Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Goals on the First Day of Summer

 “Rewriting is the essence of writing well: it’s where the game is won or lost. That idea is hard to accept. We all have an emotional equity in our first draft; we can’t believe that it wasn’t born perfect. But the odds are close to 100 percent that it wasn’t.”
William Zinsser, On Writing Well (p. 83)

In life, as in writing, reaching a goal without a tremendous amount of rewriting is an impossible task. I watch immigrant and refugee students rewrite their lives each day with their commitment to learning English, adapting to a new land, setting new goals for themselves and their families. As I sat on the stage of Benaroya Hall in downtown Seattle last Thursday for the South Seattle Community College graduation ceremony, I was thinking these thoughts, thinking about how these students in front of me, their faces painted with the joy of accomplishment, were rewriting their own destinies and perhaps the future of their families as well. When President Gary Oertli asked those graduates who were the first in their families to attend college to stand, it seemed that at least half the graduating class was on their feet. The audience went wild with applause. My hands stung. These are graduates who are indeed rewriting the future by reaching for and achieving goals that at one time may have seemed impossible, and perhaps even unnecessary.

As I sat and watched the graduates cross the stage, my thoughts began to wander. I started to think about my own goals. I had thought that I’d spend the summer focused solely on the first rewrite of my current manuscript because despite my emotional attachment to each and every single typed word, phrase, sentence and scene, I know perfection has eluded me. But, as always, there are distractions. A writer friend sent me information about a contest that might be a perfect match for that unpublished novel of mine. Another writer friend suggested I apply for a writing residency, but the dreaded Artist’s Statement is a requirement of the application process. A third writer friend sent me a list of agents to contact as I begin the query process to find a home for my new memoir.

The more personal temptations in life also possess a strong pull. Friends have invited me to train with them for the Seattle to Vancouver bike ride in early August – training that sadly should be well underway by now. And then there’s the wonderful distraction of summer visitors and the tempting appeal of a summer road trip; there’s the siren song of stacks of books waiting to be read while swinging gently in the hammock strung in the shade of the magnolia and the red bud. So, like those students graduating last Thursday, I need to rewrite my priorities and hone my focus in order to reach the goals I set for myself as the morning sun glows on this first day of summer.