The Glass Is Always Full By Elizabeth Mitchell

In her New Year’s post, Kait mentioned Brene Brown’s book, Daring Greatly, especially her remarks about the culture of scarcity, which I wager is familiar to many of us.  We focus on the lack of sleep from the moment we awaken to the shortfall of things done that day when we hit the pillow that night. Our self-perception is that we consistently fail to meet our expectations. As Kait says,“[t]his is a self perpetuating cycle of making us feel like we’re always behind and we suck.”

Kait urges a change to a culture of gratitude. “Be grateful for what words you get, grateful for those bursts of creativity, grateful for the community of writers we have here to support each other.”  The idea of escaping from the culture of constantly not measuring up has great appeal for me. Although my father was generally optimistic, he often focused on the half-empty glass when it came to my grades.  My mother, who would have been diagnosed as melancholic in the Middle Ages, focused on the half-empty glass in all areas of her life.  Her only full glass was of things lacking–not enough money, time, or attention.

After a tough Round Four, I am concentrating on the half-full glass in all areas of my life.  I gladly strive for a culture of gratitude toward writing.  In this vein, I model my behavior on two posts from last year, which point out looking at small things with gratitude, and sometimes squinting to see the half-full glass.

Last summer, Eden Mabee wrote about finding the time to write, pointing out that sometimes the difficulty lies in our notions about time and word count.  Eden suggests five sentences grabbed from little spaces of time throughout the day.  I used to pride myself on finding the little spaces of time in the day–the five minutes before the meeting starts at the day job, the fifteen minutes wrested from the lunch break, but Eden has broken it down into miniscule spaces of time.

Especially in the maelstrom of NaNo, I clung to the idea of five sentences.  Often it was more, and it became even more as the habit ingrained itself, but I could always count on the time to write five sentences.

At Thanksgiving, Kristen Lamb wrote about unseen blessings, which is really a way of finding gratitude in things that don’t at first engender gratitude. I especially liked her example about being grateful she has to wash the dog blankets, because it means she has a dog for a companion.

Every time I put on my bathrobe and it smells like my Weimaraner, I remember to be grateful for the dog who knows from three rooms away when I am crying.

I encourage you to look for ways to see the half-full glass in writing.

Be grateful for the five sentences written, words that didn’t exist yesterday.

Be grateful for the tendrils that those five sentences send into the ether, today or the next day, buzzing in the back of your mind during cooking, cleaning, meditation, or sleep. They hold promise for the next day with all the directions they can go.

Be grateful for the “zero” draft that was written in a near channeling trance, because it contains flesh that can be carved to fit bones you will create in the future.

Be grateful for the character who will not shut up because she is showing you what she needs and wants.

Be grateful for the quiet character who needs to be coaxed into revelation, because often the cliché of still waters is true, and adds depth to your writing.

Be grateful for the critical beta reader who points out the flatness of the character or the dialogue, because instead of being overwhelmed with the task of editing, your focus is clear.

Be grateful for the reader who loves everything you write, because we can always use a cheerleader.

Be grateful for the distraction that pulls you from the writing, because it gives you a chance to look at the words anew when you return.

Be grateful for the quiet time before anyone is awake, or after all are asleep, because words found in peace often resonate.

Be grateful for the laundry, the dishes, the dusting, because when the hands are busy, the mind is often free to invent worlds.

Be grateful for the helping hands that free you from the chores more quickly, and loose you into the world you have invented.

Be grateful for the words that come, whether they come easily or slowly. They are a creation that did not exist before you, and will last after you are gone.

~*~

Elizabeth Mitchell

13 comments

  1. Elizabeth, that’s just beautiful!! And you’re absolutely right. I have proof.

    Yesterday, while waiting for a student I tutor, I took some time to attempt to rewrite a scene that I thew out by mistake. (Yeah, it was written by hand, at Starbucks, and it went into their garbage. And it wasn’t even like I could go and pick it out, because I had done it a couple of days before. Oops.) I was mentally castigating myself for being stupid. But it didn’t turn out that way.

    It was actually a good thing I did that because on a reread of an earlier version (in my laptop) I discovered a couple of places where I could put in some needed foreshadowing.

    So, things that may seem not so great can turn out to be wonderful! And I think it came out to about five sentences, total.

    Enjoy your day!

    1. Thank you, Lara. I tend to be an optimist, but I had a tough autumn, and needed to remind myself of the silver linings. Your story is a perfect silver lining, and proof that all is not as it seems at first. I’m glad you found the way to include foreshadowing due to a garbage can at Starbuck’s–who would have thought that?!

      Thank you for sharing your example and have a lovely day, Lara!

  2. Wonderful post, Elizabeth! Lately, I’ve been having these moments of doubt and, while I’m confident enough in my writing that I can push through them, they’re still frustrating. I see other writers’ work or I read a book about writing and I think, “I still have so far to go.” I’d probably be even more productive if I focused on how far I have come. Your post was just what I needed.🙂

  3. I can’t speak for others, but I’m grateful for the chance o meet and learn about people through my writing and the communities (such as the ROW80) that have given us new eyes in the world.

    And for reminders like this.

    Thank you, Elizabeth.

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