5 reasons to be thankful you’re a writer

‘Tis the season to be thankful! As every writer knows, the writing life is filled with ups and downs, yet it’s a blessing to claim writing as a career/passion. So while this is too long a list of items to share in a Thanksgiving prayer before digging into the holiday turkey, you might want to take a few minutes on your own to make these observations food for thought and thanks!

  1. You’re your own boss! Or at least, you are until you have a publisher who gives you deadlines. At that point, you’re thrilled to NOT be your own boss, because it means you’ve achieved your dream of finding a publisher who thinks your work should be published! Affirmation is a marvelous thing, isn’t it?
  2. You get to play with words. Writers are weird that way – we like the way words fit together to make sentences, or we hear music in our heads from the rhythm of well-crafted phrases. Also, words are free, so you don’t have to spend a ton of money to get started with your passion, unlike people who want to take up scuba diving or landscaping. If you don’t like the words you have, you can always find new ones; if you don’t like scuba diving after a few trips, you’re stuck with expensive equipment you have to donate to a rummage sale or sell on eBay…
  3. You get to tell stories. Whether you write fiction or non-fiction, you get to enjoy putting together a ‘story’ – something with a beginning, middle and end. You can spend weeks, months, years, mining your imagination and doing research to create your writing, and you learn cool stuff about things you hadn’t paid attention to until you started composing your story. There’s so much in the world to learn, and you get to pick and choose what interests you.
  4. You get to connect with people. No matter where you publish your words – online on social networks, in magazines, in books, in blogs, in community newsletters – you have an audience, and your words will touch them. Some of those audience members will respond back to you, and then you suddenly realize that words truly are powerful and as a writer, you are privileged to wield that power, along with the responsibility that power brings with it.
  5. Your words can make a positive impact on a reader. At some point in your writing career, a reader is going to thank you for sharing what you have written, because it helped/healed/enlightened/entertained/connected that reader with something important in life. That point is when you, in turn, thank God for giving you the ability to write, because your words have served someone, and ultimately, that’s why you felt called to write in the first place! When you see your writing as ministry, it’s awesome motivation to keep at it. Blessing and being blessed by writing – that’s something to be thankful for!
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So You Wanna Be Star? Join a Constellation!

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At 10:30 pm this week, I discovered that the northern lights were ablaze. I learned this not by looking out my window, but by seeing photos friends had already posted on Facebook. And of course, some of the best photos were taken right in front of my house. Disgusted, and excited, I peered eagerly out my windows over the ocean for any faint remaining glimmer. Nothing.  Not to be defeated, I proclaimed a “Northern Lights Search Party” and yanked my sons out of bed. (They were both still awake, reading sneakily by flashlight.)

We jumped into the car in various states of deshabille, and drove to the top of a mountain up a switchback road, passing–count them–30 cars on the narrow gravel passage coming down. The whole town was out tonight!

At the top of the mountain, beneath massive windmills, we scoured the black horizon for the shimmering waves of light–but saw only blackness, and then, something else.  As our eyes shifted to night mode, they  appeared, faint at first, then growing in intensity until we all gasped–a swimming sea of stars, like the night ocean alive with phosphorescence. Living on an island, under the heavy clouds of a maritime climate, we seldom see the stars. We bathed in their glory together for a long moment while the windmills strong-armed the sky overhead.

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None of us are entire strangers to the stars. Every time we fling our book, our blog post, our music, our photographs out into space, we feel we’re launching a ship to the moon. We aim our hottest work, our sparkling, shattering words out into the universe, and then we wait. We wait for the world to come to us, to drive up the mountain to see us, to beckon to our dazzling light. We wait to become a star.

I would like to say I’m different, but I’m not. Somewhere inside even the most capacious heart, there’s a longing to be known. And outside the heart, our writing bosses command us to expand our platform. Inside and out, we begin to crave that far-off glittering goal, forgetting our real experience on the nights we gasp at the real cosmos. Those nights, save the sun, there is no single star that knocks us down. It is the panoply of stars that takes our breath. It is the collectivity of uncountable galaxies and star-clusters that lights the black sky and plows us down into worship and humility. It is their sheer density and magnitude that teach us our size, and then make us glad to be small.

We are small. We are one among millions of talented, smart, creative others. Lucky us–we get to learn from them all. And the whole world does not come to us. Just a few.  But there still is so much gladness here: that we pursued ideas. That a journal has taken our story. That our blog made someone laugh. That we got to discover new truths. All this, good. All this, happy. Will there be more? Who knows! Just keep at it.

But listen closely. I am not saying dim your lights to take your small quiet place in the choir. Don’t be afraid to be brilliant and bold, to stake out your own corner. Don’t be afraid to question the lights already hung. But know, no matter how dazzling and original you are, you are surrounded by sizzling stars and a radiant moon that itself borrows light from another. Be glad of this.

Moon

Be glad of this. Yes, go ahead and shoot the moon. Aim high. Go ahead and hope you’ll be a star, but better, join a constellation.

I tell you true, when it happens that my own words hang among shining smart glorious beautiful writers and artists and thinkers and creators . . . there is little better joy. I am in awe of them all. They are my constellation. I’m happy that this little northern light of mine gets to wash in their light and shimmy and shine in their midst.

night sky