Happy New Year! May you be an insignificant writer!
At first read that doesn’t seem like all that motivating a salutation to hold on to as we begin a new year. Insignificant isn’t the usual adjective we long to have attached to our lives. Insignificant makes us feel like we haven’t done enough, haven’t given our all, haven’t proven our worth.
But insignificant gets a bum rap. Insignificant is underrated and misunderstood.
If we can manage to step back and get a wide shot we will recognize that insignificance is freeing, and it’s not at all synonymous with irrelevant.
When I was a little girl my parents would occasionally wake us up in the early morning hours to drive us to the beach where we would watch nature’s meteor shows.
We’d lie on blankets looking at the sky while our bare feet dug into the cool sugar sand. The starlights would streak across the sky, one after the other, and we’d quietly smile. No one yelled “Did you see that?” or point and say “Look!”–there was no need. The meteors were fast and their light fleeting–they were there and then they were gone—so if you weren’t paying attention you missed out, until the next one flew by and you smiled again.
We learned early that meteors were not the falling stars of our storybooks, but merely insignificant stardust burning up in the Earth’s atmosphere. Their prosaic origins didn’t matter. It was the collective experience that counted, not each individual flash. Each speck of dust, insignificant in the grandness of the universe, came together for the big show. They had nothing to lose so they gave it all to shine a little light on whoever was watching.
If we were lucky some nights the waters would be filled with bio-luminescencent phytoplankton and we’d get a double feature of light and life–the lights above mirrored in the phosphorescent waters below. Like the insignificant stardust out in space, a tiny floating organism glowing alone in the greatness of the ocean would be lost, overlooked, and dismissed. But together these almost insignificant organisms create indefinable beauty that can’t be ignored, especially as the crash against the shore. Whoosh!
There is more there in the insignificant than meets the eye.
Writing can be a lonely and isolating experience. But we writers persist. We stare at the screen or the paper or into space and then we string together seemingly insignificant words in the hopes that when the words come together we’ll flash a little light of our own. And then we hope someone will notice, not because we seek affirmation or notoriety (well, not entirely), but because we know that our words will be gathered with the words of other writers to illuminate a cause, a purpose, an idea, a whim, an observation, a perception, a belief, a conclusion, or a conviction. We write because we know there is substance and meaning and beauty in the collective, and not quite so insignificant, dust of life.
In this new year I hope to be a wildly and prolifically insignificant writer and I wish the same for you.
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