I’ve noticed a trend lately. Every Tuesday, I come to this space and invite you to sit with me and chat about the bigs and littles. The big things happening around us as well as the little things collecting on our hearts. I talk for a little bit, click on publish, and go about my day. Then on Wednesday, I think about all the things I would really say if I were really having a coffee chat with you. But then it’s Wednesday already so I go about my business and tuck all those unsaid thoughts back up in a corner somewhere and never look at them again.
I think it’s because I only bring the bigs to Tuesday and the littles get shoved off until they demand attention on Wednesday, but sometimes it’s the littles that mean more than the bigs, you know?
So I’m going to try to rectify this habit and bring my Wednesday thoughts to our Tuesday chats. Bear with me if I wax long-winded.
You all have heard me talk about how many visitors we’ve had come to visit this year. I love opening our home up to friends and family and giving them a comfortable base from which to explore our new city and country, and I love sharing with them our favorite restaurants or cafes, shops, and sights. Playing host, tour guide, and chauffeur to loved ones, however, is anathema to routine. And the truth is, as much as I love spontaneity and childlike wonder, I need routine. I find it’s crucial to maintaining the discipline I need to keep writing and improving my writing. Discipline is what keeps me going when words run out, when people treat me like writing isn’t a “real” job, when I get constructive feedback as well as criticism, and when I get no feedback at all. I tell myself discipline is the difference between getting published and not.
After coming back from Bangkok, I feel like, with a few wrinkles in the fabric here and there, I’m finally coming back to routine. I’ve been working on the final edits to my manuscript as per my editor’s suggestions, scrapping the dead weight and kneading half-baked ideas into bigger and better ones, interrogating each comma, “and,” “but,” and “therefore” along the way. In two weeks, I’ve done more solid, productive work than I have in the last two months, and am a little more than halfway done.
My editor gave me a list of literary agents to send my manuscript to when I’m done, and that’s another fire under my butt, a vote of confidence, and a teeny tiny pinky toe in the door.
Meanwhile, my work with The SOLD Project continues. We just had a volunteer come through for a month, bringing some fresh ideas to the table, and I’m looking forward to using them as inspiration to invigorate what I’m doing with the kids. See, teaching the kids there has been a challenge for me personally because 1) my teaching experience is with American university students and motivating them is far different from (and, dare I say, easier than) motivating at-risk Thai children, and 2) I’m a quiet person, which makes me much better suited to building relationships with children one-on-one, and less ideal for playing around with a large group of kids all at once. I feel the relationships I’m building with the kids is meaningful, but it does take time, and at-risk kids come and go, too.
In January, I felt I finally hit on the sweet spot with them, giving them projects that were engaging for their level and helped build their confidence, which is what I felt they most desperately needed. I kept on that track with them (and then I was gone for a month in Europe), and then our volunteer stepped every thing up a couple of levels and was doing fantastic work with the kids, where they were really opening up, producing great work, and having a ton of fun along the way.
I’m taking this as a sign that the kids are ready for work that taps even deeper into their creativity, and that they may not be so afraid or shy as they once were. If I’m being really honest, I’m hoping that I’ve provided a foundation for the kids to build on and that they are growing in confidence and opening up again where impoverished, abusive backgrounds have inhibited or even beaten back growth – and hoping that this isn’t a sign that I’ve just been a crappy teacher with whom the kids have been unable to relate or become engaged. I’m hoping I’d be sensitive enough to notice and flexible enough to adapt if the latter were truth.
In the meantime, I’m cherishing small successes: where the kids met an idea with reluctance and, after a few attempts together, soon took off and did something all on their own; where a shy, quiet child showed brilliance and later sought me out for a much needed hug; and where I had a sit-down with a child to find out what was going on in their hearts, and despite a language barrier, we met with understanding. These moments may be small, but I think they matter, even if years down the road they aren’t remembered. I like to think they aren’t wholly forgotten either.
Anyway, that’s some of my bigs and littles for the week. I’m still getting over the tail end of the cold I had last week, but I have some good energy in spurts. The good thing about being sick was I had some forced quiet time which gave me space to listen to more music again and draw in my journal (which I haven’t done in years), so I’m looking forward to more music and drawing and writing this week. We’ll see if Miss Muse decides to grace me with her presence.
What are your bigs and littles for this week? Will share them with me? Tell me one big thing going on and one little thing too!
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