was she wearing? How is her hair done? What part of that paper is she actually reading? Then when I got to work, I wrote down everything I could remember about her, along with some ideas for a backstory of who that woman is, what she does, and where she's going. Eventually, she'll turn up in some piece of writing I do. This trick is honing my observation skills, and reminds me of how much I love being a writer - every moment and inertaction, good, bad, or indifferent, has potential to be material.

I'm learning that life isn't about the big moments, it's about the many small ones that comprise every one of our days. My life is about my subway ride to work, my lunch time walks with my friend, Jamie. It's about seeing my friends for dinners and movies. It's about being on skype with my niece, Lorelei, and having her recognize my face. It's about the books and blogs I read, the person I give directions to as they pass by me on the street. It's about buying my groceries, and calling my mom, and getting a coffee as I walk around my neighborhood. It's about laughing with my sister, Weez, and enjoying the warmth of sun on my face on a Sunday afternoon.

And this 'little moment philosphophy' is true of writing as much as it is true of life. I've often longed for a time when I am writing as if some great voice from beyond is speaking to me, and every word I write shows up on the page as if it were meant to be there. The truth is writing, for me, is a daily grind. I sit down and look at a very blank page every day. I sometimes sit down and have no idea what to write about or how to phrase my thoughts coherently. What matters is that I show up and keep trying. Every day, my only goal in my writing and in my life is to get just a little bit better than I was yesterday. Somedays I do a brilliant job of this and other days I fall short. On average I'm making small amounts of progress.

I'm learning that small, steady progress is much better that huge leaps forward and backwards. There's a lot to be learned and explored during small moments. They're my favorite parts of relationships and friendships; they're always the things in my life that I treasure most.

Sometimes people ask me "what's your greatest accomplishment" or "what's your greatest failure". I don't have any greatest anythings. I have a lot of small things I love and cherish, I've had a lifetime of moments that taught me something, and when you add up all of those small things, their collective power is extraordinary. And I wouldn't trade those thousands of small moments for a handful of aha's, no matter how great those aha's are. Small moments, and lots of them, suit me just fine.


runner52 said...

nice story

Lon said...

Thank you! What a great approach - and since at least half of writing a good story is having an story worth telling, I love this approach. The usual approach (confrontation, passive resistance, irritation that ruins your day, etc.) might have brought about a story too - but haven't we all tired of reading rants about rude people? No story there!

Christa said...

Thanks, Lon! Writing is such a mysterious art. I'm facinated by it every day.