I don’t remember Martin Luther King Jr. very well. I vaguely recall him speaking on TV and I clearly remember the collective sadness when he was assassinated, though some of that was undoubtedly influenced by the assassination of Robert Kennedy two months later. (In my child mind the spring of 1968 was all about public weeping).
While the man wasn’t part of my little girl world, his beliefs and words were. And since January 21st is Martin Luther King Jr. day, I thought I’d share a few MLK quotes that resonate with me as a writer.
“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” It applies to so much in life but it sure applies to a life in the arts. Writing that first line, dabbing that first swirl of paint, picking up that lump of clay requires a tremendous leap of faith.
“Whatever your life’s work is, do it well. A man should do his job so well that the living, the dead, and the unborn could do it no better.” This quote reminds me of my neighbor who passed away unexpectedly last year. Ron was a mechanic, one of the best in the city. Retirement didn’t stop him either. On days when my words wouldn’t flow, I’d look out my window and see Ron in his driveway tinkering with a wrench and being the best he could be under the hood of a car. Humbled and inspired, I’d go back to the keyboard to do whatever best I could muster in that particular moment.
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” Much of what I do for others is private and not something I care to share (I don’t get why some are public about their good deeds). But one thing I do for others publicly is write. I write so people will be moved or informed or entertained. (And sometimes I write so Teen Freud will remember to empty the dishwasher or companies like Dearfoams will replace the two-month-old slippers that are already falling apart). I also write to get paid; it’s how I make my living. I like to believe there’s honor in that (see middle quote). But sometimes I spend too much time in the ‘how am I doing?’ loop and forget that this whole thing isn’t about me at all – it’s about the readers.
Which brings me to the last MLK quote: “We must use time creatively.” I’ll bet you money that if Martin Luther King were alive today he’d be on Twitter. And probably Facebook. For sure he’d have a website. He was a smart guy; he’d recognize the power of social media. But I doubt he’d spend hours tracking his progress or checking his likes or counting his retweets. He’d be too busy doing for others, doing it well, and having faith.
Don’t you think?