The other day I was in a particularly foul mood. The morning was not going well, I’d forgotten to do some important errands, and the stack of bills on the counter was threatening to take over the entire kitchen. A cloud seemed to be hanging over my every action. Late for an appointment, I jumped in the car, rolled down the window, and turned over the engine. When the engine started, the CD player engaged. Moments later, I found myself tooling down the street with the wind blowing through what’s left of my hair on a beautiful San Diego summer day while The Beatles rocked “Get Back.” Before I knew it, my mood lightened, my fingers were tapping at the edge of the open car window, and I thought, “This is good.” In the midst of chaos and darkness, I’d carved out a moment of positivity and celebration.
Writing is often a lonely, frustrating, and challenging pursuit. There is rejection, doubt, fear, and writer’s block (or, for me, times when I’m just writing crap, crap, crap). That is why it is so important to recognize those times when it’s going well, when we have made progress, and when there have been unexpected successes.
Each of us should make celebration and recognizing the positive moments of our writing part of our process. Here are some times you might be able to do just that:
• Meeting your word count.
• Finishing a project.
• Sending out your first (or thousandth) submission.
• Receiving an acceptance.
• Receiving a rejection with a hand-written note of encouragement.
• Finding the time to write on a busy day
• Getting a really good idea
• Seeing a piece in print (or on-line)
• Fixing that problematic section
• Writing a killer line
• Getting an agent
• Receiving a particularly good critique
• Buying that new pen, notebook, laptop, or Apple product
• Giving a reading
• Really, the list is endless
Celebration doesn’t have to elaborate or expensive, but it certainly can be. Splurge on the large soda at the fast food restaurant. Go out to dinner. Take the kids to ice cream or frozen yogurt. Buy that new pair of shoes you’ve had your eye on. Whatever will mark the moment for you in a meaningful and unforgettable way.
When I typed “The End” on the first draft of my first novel (a process that took three years) I brought a cake to work and shared it with everyone. Later that week, the entire English Department went to Happy Hour at the local watering hole to celebrate my success. A fellow teacher bought me my first, and to this day last, shot of Jaegermeister. It was a celebration that I still (mostly) remember. The rumor is that at one point I was channeling Ethel Merman, but it’s all a bit fuzzy to me. In any event, make your celebrations frequent and make sure they create meaning for you, as only you know your own best method of recognizing the positive in your life.
For the record, the rest of the aforementioned day of the particularly foul mood passed uneventfully, but that night I went grocery shopping and found another way to enjoy the positive. The French bread that the supermarket bakes on-site was on sale, so I grabbed two loaves for my family because we really like French bread toast. I was hungry because it was right before dinner, but I noticed that the loaves were fresh and warm, so I grabbed a third loaf for the ride home. Tearing off a hunk of warm French bread and stuffing it in my face as I drove home during another stunning San Diego sunset was, to paraphrase Raymond Carver, a “small, good thing.”
How do you celebrate writing successes?