The Man of Small Things

A blink. A heartbeat. A sigh.

You do it all without thinking, and yet it keeps you alive. These are small things. Life is just small things. We tend to applaud and admire big sweeping movements, but break a big movement down to its essential pieces, and you realize, it’s all made up of small things. Every day things. Second-by-second things.

I write with a fever, I write when I’m exhausted, I write when the sky falls, I write when the sky’s propped up again. I write without reward, without understanding, without respect, without compensation. A blink. A heartbeat. A sigh. I do it all without thinking, because it’s who I am, and it keeps me alive.

But it’s a small thing. A word is a small thing. But words are the bricks that cement my current sentence. The sentence, a row of stones that might fortify my paragraph. And a paragraph is such a small thing. So is a chapter. But I do it. I write it. That’s what writing is:  a bunch of small things, tiny things, infinitesimal things that you can hardly see–smaller than the eye of a needle. I push the thread of my story through that eye (read: “I”) and then sow together a warm, comfy novel. Little by little, second-by-second, tick-by-tock. Slow. Patient. Focused. Alone.

I’m an artist. But an artist is a small thing. I draw, I sing, I dance. I write. No one really cares that I do, because no one cares for small things. But if they put the big things under a magnifying glass… Behold! All they will see are small things that make up the big things.

I’m a human. There’s nothing smaller than that. I can’t transform the whole world at my desk, I can’t feed all the hungry, as much as I would like. I can’t clothed the poor, but at least I can give them words of hope (words that I whisper to encourage me as well). But a whisper is a small thing. I’m a man of small things, but all the world is made of small things.

The world is a small thing. A tiny dot in a galaxy, in a universe, in a long long stretch of time. But time is a small thing. It’s one small thing. We each hold it in front of us, at this very moment.

Writing isn’t practical. It’s always impractical. But who ever made big waves without doing small, impractical things? Rosa Parks should have stood up, that was practical. But instead she sat, a move that was impractical. But that was a small thing. But that’s what big movements are made out of, small things. That’s how individuals begin to step inside the skin of the person they were meant to be–they do what’s impractical, which breaks them away and above the rest, until they become their own, small thing.

A  blink. A heartbeat. A sigh.

Like the movie said:

Life ain’t short. It’s long.” -Magnolia (1999)

It’s long because of all the small things. The slow pace. The patience, the focus, the drive that goes beyond anything practical or even reasonable. Slow-moving, little-by-little, second-by-second. Letter dropped next to letter, line on top of line, dot-to-dot-to-dot… and so on.

To live by practicality is an oxymoron for any writer or artist. Being “practical” is not an option for us.  Never was and never will be. Our very livelihood (in fact our very existence) is, by definition of the world around us, impractical. We’re roaches that need to be squashed. We’re far too weird, far too playful, far too imaginative, far too thoughtful, far too considerate, far too smart for life. We don’t play by the rules, we live outside the box. Therefore, we must be smashed.  We’re crazy, because we honor the small things, and shake our heads at what people see as the more important, “big things.” We tug their hand, ask them to sit with the small things. But they never listen, they don’t want to, nobody wants to. Because the small things are, well, they’re too small. That’s the downside of small things: they’re hard for most people to see.

I’m learning as I write my novel that you cannot be a writer unless you love the small things. Unless you cherish them. Unless you can live with them. Unless you can befriend them. Unless you truly, truly, respect and admire how these small little things are, letter by letter, building something big. You come to deeply respect other writers and artists who accomplished big feats, because you realize that it is a lie that any of them did anything big. All they really did was millions of small things. You come to honor any other human being that ever had a big influence on society–the amount of small things that they had to endure to get to the place they ended up… I can’t hardly imagine!

So, in this very second, with me, I invite you to honor the small things in your life. Don’t look at these things as a nuisance. They are not. Small things are what big lives are made out of.

A blink. A heartbeat. A sigh.

much love,


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17 comments on “The Man of Small Things

  1. I’m blinking. My heart’s beating. I think I’m sighing too 😀

    Interesting way of looking at life. The glass is half full, not half empty. I really enjoyed reading this one at 4:58 in the morning 🙂

  2. And I hate how people look you down and say nasty things like, ‘you’re barking up the wrong tree’, when you’re just an aspiring writer.

  3. Lua says:

    I don’t believe in “big things”- there are no such things…
    Big things are just the sum of small things and it’s those small things that truly matter. Today, we’re so obsessed with seeing the “big picture”, we miss all the beautiful details…
    Writers, they are the wizard of small things, they create them, work with them, shape them, than reshape them and they build worlds with them…
    “I write with a fever, I write when I’m exhausted, I write when the sky falls, I write when the sky’s propped up again. I write without reward, without understanding, without respect, without compensation. A blink. A heartbeat. A sigh. I do it all without thinking, because it’s who I am, and it keeps me alive.”

    Ollin, this is one of the best descriptions about writing I’ve ever read! It is simply amazing…
    Thanks for the reminder that it is those small things that keeps us alive… 🙂

  4. ollinmorales says:

    Thank so much Lua for your wonderful comments! I’m glad I’m not the only one who doesn’t believe in big things. I’m happy that you’ve finished your novel by the way. I wonder if we’ll get to ever read it soon, well at least we’ll have your short story in the meantime.

  5. Lua says:

    Thanks Ollin 🙂 The novel is kind of in intense care unit right now, it needs a heavy round of revision and editing but when it’s all well and ready to breath on its own, I would like to post a chapter of it on the blog… It would be great to hear your comments 🙂

  6. Very well said, and well written.

  7. Good to meet you, Ollin. Enjoyed this post. One thing stuck out for me – you write when you are exhausted. That is a hard time for me to write, but I do get some of it done then. I would like to read your book. I have a book on Proverbs. If you are interested in a trade of books, and a trade of book reviews, let me know! wb

    • ollinmorales says:

      Thanks for dropping by Warren. Writing is a cure for everything, I’ve found. So when i’m tired and sick, it usually gets me through it. For me its sometimes easier to write then not to write.

  8. unabridgedgirl says:

    Who needs practical? 😉

  9. […] The Man of Small Things {Turns out writing a novel helps you appreciate the “mini” things in life.} […]

  10. brian says:

    thanks for this. i think this is true of anything you are into, whether it be writing, art, or, in my case, code. “I do it all without thinking, because it’s who I am, and it keeps me alive” – powerful, but if it’s not true *then* what is the point?

    • Ollin says:

      You’re welcome Brian. I do understand what you say about code. I wrote a post called “Robots and Writers” where I found the parallels between writers of fiction and writers of code. You guys are artists, too, you know. I’m glad you liked the post!

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