Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Something Small

For my birthday, a friend gave me a lovely artsy book called Women's Words. It is filled with quotes from strong women throughout history, and I've been inspired on virtually every page. One quote by Irene Kassorla really stood out to me. She said, "Don't wait for your 'ship to come in', and feel angry and cheated when it doesn't. Get going with something small."

Before this year, I always thought in terms of huge successes. My script was going to sell for half a million dollars (that was just the first one; it would of course increase with subsequent scripts), the main characters in it would be played by A-list movie stars, my novel and memoir would be runaway best sellers and I'd have to worry about juggling TV appearances on Oprah and Ellen. Some version of these thoughts went through my head on a near daily basis until fairly recently, when I slowly began to filter them out, leaving them by the side of the road and walking away from them.

Those kinds of big dreams cause more pain than they are worth. They made me feel like a failure, even when I was actually succeeding. Small magazines wanting to publish my writing became disappointing because they weren't national or international publications. Somewhere along the line I began to quietly understand that life is filled with mile markers, and the small ones lead to the big ones, and if you don't celebrate every success as it comes then the big ones won't mean anything either.

It's been a revelation. I was under the mistaken idea that I should be aiming for the big score, when all along I should have been doing small things, which would eventually add up to accomplishing my dream. Now that I see this clearly, the weight of acute performance anxiety has been lifted, and I see that the small things help us hone and develop our talents, and ready us for the bigger things. I wouldn't have been ready for the kind of big success I was dreaming about, if I hadn't come to know myself through the desert of the waiting time.

Quietly working toward the big goals is deeply satisfying. I'm no longer wasting so much time searching for that big ship on the horizon, the one I felt entitled to ride to millions of dollars and dizzying accolades, but instead I'm actually writing. I'm getting a little better every day at describing what I see and feel and experience so it is of some use to others, and not better off in my own private journal.

Something small is the only place for anyone to start. Overnight success is a lie from the pit of hell, and we shouldn't feel entitled to it without putting in the same time and effort as everyone else. If I want to improve at what I love to do, I have to do it. Not talk about it, but actually do it. And starting small is the surest way to get going at all, because the expectations are low enough to counteract our abject fear of failure. Today is a good time to start small. To stop looking for the ship, and start practicing what it is you would love to be doing.


  1. I needed to hear this today - thank you!
    Thank you, too, for the beautiful card (did you make it?!) and photo. Happy Christmas to you all! XR

  2. You are more than welcome (for both the post and the card - yes, I did make it :). Glad to hear it meant something to you. Happy Christmas to you as well!

  3. That is something I've always struggled with. I do want to aim big and have big dreams but you are right. That often means setting myself up for failure or disappointment. It's a fine line for sure and it's nice to know I'm not the only one walking it!