I can’t believe how lucky I am, but then, I don’t think it’s really luck.
It’s one of those universal truths that most of us don’t understand until we’re spending a lot of time in the Preference by L’Oreal section of Target: It’s the little things one does everyday that often have a pay off way beyond our expectations. The key is to strive toward one’s goal with focus and determination and no matter how bleak the path may seem, keep moving, keep striving, and suddenly something will happen that one doesn’t expect. If I stick to the path metaphor: one will round the corner, the trees will part, and a golden meadow will appear. Yish. That was corny, but this is a blog. Remember what happened to Dorothy, her meadow was full of poppies.
Anway, to the point. Years ago, I asked a friend who had polio as a child to tell me what it was like. I had an idea for a story and wanted my character to have had polio and I wanted to get it right. She wrote me eight or nine pages of beautiful emotional prose. I was quite honestly blown away. I told her, “You should write this. You’ve got something to say.” So she joined our writing group.
She’s been a writing buddy ever since. Sensible, to the point, encouraging. We’ve gone to Iowa to write and learn about writing, to drink and kibbitz with other writers. From this, we’ve formed a group of writing friends from Chicago, Galesburg, Illinois, Milwaukee (Lakeport? I can’t remember. Someplace in Wisconsin), St. Louis, Boston. Then she decided to defect one year for Maui.
Maui v. Iowa. I sure didn’t get it, but it turned out terrific for her. She met Tess Gerritsen who happens to be a fabulously supportive teacher. My writing buddy came back with notes and praise for everything she learned and she kept in touch with Tess. She emails when Tess wins awards or writes a striking blog and Tess always writes back. (For more on TESS)
And my friend is generous. She’s taking me with her to have coffee with Tess. I am very excited about this. I have no expectations other than meeting her. I am not going to thrust a manuscript on her. But it’s magic to meet someone who has traveled the same path. (Trying hard not to mix metaphors here). She might happen to mention a ditch I won’t see. Or a shortcut I would never know about. One never knows what each little thing we do will lead us to. If I hadn’t encouraged my friend to write, I would have missed out on a years-long best-friend relationship that has helped me to be both a better writer and a better person. I would have missed out on Tess, too.
We have to be open and friendly and welcome those along the past. Most of all we should be humble. And not just humble at the feet of someone who is famous and respected like Tess Gerritsen, but humble with every person, in every experience.