Whenever I pull out my camera, my 1-year-old will invariably stop whatever he was doing that prompted me to snap a photo. Is he already perceptive enough, on some level, to become self-conscious when he’s in the lens? Or is he just distracted by the mysterious blinking light on the little silver box I’m holding? Either way, I can relate. I’ve felt halted in that way many times—filled with plenty of inspiration for writing until the precise instant that I sat down and saw that blinking cursor on the screen in front of me, waning away the creative surge that brought me there tick by tick.
This week, as I sorted through the dozens of blurry silhouettes, too-dark backgrounds, split-second-too-late images and action-less videos I captured on our family’s recent pre-holiday vacation, I found it: one perfect clip.
We’re in a boisterous family-friendly restaurant at dinnertime, where a piano player is in the midst of an upbeat rendition of Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” and everyone is singing along. There’s Toddler Strawser, freed from his high chair to the space adjacent to our table, dancing along as only the truly uninhibited can—all bouncing knees and flailing elbows and a great big smile. Then, inexplicably and without prompting, he turns to me, throws his arms straight up in the air like a gleeful little referee, and yells, “Touchdown!”
That is the moment you need to find in your story, or play, or poem, or whatever it is that you’re trying to write. And just when you start to wonder why you even bother, you’ll uncover it there. In the midst of the frames where the focus is a little off, or the lighting isn’t quite right, or the timing is off just enough to mar the shot, is the moment of pure gold that can transform each scene into something that’s all yours and only yours. Something truly special.
As the approach of Thanksgiving prompts us all to give thanks for what matters most in life—our families, friends, good health, good fortune—we should remember the gifts of the writing life, too.
And when we reflect on the joy and torment that a creative drive and a way with words can bring, we should be grateful not just for these perfect little moments where everything comes together, rare and fleeting as they may seem, but for all the blurry snapshots in between. Because they’re just as important, if not more so. They make us sit up, take notice and smile our most genuine smiles when we look over everything we’ve done and recognize, there in the midst of all our outtakes, a perfect little gem. And they remind us that we’ll never capture those moments of magic if we don’t keep trying.
From all of us at Writer’s Digest, we wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving.
Editor, Writer’s Digest Magazine