Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Celebrate the Small Successes

Deep in painting, pulling weeds, planning and projects that fill my days as a self-employed do-it-yourselfer I can forget that I’m a writer. 

I become so absorbed in applying primer to baseboards and door trim, troweling up planting beds to trace bindweed roots to their bitter ends, that my monkey mind ceases swinging from light bulb to light bulb of new ideas for essays, stories, remodeling projects, and settles into the rhythm of the one thing in front of me right now.

My struggles, goals, and joys in life are reduced and concentrated to focusing only on the recalcitrant weed wedged between concrete blocks, or the thin edge of trim my brush must keep to. Successes are small—a garden bed free of weeds for a week or two, a freshly painted wall that will soon be covered by furniture, bookcases, and artwork—but I celebrate them anyway.

Today I was reminded that I’m a writer: I received my first royalty check from my publisher, along with the stats: I sold 52 books in the first three months of this year online through eLectio, Amazon, and other platforms, and another 22 myself to my writing group, at readings, and the local bookstore.

In early April I began moving carloads of belongings to a new town, where I find myself without a writing group, a venue for readings, or a local bookstore. My efforts at marketing my book gave way to more pressing matters of making a living, so I know my second quarter sales will be even smaller, and yet, rather than being disappointed that my book has not spread beyond my narrow rings of influence, I must celebrate the small successes of Burnt Offerings in the first quarter of 2014:

My book is in the hands of 86 readers (I gave ten copies away) and in circulation at the Bainbridge Island branch of the Kitsap Regional Library. I participated in a multi-poet reading as part of the Poulsbohemian Armchair Poetry series, led a spiritual writing workshop through Fields End, and gave a solo reading at Eagle Harbor bookstore.

I promised to donate 10% of my author royalties to the OrcaNetwork to aid their efforts to educate the public about the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales. Today I sent them $42; $22 in royalties and $20 donated by my brother-in-law (an English professor and poet) and his wife.

I will never be a household name in any household beyond my own, but fame and acclaim aren’t what motivate me, or anyone, who seeks to live an authentic life. We are motivated by the inner voice that calls us to create art, families, and communities. We build homes for the body, mind, and spirit. Our small contributions, even as miniscule as a splatter of paint, all become part of the greater good that we often cannot see from our close up perspective.

When I take the ferry to Seattle, disembark and trudge uphill, I find the city teaming with hurried people, snarling traffic, highrises that block the light and create wind tunnels, and noise that makes it difficult to see the necessity and beauty of each element present. From my new home across the Sound, I have a long broad view of the city, that changes from morning to night, in sun and shadow, from gleaming, bright, and blinking to gray and imposing, the disparate parts integral to the whole.


I will keep writing, painting, weeding, and selling one book at a time. You will sing, sew, cook, repair engines, teach, write tech manuals, and love. Someday we will all step back from this mosaic called life and marvel at the intricate pattern we helped create.

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