In The Scheme of Things
IN THE SCHEME OF THINGS
(Politician or writer, your motto should be I Can)
“Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a Heaven for?” These are the words of the poet, Robert Browning, and they served as the motto for my college graduating class. I recall them now, because I heard a sermon this morning about the folly of “I can’t” or “I would, if...” Or “I’d like to, but..” My personality says “I won’t” when that seems reasonable, but it hardly ever says flat out, “I can’t” Last week I answered a series of questions for a journalist, and one had to do with my favorite saying. Without thinking, I wrote, “I can do that.”
“I can do that!” I think that’s why the little black girl born in a small North Carolina hamlet grew up to teach at universities, to become a senior demographer at United Nations in New York and to travel the world on behalf of the United Nations Secretary-General and the Secretary-General of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (London). It is also the reason why I am today the author of over thirty published fiction titles (all released by commercial publishing houses), when I am really only a trained demographer with a mind immersed in the principle that facts rule and the application of fiction is to be despised.
I taught myself to write novels and short stories because I wanted to write them, and disciplined myself to think creatively and not scientifically (when I’m writing fiction, that is), because I wanted to succeed. I also learned to receive and accept criticism that I knew was purely subjective with no basis in fact, and that half a dozen other ideas from half a dozen other people would have served just as well. You could say that I learned not to fall in move with my words. Not even with such questionable tidbits as, for example, “Twilight succumbed to the darkness that swallowed up the world around her.”
It has not been a rose strewn path, but I’ve managed, and I managed because I tried. I am sure that Senator Clinton and Senator Obama had heard all their lives that no woman and no black man would be president of the United States of America. Apparently, that never impressed them. She became the first woman senator from the state of New York, and he is the second African American senator from the state of Illinois, the sixth in the history of this 230 year old country.. They believe in who they are and that what they have to offer is worth our votes. They believe they have what it takes to be an effective president of the United States, and they are going for it!
Years ago, Senator Margaret Chase Smith of Maine was asked what she would do if she found herself in the white house (paraphrased). She replied, “I would apologize to the First Lady and leave at once.” A woman of her time, she didn’t envision herself as president or, perhaps, as deserving of it. But not so, Senators Obama and Clinton, because they are passengers on “the little engine that could.”
I believe that aspiring writers should pay attention to their examples. After all, they are offering themselves to the public just as we writers offer our work to the public. They prepared themselves well before starting on their campaigns and, while they have advisers and aides, they do their own talking and debating. They open themselves and their views to scrutiny. Don’t we writers do the same?
When aspiring writers tell me that they have a lot of burning ideas, but don’t have time to write, I say that it’s a matter of determination, commitment and belief in oneself. Armed with those traits, and with the required talent, a writer--whether seven years old or seventy--will write. In the scheme of things, one must believe in oneself; for if you don’t think you can change a light bulb, you will not attempt it. And if you do not attempt it, you definitely will not change it.
13 January 2008