Thoughts on Accomplishments Or How to Make It a Good Day!

 Thoughts on Accomplishments Or How to Make It a Good Day!

When I awake in the morning, the first thing I do is think of my children and prayerfully wish them a safe and fulfilling day. My grandchildren too. That’s how my mind works–a day is open to accomplishments. And so I wish for them a bundle of good stuff (those things they will achieve) and thus can claim for their own. No day should end with a big bunch of emptiness, unless we’re sick!

As a mother, I’m sure my children often felt some pressure from my encouragement. I remember sitting near the front door with my son, going over spelling words as we waited for the carpool. I suppose we could have been telling each other jokes or being happy about the weather. And maybe we sometimes were. But many times I was squeezing in that last math fact or spelling word before he started his day.

As a mother, I filled up many day-moments teaching and encouraging, guiding my children toward school goals and extra-curricular goals–even if the latter simply meant driving them to dance, gymnastics or baseball and making sure they had the “right stuff” for the activity. Turns out that believing in what your children can do is half the battle for them to achieve the “right stuff.” Parents can light the fire to achievement in their children, but we all must learn how to step back and let it burn.

The second thing I think of as I’m rousing myself for the day is WHAT WILL I ACCOMPLISH. I make a mental list and being at the stage of life I am, there are few interruptions to alter my list–except the excuses I might make to prevent me from “making it happen.” Let’s just say I have the freedom to make excuses, but I try not to.

My goal: to be a serious writer.

Sarah Manguso wrote recently in the New York Times:

The purpose of being a serious writer is not to express oneself, and it is not to make something beautiful, though one might do those things anyway. Those things are beside the point. The purpose of being a serious writer is to keep people from despair. If you keep that in mind always, the wish to make something beautiful or smart looks slight and vain in comparison. If people read your work and, as a result, choose life, then you are doing your job.

I had to share that with you. It’s radically different from what I might have answered. But it makes perfect sense. Serious writing probes. It pushes down through the layers of life, asks important questions, examines and offers up answers. And this occurs in non-fiction and in fiction. Reading is a profound experience that can transport someone who is dying back to life. It can offer beauty and joy to someone who is downtrodden. It can be an escape or have the effect of awakening. As Sarah says: If people read your work and, as a result, choose life, then you are doing your job.

I believe this is true of many art forms. Do you paint, scrapbook, work in clay, or spend your days painting furniture and walls? Valley Burke is an RN. She was born with severe myopia and was considered legally blind. But she found LIFE in art and began to draw as soon as she could hold a pencil. Burke writes: “As a patient, painting, drawing provided an invaluable outlet wherein I was able to go beyond the pain, nausea, fear, grief and sadness.” Later in her nursing life, Burke offered her art work to hospitals and saw that her work helped patients heal. Being involved in art can provide all of us with profound feelings of accomplishment.

Thoughts on Accomplishments Or How to Make It a Good Day!

Burke with her painting RED GODDESS

Burke advises: “create a sacred space in your environment…dedicate a room and in this space, do what nourishes you. It can be writing, music, meditation, yoga, painting, drawing–anything that uplifts your spirit.”

Of course my space is for writing. And some days I can claim accomplishments. Others, the muse has abandoned me.

Sarah Manguso also writes: All writers will envy other writers, other writing. No one who reads is immune. To write despite it I must implicate myself, to confess to myself, silently or on the page, that I am envious. The result of this admission is humility. And a humble person, faced with the superior product of another, does not try to match it or best it out of spite. A humble person, and only a humble person, is capable of praise, of allowing space in the world for the great work of others, and of working alongside it, trying to match it as an act of honor.

Sarah’s words inspire me. I will always read and be filled up by the work of serious writers. I will always find myself transported by a sentence, a scene, the depth of a character. Will my writing do the same? I can strive, I can hope. I will be humble. And as Sarah underlines: allow space in the world for the great work of others–all the while doing my work, trying to match theirs as an act of honor. And I know that in following that goal, I will make it a good day!

What are you working on? What accomplishments can you claim for your day?

