When I sat down to compose this editorial, all sorts of thoughts were buzzing through my head. Most of them revolved around the concept of "change" -- change of seasons, writers as change agents, etc. etc. But what finally made the fingers fly was the concept of how we, as writers, change. Our skills change (and, hopefully, evolve rather than deteriorate). Our interests change; our goals change; our priorities change.
Change is inevitable, and generally it is a good thing. What can be a bad thing for a writer is to fail to recognize change (and in particular, growth). It's all too easy to get "stuck" in our perceptions of ourselves that were formed years ago -- and to carry with us a burden of perceived failure or inability that may no longer be accurate.
For example, many years ago, I undertook to write a novel. It had potential, but even I could see that no publisher would take a second look. It went (literally) into the back of the closet -- while we did have "floppy disks" in those days, no sensible person relied upon "electronic archives" instead of paper. At that time, while I was "reaching" for a novel, it was beyond my grasp.
Today, I know that I am a far better writer than I was 20 years ago (yep, it was 20 years ago). While I don't know whether I will be able to write a publishable novel even today, I know that quite a bit more lies within my grasp than when I first sat down in front of a Mac that didn't even possess a color monitor. What I was reaching for 20 years ago, I may be able to grasp today.
But what about what I am reaching for today? Today, my reach may still exceed my grasp; I may be reaching for dreams that will still elude me for now. But they may be within my grasp in another five years, or ten, or twenty. And hopefully, twenty years from now, I'll still be reaching a bit farther, and a bit farther still....
The worst thing that can happen to us as writers is to come to believe that because our reach exceeds our grasp at this time, it will do so for all time. I have known too many writers who assumed that because they weren't capable of writing a "publishable" novel or a "prize-winning" poem or a "marketable" article today, they will never be able to do so. "I guess I'm just not cut out to be a novelist/poet/freelance writer," they say. Too many writers internalize the lesson that "I can't today" means "I can't ever." Eventually, it becomes too easy to simply limit our reach to the things we already know we can grasp.
In reality, what you can't do today has very little to do with what you will be able to do tomorrow. The key, of course, is growth and change.
So as spring brings change and renewal all around us (and not a bit too soon), take a look at some of the goals that you once reached for but were unable to grasp. Have you put those goals aside, on the shelf or in the back of the closet, on the assumption that if they were beyond your grasp then, they will always be beyond your grasp? Might this be a good year to try reaching for them once again? And if that goal still proves elusive, put it aside a bit longer -- but don't assume that you must shelve it forever. Similarly, if there are goals that you're reaching for today but find yourself unable to grasp, don't assume that this will be a "permanent condition." As long as you are growing and evolving as a writer - as long as you are genuinely striving to improve your abilities -- you will always discover that more and more things lie within your grasp.
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