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Musing: Important Little Stories
Thank you for your patience as I took last week off to focus on family. Thank you for the flood of notes, emails, and cards expressing your condolences on the loss of my brother-in-law. Please continue to keep those closest to him in your hearts and prayer: his parents; his sister and her family; my sister; and my thirteen-year-old Super Nephew.
After receiving the news last Saturday night, I struggled with what to do with the already-written Monday Musing. Entitled 44 minutes 53 seconds, which was the length of time my author website was offline, it poked fun at my own foibles as I not only caused the outage but made it worse by panicking and taking the wrong actions to bring it back online. Few people noticed since it happened at five o’clock in the morning—yes, I am one of those early-to-rise people—but I love self-depreciating humor and the tale practically wrote itself. It was a little story, but it would have made people chuckle.
But I didn’t feel like laughing after I learned of the tragedy, so I pulled it. Instead, I posted a simple apology on social media and skipped the week.
I also stopped the daily posts over on The Thundering Herd, the dogs’ website focused on the funny little things about living with a pack of canines. And I stopped working on my already-late, upcoming novel, a tale about a man who returns to his hometown for the first time since childhood for his father’s funeral. For obvious reasons, I just couldn’t.
I didn’t really think about how or when I would go back to my routine. Maybe a fleeting thought blipped through my mind over the week, but nothing concrete. I knew I would, of course, but no specific plans. After all, I only tell little stories. That’s not important in the grand scheme.
During his funeral on Friday, I listened to his friends. People he befriended at 10-11-12 years old while he putted around on a moped with the muffler removed for effect. In high school as his circle of friends expanded with sports and lake weekends. In college with fraternity buddies. In his early work years as he built professional relationships with others in the construction industry. All the people he helped with this chore or that life issue.
These were people who had known him far longer and much better than I did. They shared story after story of getting to know him and spending time with him. Honorable stories. Fascinating stories. Funny stories. Yes, through their tears, they shared tales that made us laugh.
And more stories were supposed to be created in the coming years. One friend shared how they were already planning a weekend of fishing in Charleston. A little thing, but big now that it won’t happen.
As I sat there and listened, I thought about how life isn’t defined nearly as much by the big things we focus on as much as it is the little things that happen every day. The quiet moments fishing, or watching a ball game, or hiking through the woods, or sitting in a backyard chatting with family and friends.
Those aren’t just little stories. They are important little stories—important precisely because those are the precious memories we are creating even if we don’t realize at the time how important they are.
Yesterday, for the first time in a week, I settled into the chair at my desk and returned to work on my upcoming novel. Like my other novels, the story is not a momentous one. I don’t write about epic space battles or magical kingdoms or vampires or werewolves.
Okay, fine, I might have a werewolf story tucked away in the archives, but I would have to market it under some obscure pen name. Who has the time to deal with that?
No, this is a little story. A story of a man struggling with his past. Who is trying to define his present. Who is figuring out his future. It’s not an epic tale, but a little story. A story of family. Friends. Love. Life. Little things, but important little things.
When I re-read it for the first time in a week, I made notes of changes to make. Not big ones. Little ones. A detail. A word. A moment. Those tiny, seemingly insignificant things that are actually the important stuff.
Just like this week’s Musing isn’t a big story, but a little one. A photo of a rabbit going about its morning. A dog waiting for a piece of popcorn. An online game about how well you know your neighborhood. A vocabulary word barely 150 years old.
Just little stories.
Important little stories.
It’s all most of us will ever create, and it’s so important.
P.S.—Go tell the special people in your life that you love them. It’s a little thing. Until it’s a big thing.
Interesting Links: Back Of Your Hand
Think you know the streets near your house? Your workplace? A favorite vacation spot? Find out. Play the game Back Of Your Hand and let me know how well you did. I confess I didn’t do nearly as well as I anticipated.
We were a healthy distance away, but this little one monitored us closely with that rotating ear always aimed right at us. Rabbit radar.
Vocabulary Word Of The Week: Galumph
Most of the words I share each week trace their origins back to Latin, but sometimes a word’s heritage is much closer to present. You hear the sound of footsteps in the word galumph, a delightfully accurate phrasing for moving with a clumsy, heavy gait.
What you may not realize is the word is only 150 years old. Its first known appearance was in the classic tale Through the Looking Glass, And What Alice Found There. The poem, Jabberwocky, was first published in 1855, but a longer version appears in the 1871 novel and, apparently a merging of gallop and triumph, describes the victorious hunter as “galumphing back” with his trophy.
Books Read: Steal Like An Artist And Show Your Work
I read 100 novels a year and share the best with you.
Normally, I share only novels in my Books Read section, not the various non-fiction craft books I devour. This week, though, I read two short books that I thought would be of interest for any creative person or, frankly, for many outside the creative world.
Post Austin Kleon has written three books—I’ve only read the first two so far—on the creative process. The first, Steal Like An Artist, emphasizes that few creative ideas are wholly original but rather build on the life experiences of the artist, including interaction with other works of art. The book is arranged in ten quick chapters to focus on each of his points of how to absorb other art and make it part of the foundation of your own art.
The second book, Show Your Work, studies what to do after the art is created and how to attract an audience. His emphasis is on sharing your work and the need to support other artists—a corollary to his first book that emphasizes “stealing” like an artist includes loudly crediting others for their influence.
An example close to home is what you are reading—my sharing of books I read because I enjoy them and grow from them which directly impacts my art. I hope they help you and the artists I mention.
Gratuitous Dog Picture
How did I get Roscoe to pose for this photo? Popcorn may have been involved. Roscoe P. is a popcorn catching superstar.
Have a terrific week. Take the time to let people know how important they are to you. See you next Monday.
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