Thanks to You Tube, The New York Times and

18 thoughts on “Thoughts on Accomplishments Or How to Make It a Good Day!

  1. Sarah’s words def jumped out at me, “The purpose of being a serious writer is to keep people from despair.” I shall keep this in mind as I write. Thanks for the inspirational post!

    • Hi Ellen, YES. I loved this. Never thought about writing in that particular way, but with all that goes on in the world, we need to keep each other and our readers looking up and forward. Thanks for your comment.

  2. Matching the work of others as a way to honor them. Love that. Wonderful piece, I can safely say your words have inspired me often. As for what I am working on? Right now, among other things, it seems the task of getting a house sold, but that’s OK, there will be a time in the future where my days will be filled with loads of space to write.

    • Thanks, Elin. Inspiration comes from many places and I’m honored if I’ve contributed any to you. Good luck with selling your home and moving. I hope there’s a swing in your future and that life is full and joyous, Beth

  3. Thanks Beth for sharing Valley Burke’s advice – “create a sacred space in your environment…..” Mine actually has two – my sunporch fills my soul as I gaze out on the beauty of the sound, just “being” there and being grateful. The second is my own little room which has seen me through the beginning days of my last career writing reports, to many days absorbed in my oil paintings, surrounded by my cherished collections of childhood dolls, photos, journals and other treasured memories. Beth, I love your writing, you are humble and inspiring always. Can’t wait to know about your next novel.

    • Hi Carol, Isn’t life great when you can surround yourself with things that inspire you–nature, the water–and things that hold fierce memories and help fill your soul. As always thanks for reading my work. It fills me up, Beth

      P.S. If I were to send you a chapter, what would be the best ways to do it? I think through email. Trying to remember if I have your email address. Beth

  4. Hi Beth! I love this post because it reminds me of two very important things….the first of course is to wake up remembering the good in our lives. While that sounds really easy I think the “default” for many of us much of the time is to think about what’s going wrong, or all the many things we have to do, or anything that needs our “worry.” Instead, taking that precious time to remember what is going “right” in our lives starts us out in a positive way. And then yes, believing that our writing, our gift to the world is reaching out and touching others in a way that causes them to “choose life” is so very powerful. Love the quotes and the perspective from Sarah Manguso. Please know you have inspired me today! ~Kathy

    • Thank SO much, Kathy. I loved what Sarah Manguso wrote and was excited to share it. And you are so right about the default setting in our lives that can threaten to start the day with gloom, when with a simple effort we can start it with positive thoughts. I delighted I inspired you. Take care, Kathy, Beth

  5. I love this so much…just what I needed to read. My writing has been a haphazard mess lately..this helped with some perspective.

    • Oh, Michelle, I know. It’s hard to believe in the process sometimes, especially when other things can lure you away. Hoping you have a good writing day and I know the people who read your work appreciate what you do. Beth

    • Donna MAJOR THANKS. I admire the posts you put together, so much work and thoughtfulness. I too wish the best for you, Beth

        • Yay. We are friends on Twitter now and Pinterest, though I don’t do much there. I’ll keep tabs with you on Twitter. And of course MIDLIFE. Beth

  6. Beth, This morning starts off with a blank, grey sky, but the grass is bright green, and the dormant plants are bursting forth, reminding me that the sun is just behind this lifting haze. I am not listening to my self that wants to hibernate today, I will go shopping, and take a painting down to the gallery that has not inspired me and yet, I will try to find my motivation to continue on there. Because your writing always lifts me up your thoughts on this post did just that again….. <3

    • Did I know you were an artist? Would love to see some of your work. I could even write about your art on my blog. You made my early morning and I send you a big hug, Beth

  7. Hi Beth, Yes I am a somewhat artist, I do love to paint and have for many years but struggle when I have those times of doubts. I am trying hard to get back in the groove once again since my husband died. So I finished up a painting and did take it to the art gallery. I posted a photo of it on my FB page, so if you go there scroll down a few places and you should find it. I am glad I did conquer my indecision. Hugs, Carol

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