Sunday, December 18, 2011

Be Thankful That You're a Writer

James Scott Bell
Twitter.com/jamesscottbell


As we close up shop for a couple of weeks here at TKZ, it's the perfect time to reflect on the year past and the year to come, and to pause and be thankful for the blessings you enjoy. If there is one thing world religions and secular philosophy largely agree upon, it is that gratitude is the key to happiness. Learning how to be thankful consistently may take some practice and discipline, but it can be done. And it is so worth it.


You can start by being thankful that you're a writer.

Be thankful because you get to play. You get to make stuff up. You get to spin yarns that have the potential to move people. Do you know how hard that is to do? But when you do it, when you hear from a reader of your work who loved it – even if it's just your Uncle Harry – there's something magic in that transaction. And people today have precious little magic in their lives. You do.

So be thankful that you're a writer.

It's work, to be sure. It can be frustrating and bewildering and angering and insane. It can keep you up at night and wandering the streets talking to yourself like a mental patient without his meds (though what you are really doing is figuring out what your character might say in that scene you're working on). There are plenty of obstacles and set-backs that happen in a writing life, but you know what? Those are the very things that make you stronger. If you persevere, if you care, if you feel your calling in your heart and mind and sinews, if you know deep down that you're a writer, keep after it. If you do, when the dust all settles, you will have found a rich satisfaction in this passion of yours.

Because most folks don't feel much passion for anything. As Thoreau famously noted, the mass of people "lead lives of quiet desperation." But you're a writer, so at least if you ever do feel desperate, it's not going to be quiet! It'll shout and beat drums and cry and scream. But that very noise will pull you out of despair and get you back to the page, where your passion lives. Writing will save you from ever being stuck in the Land of Bland sequestered in the Army of the Drab.

In Herb Gardner's great play, A Thousand Clowns, Murray Burns tries to explain to his bland brother why he dropped out of the "rat race."

Arnold, five months ago I forgot what day it was. I'm on the subway on my way to work and I didn't know what day it was and it scared the hell out of me. I was sitting in the express looking out the window, watching the local stops go by in the dark, with an empty head and my arms folded, not feeling great and not feeling rotten, just . . .not feeling. And for a minute I couldn't remember, I didn't know, unless I really concentrated, whether it was a Tuesday or a Thursday or . . . for a minute it could have been any day, Arnie. It scared the hell out of me. You got to know what day it is. You have to own your days and name them, each one of them, every one of them, or else the years go right by and none of them belong to you.

You're a writer, and your days belong to you. You can name them and own them. Be thankful for that.

And don't fall into the trap of thinking money is the sole measure of success in this game. That's only a part of it. Even so, the incredible thing is that it's now more possible than ever for a writer to make something from writing. If you have the goods, you can find the buyers. The buyer might be a traditional publisher, or it might be a reader out there downloading digital. But you are living in a new golden age. Never have we had the choices we do now. Even if you only make a pittance it's within your power to do so, which means you're better off than the great majority of writers in the whole history of scribbling. Do you realize how fantastic that is?

Be thankful that you're a writer!

Don't be ashamed of it, don't be afraid to call yourself what you are, don't let the naysayers and critics (even if they are in your immediate family) keep you from doing what you love.

Here comes 2012. Resolve to write for all you're worth, which is inestimable. Because, as Brenda Ueland puts it, each one of you is original and talented and has something important to say. A writer is original, Ueland says, "if he tells the truth, if he speaks from himself. But it must be from his true self and not from the self he thinks he should be."

Be done with the shoulds. Tell your stories and don't hold back. Give your imagination freedom to run. Study the craft because it's your friend and helps you express your true self on the page.

And one thing more: keep on writing for the rest of your life. Don't stop. Ever. Why should you? You're a writer, after all, and that's a wonderful thing to be. 

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and have a Joyous and Keyboard-Clacking New Year. 

14 comments:

  1. I am indeed thankful to be a writer. If for no other reason than it keeps the guys with the funny white coats away from me. 8-)

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all at TKZ. You're the best!

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  2. Beautiful, Jim. Simply perfect. Merry Christmas.

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  3. James Scott Bell,

    Thank you.

    For your writing and your inspirational words...

    I blame you for all this, you know.

    I believe it's in the first few words of Plot & Structure that you say - Don't believe the Big Lie - writers are not born - writing is an art that can be learned, studied, a craft that can be honed (though I believe some of us are more cursed than others).

    I wouldn't trade being a writer for anything. Yes it's frustrating at times, but it's also the best of what I do.

    I hold in my hands today CreateSpace paperback proofs of my first two novels - my agent could not place them, but you know what, I found a way, and Santa came early to the Millhouse family.

    In addition, both novels are available for digital download now, on amazon.com, and nook, and the reviews are starting to come in, folks.

    I'm standing at the cresp of my writing career at the beginning of 2012, and I'm just saying, the view is stunning!

    I have more to learn, more work to do, more books to read, and the thing is, I'm thrilled.

    So, thanks for all this, Jim, and to all The Kill Zone authors and commenters.

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

    Paula, the fledgling writer.
    www.paulamillhouse.com

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  4. Wonderful post Jim. I remain as always grateful for being able to pursue my dream of being a writer. Have a wonderful Christmas and I am looking forward to us all having a great new year!

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  5. Jim, your words were spoken from the heart and you made me feel good to be who/what I am, and that I DID NOT give up. Here I am in my 50's, and have self-published one novel, two are via a micro publisher and it will continue from here on. I have no reason to quit, as long as I can breath... there are too many stories inside me.
    THANK YOU!

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  6. Great post, Jim, it's a keeper.

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and yours as well.

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  7. Be thankful that we get to play. That about sums it up, doesn't it?
    And thanks to you and your colleagues, whether at TKZ or writer's conferences or book groups, who help us learn to play even better.
    Merry Christmas, Jim.

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  8. Well put. My current Kindle book has received gratifying compliments from several authors I consider my betters. It is a rousing success to me, though its total sales were 36 at last check.

    We all write for different reasons, and seek different outcomes. I made up my mind a year ago that this was what I cared about, the respect of people I would like to think of as my peers. That's good enough for me.

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  9. Thanks for the kind comments, all.

    And Paula, Lorelei and Dana, welcome to the rarified air of those who have actually finished writing a novel, even more than one. That's a place most people who think they might want to write a book sometime ever get to. Now you have your stuff out there, and you can keep adding to it. Fantastic.

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  10. This is a good opportunity to say thank you to all the folks here at the Killzone, both the bloggers and those who write comments.

    Thank you everyone for inspiring me to do my best. I wish you all happiness and good fortune in the new year.

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  11. Very inspirational, Jim. Thank you for posting these meaningful thoughts at this time of year.

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  12. I love this!! Thank you.

    Right now I'm not so thankful...I'm dying to get up from this chair and away from this computer as I've been glued to it since 6:00pm....just kidding. Yes - my tush needs some exercise but this is what I love to do and it's a pleasure not worrying about straightening the house and going to work tomorrow because I have the whole WEEK off!!! Hurray. Hopefully I can get back to my own WIP -- two short stories and poor, bereft "Celeste." Happy Holidays everyone!!!

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  13. Thankful indeed.

    I'll be off for a couple weeks as well as my cousin Leonard has agreed to take me on a trip in the time machine. I expect to be seeing several of you in the future, and if I do, I will tell you you said hi from today. While it will be a 20 day trip to several dates in the near and fairly distant future, we're planning to get back to today just a few minutes after we leave so I don't miss anything.

    Man I love this life!

    Have a great holiday folks.

    God Bless you all.

    Enjoy!

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