Deb Eleanor Thinks It’s the Little Breaks

Eleanor BrownDue to a canceled flight, Deb Elise is still in Hawaii (I know, who’s not feeling sorry for her?), so I’m hopping in for the day. Tune in tomorrow to hear her thoughts on big breaks!

We love to hear stories of big breaks. They’re the dramatic ones, the ones that move ahead multiple spaces in life’s big Parcheesi game.

But big breaks come from little ones.  Talented violinists get the call to perform at Carnegie Hall because they had a dozen little breaks performing at smaller venues. An entrepreneur finds their big investor because she made three small connections who combined to introduce her to the people with the funds.

Here, in no particular order, are some of my little breaks:

-Having a teacher in 6th grade who nurtured and admired my writing.

-Being cast in a show that taught me to love theater.

-Getting the opportunity to study abroad in Oxford in graduate school.

-Publishing an essay at a tiny, but well-received, web magazine.

At the time, those felt like big breaks. In retrospect, they were small, but they put me on the road to bigger things, and they are the moments I cherish more than anything.

What are the little breaks that meant a lot to you?

Hey, Missouri! I’m in Columbia tonight, and St. Louis Wednesday night – please come see me!

24 Replies to “Deb Eleanor Thinks It’s the Little Breaks”

  1. The opportunity to spend my junior year of college at the University of Stockholm. Getting cast as singing showgirl (even though I can’t sing) at Melodrama Theater. An acting background has proven useful in my writing. Just to name a few. 🙂

  2. Interesting. My acting background has also shaped so many of my moments, given me confidence in front of a group and even launched me as a writer when I began writing a humor column for a Hollywood casting website. But that summer studying Shakespeare at Oxford was a life-changer.

    That, and quitting smoking. Big.

  3. I love how the big breaks are all building upon the little breaks–what a great way to look at it!

    My little breaks include my 9th grade English teacher telling me to “never, never stop writing,” and switching my major to fiction my sophomore year in college. And when I look back, the fact that my first job after college, working as an editor at a startup magazine, didn’t go as I thought it would was a big break. It gave me the courage to freelance full-time and finally start writing that novel I planned to write “some day.”

    1. Ooh, good point. Sometimes it’s when things don’t turn out as we planned that we actually get a break! Hard to remember at the time, but so true!

  4. Great question, Eleanor! Some of mine would have to be when I got a job as an illustraotr for Nicole Miller out of college, then got to work briefly with the wonderful Ruth Kagle on an early manuscript of mine that she didn’t end up representing, but gave me some wonderful advice on that helped my writing a great deal. As writers, I think we can all agree that those encouragements (however small) from agents and editors mean so much, and can make such a difference in our paths!

    1. I totally agree – my ‘no’ conversations were extraordinarily helpful – it’s like Natalia said above you, sometimes the things that *don’t* work out turn out to be breaks after all!

  5. I love this post. It’s like the little breaks make us ready for the big breaks when they do come along.

    One of my early ones was having a one act play I’d written chosen to be performed at my college’s one act play festival. That alone was a great boost of confidence for me and my writing but then, when the director wanted to change a crucial scene, I learned I had enough guts to say “no, that won’t work for me.” It was all done nice and polite, mind you, but I was so proud of myself for standing up for my work and my idea. And when I saw it on stage? It still gives me goosebumps. 🙂

    1. How wonderful! It sounds like an incredible experience all around. And learning to protect the things you care about in your work is a HUGE lesson – glad you got the chance to learn it early!

  6. It’s fascinating as to how many authors have been in some level of theater and how many others would love to have singing talent. Hmm, just another venue for creative expression or something more?

    1. I was just thinking the same thing! My performing background really has been invaluable – part of being an author these days is promotion, and appearances are so important. I know I’ve been disappointed by authors I love when I saw them speak (recognizing that is totally unfair!) and I thank my theater training daily for giving me confidence for these events!

    2. Maybe it has to do with playing characters onstage, then “playing” characters on the page. Getting inside a character’s motivations is something an actor learns to do, but it’s not taught in other professions that I know of.

  7. Love this! Sometimes things that don’t look like career breaks at first actually turn out to be. When I had my first child, I left the journalism job I loved to stay home… which eventually led to me writing my first book. Funny how stepping away from my career actually led to the biggest professional break of my life!

    1. Totally agreed – can’t number the decisions I’ve made that seemed to be heading one way and then turned out to bring something else! (So glad you decided to stay home!)

  8. Great post and an awesome line of thought. You’re so right that it’s the little things that point us in directions we never thought we’d go. For me, I think learning to read early was a “little break” that meant more than any other. Books have seen me through so many good and difficult times, and though I didn’t realize it at the time I think it was that early introduction to reading that helped set me on the path to writing, too.

    1. What a great point – I take reading for granted and really shouldn’t. I was an early reader, too, and reading has (obviously) had a huge impact on me.

  9. Thanks for the switch-up!

    I can think of a zillion little breaks, but one that felt huge was landing my first job on a TV show. I was production secretary and answered the phones for Saved By The Bell: The New Class. I made $400 a week, could see the Hollywood sign from my desk, and thought every morning, “I HAVE ARRIVED!”

    1. No problem! Glad you’re back safely.

      I can just see you bouncing into the office every day and announcing that in your outside voice.

  10. Great question! I’m always fascinated looking back over a million small incidents in my life that seemed so meaningless at the time….if I took the stairs instead of the elevator or had the turkey club instead of the filet mignon, how would life be different.

    Mmmm…filet mignon sounds good.


    1. Thinking too much about those teeny decisions is really awesome for a while. Then it just makes my head kind of explode. We are such an interesting sum of tiny decisions.

      Hope your travel is going well!

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