A Thanksgiving Thought: Why Do We Write?

A Thanksgiving Thought: Why Do We Write?

We’re approaching The Curve.

That’s how I think of the end of the calendar year (just a few weeks away!). Is New Year’s Eve really the start of something as new as a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes?

In my mind, it’s a continuation. We round the curve and see a new landscape. But it’s one that’s been there all along; it wasn’t created in the moment of the ringing of the New Year’s bells.

To make a successful turn means . . . braking a bit, so you can see the terrain and be ready for what’s around the bend. But maintaining good forward momentum.

(Some curves are nicely banked as we speed through them. Others have surprises!)

I’ve never been a big fan of New Year’s Resolutions. They seldom succeed, perhaps because they are based on a false sense of newness. I like continuation. (Which includes constant but small, sustainable change.)

And as a Midwesterner, late November and the spirit of Thanksgiving really kicks off my desire to look at my life and resolutions. Why wait till January 1? Now’s the time to build up the right momentum to see you smoothly around The Curve.

(Do I have enough wood chopped and stacked to see me through? Am I the cricket, fiddling and hopeful as the first snows fall, or the ant filling the storehouse with abundance?)

I took a minute to look back at the purpose behind this blog, launched on February 13, to expand on my mission as the series editor of The New Writer’s Handbook to help more writers build a successful writing career, step by step. At the core is my belief: if we write well, we can make a real difference.

I closed that first post with a message from Ralph Waldo Emerson:

“Words are also actions, as actions are a kind of words.”

Preparing to round the corner, here are more thoughts on that basic issue: why do we write?

“One can never pay in gratitude: one can only pay ‘in kind’ somewhere else in life.”
– Anne Morrow Lindbergh

“I feel we are all islands – in a common sea.”
– Anne Morrow Lindbergh

“Do not try to push your way through to the front ranks of your profession; do not run after distinctions and rewards; but do your utmost to find an entry into the world of beauty.”
– Sydney Smith (English essayist and clergyman, 1771-1845)

“An aim in life is the only fortune worth finding. And it is not to be found in foreign lands, but in the heart itself.”
– Robert Lewis Stevenson

“We need not to be let alone. We need to be really bothered once in a while. How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real?”
– Ray Bradbury

Let me close by sharing wonderful words from a colleague, Bruce Holland Rogers, who wrote a great essay, “On Being a Minor Writer,” found in part in The New Writer’s Handbook 2007 and also available for 49 cents here from Amazon Shorts. (I also highly recommend his book, Word Work: Surviving and Thriving as a Writer.)

We are writers, not profit centers. We live in the world of numbers, but we can choose to remember that the world of numbers is all made up. It’s one way of seeing things, but not the only way.  . . . We can choose where our focus is. Jesus said, “Be in the world, but be not of it.” Buddhism instructs us to be awake, but to live without attachment. Other great religions remind us of this same thing. We must do our business in the marketplace, but not confuse the marketplace with the Supreme, with our ultimate purpose.

Measurement, comparing one degree of success with another, keeps us apart.  . . . But we’re not so different, whether we’ve made the bestseller list or are still seeking our first sale. We’re all of us minor writers. Our measurements don’t matter nearly as much as our immeasurable contributions. Measuring keeps us from living in full communion with one another and the world.

Preoccupation with measuring, with seeing how your career stacks up, steals time from making your contribution. Making your contribution, your deepest offering to readers, means that you don’t try to impress, but only to reveal the impressive thing beneath your work: the language, the subject matter, or whatever it is that you love. Love something, and then get out of the way so that from the side you can point to what you love. That’s how you contribute.

What will you contribute in the coming year? What will be your deepest offering to readers?

That’s my Thanksgiving thought . . . thanks to all those writers sharing their words with the world.

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