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water

"High and fine literature is wine, and mine is only water;

but everybody likes water."

Mark Twain

I have been writing a lot lately. And it feels good. Really good. Well, some of the time. Some of the time, it feels shaky. Some of the time, I step away from what I have written, come up for air, and I am riddled with disappointment, swollen with judgment. Fine, you wrote 2458 words, but they are 2458 crappy words, so who really cares. And sometimes, these thoughts really get to me, burrowing in, poisoning my confidence, and I feel down and deflated. But sometimes, and this always surprises and delights me, I tell that voice, because it is just a voice, to shut up. I remind myself that I am doing what I love, I am writing, I am telling a story, bringing something to life.

I am doing.

This is something. This matters.

And so. I love the Twain quote above. Obviously, Twain's writing is far more than water, but that is not the point. I do not pretend to know the point here, but Twain's words trigger something in me. Something welcome. A realization about far more than writing. When we aim so high, when our goals are lofty and full of pomp and grandeur, we lose something. Something basic. Something pure. Something essential. Ourselves, maybe.

Maybe, just maybe, we should stop focusing on being that fictional best, on being gorgeously original and clever, and just be. Maybe, just maybe, we should stop trying to write fierce golden sentences that ripple with paralyzing genius and just write.

That's what I'm trying to do. I'm trying to just be. I'm trying to just write. And progress - existential and elemental - is being made.

I'm getting somewhere.

And I have no idea where that somewhere is. What it will taste like. Water or wine. Or neither. Or nothing. I have no idea whether it will be a land high and fine or low and flawed. Or, shocker, somewhere in between. Right now, I don't care. I'm trying not to, at least.

Everybody likes water.

I like that. No, I love it.

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  • What do you think Twain's quote means?
  • Do you think we often paralyze ourselves by trying to be something and do something unrealistic?
  • Do you think there is a freedom inherent in focusing on progress rather than success?
  • As writers and parents and people do you think we get caught up too often in comparing ourselves to some high and fine ideal rather than focusing on our own lives and our own goals?

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