Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sometimes, I get it right

My cousin Amanda posted this beautiful photo essay the other day on her blog, pondering how one knows when one is a good parent, and concluding, through her daughter's actions, that she must be doing something right.

I've often considered the same question in different contexts: how do I know whther or not I'm a good writer? For me, it's not about the number of books I sell, the awards I win, or even the great reviews. The real proof, for me, is in hearing about the positive impact my writing has had on readers. I've heard from girls who found the strength to end abusive relationships after reading Painting Caitlyn . I've heard from grown women who say they sobbed all the way through, because they recognized so much of their own history in the novel. Once, I even heard from a boy who had purchased the book for his sister, because he feared for her safety. Those are the stories that tell me I've touched someone's life. That's what tells me I've done a good job.

And today, I had one of those teacher moments (or maybe, it was a human being moment?). A student I once taught knocked unexpectedly on my door. She's almost seventeen now, and, through family circumstances that were completely beyond her control, living on her own. This kid - because yes, from where I sit, she is still a kid - has been through more personal tragedy and betrayal than anyone should ever experience, at any age. Enough *crap* to send any adult over the edge. I don't know if I can say she's thriving, but she's coping. She's still in school. She's drug-free. She's volunteering. And she's hoping to go to university. She's on her way to thriving.

And she stopped by to thank me for what seemed to me to be some very small things I contributed to her life. The thing is, to her, they weren't small. They mattered. They made a difference in her life. And she makes a difference in the world. Imagine the difference I can make now by putting in a conscious, consistent effort!