We wake up this morning to a new year. Will today be just another day? This year just another year? Will we succumb to the humdrum routine of modern life with its whirl of spirit-numbing lights and noise? Or will we live this year fully awake to the wonders around us?
I don’t know about you, but I need the occasional wake-up call. It’s easy for me to fall into routines, do the same things every day on the same schedule, walk to the same places along the same oft-trodden streets. Routines feel safe, comfortable, and–in a world that has grown more and more uncertain–snugly comforting. But routines can dull the mind, dampen the spirit, and leave the writer asleep at the screen.
Luckily for me, Portland makes it hard to be asleep at the wheel. Keep your eye on the “walk” sign and step off the curb when the little man says it’s okay to cross? You’ll get hit by the #20 bus that just ran the red light. Stare at the sidewalk as you walk? You’ll miss the rainbow in the cloud above your head.
A couple of days ago, I was walking along feeling a bit depressed. Another humdrum day doing the same-old, same-old. But the sun was shining (a miracle in and of itself on a December morning in Portland), so I looked up–and there it was: a cloud that had captured a rainbow. The photo doesn’t show exactly what I saw. I took it with my iPhone. But my memory captured what I observed: a rainbow cloud. In the photo you can see the pink tint at the right edge, but in person, the whole cloud was filled with a rainbow spectrum of color. Wow! That’s all it took to wake me up to the day’s possibilities.
As we start this new year together, I’d like to share something that I know about all of you: you are in the top one percent of would-be writers. You make an effort to be (and stay) awake. You take chances. You go after your dreams. You invest in yourselves and in your creativity. You know that it helps to have mentors and you actively seek them out and utilize what they share. The top ten percent of would-be writers goes to all the conferences, takes workshops, gets critiques. The top one percent follows through on what they learn and revises.
I sometimes say that of the manuscripts I receive as an editor, about ten percent hold my attention long enough for a complete read and about one percent excite me enough to put in a purchase request to the “big cheese” (whoever that happens to be at the time). Those one percent manuscripts come from the “one percent writers”–those who keep writing and learning and revising and seeking help and doing whatever it takes because they want to write more than just about anything.
They’re seldom the ones who start writing to make money. Certainly JK Rowling did not write to make money. She wrote because a story came to her and demanded to be written. They write from a hunger to say something, to explore something, to understand something, to look at the complex, chaotic, amazing world around them and say, “Wow! Aren’t we lucky to be here, at this time, in this place? Give me a pen so I can scribble down what I just saw, how I just felt, what this moment means to me. Let me share it with others.” The top one percent is not only alive on this first day of 2011; the top one percent is awake. (Some may be a bit hungover this morning, but that’s a subject for a different kind of post!)
To you, my “writing peeps”, I wish a year of wakefulness and wonder–a year of pages filled with what you see and hear and smell and taste and touch, and a year of sharing in writing what touches your heart and expands your soul. Happy New Year!