I met a writer friend for coffee last week. She had a pacing issue with her manuscript and wanted to talk. She’d lifted out a key scene to use as a prologue and she didn’t know how to deal with the narrative gap she’d created. I hadn’t read her novel (and she wasn’t asking me to), but she felt somewhat overwhelmed with, as she described it, her conundrum. I listened, I asked a few questions and after a few minutes, I made one small suggestion. And by small, I mean small. Yet that seemingly small suggestion prompted an idea in her mind that led to the workings of a solution.
Small things can have big consequences, life-changing ones. Just ask someone who missed a plane on 9-11. . . or someone whose loved one didn’t.
We don’t always know the consequences of the decisions we make either. I’ll never forget the two women I overheard one morning in a coffee shop dissecting the previous night’s date. Apparently, she had a terrific time; the guy in question was intelligent, charming and attractive. But as she told her friend, “I just can’t get over the size of his nostrils.” Small things, nostrils, though apparently not so in this case.
Small things can spin our lives in directions we don’t expect (I wonder what would have happened if that woman had gone on a second date?) and small things can take our art in new directions too.
It’s the big markers we usually think about when it comes to our art – getting a book published or going on an author tour; selling a painting or having a show. Those things are important milestones and definitely worth celebrating. Even finishing a book or a painting or sculpture is a big deal. No question.
Yet it’s the small, seemingly insignificant steps that get us to those big finish lines. Motivational author Julia Cameron believes that work begets work and that “large changes occur in tiny increments.”
All the more reason to celebrate the small things. And perhaps even embrace them. Especially when it comes to nostrils.