I had a reminder of the passage of time today. My three-year-old is obsessed with looking at pictures of her younger self. She climbed onto my lap when I was writing this morning and insisted on seeing photos. Knowing that it would be good to have a collection with a lot of her face in it, I opened up the ‘Spring/Summer 2020’ folder.
There it was. All of the contraptions we’d made out of cardboard to keep her amused, all the baking, the salt dough, the musical instruments made out of cans, the endless efforts to entertain a toddler when trapped in a house for four months.
And she’d grown. Her babbling speech had been barely comprehensible back then, her movements clunky and uncoordinated. Putting last year and this year right next to each other made it clear what had grown and changed in her.
While I’m more of an aspirational gardener (plants must quiver when they see me coming), I’ve been getting pictures from friends and family of their growing success. Buds on trees, sprouting seedlings, even a peach tree producing its first fruits.
Creatively, there are times I fear I haven’t grown at all. There’s something about the to and fro of submissions and rejections, peppered with the occasional win, that makes it feel static. As if things are pushing and pulling, but not moving forward.
What I forget is, every time I write something, anything at all, I’m growing. Especially if I try something new. When I tell a story in a new way, try out a new format, work on ever-improving drafts of my book, it’s all adding up. Each time I’m thinking about how to put together the best order of words and sentences. The best way to communicate with my shadowy reader.
Even reading something, especially if it’s outside my usual sphere of consumption (currently reading this fantastic collection of queer historical fiction written by young adults), is feeding my writing. Widening my exposure to as many voices, places and viewpoints as I can is one of the best ways I can find and nurture the buds of new ideas.
It’s not visible, this growth. I can’t track it through height, developmental milestones, the new green growth that’s all around me. But it’s there. If you’re feeling a bit stuck in one place after a year of ‘Groundhog Day,’ remember that we’re all moving forward, even if we’re only taking small steps.
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