This year, finding the silver lining in what often seems like an endless sky crowded with darkening clouds may be difficult, but as writers we are blessed in many ways. Just being a writer is in and of itself a blessing.
Holding on to that understanding can be tough these days but keeping a writer’s gratitude journal can help. (For all you skeptics out there, noting what you’re grateful for—on paper or in prayer or simply in your own private thoughts—works, boosting your physical, emotional and spiritual well-being and even helping you sleep better, according to Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being.)
As writers, we spend a lot of time daydreaming. Our imagination is our playground. Having the ability to escape there at will is an advantage in good times and in bad, an advantage we don’t always appreciate. And it’s not just imagining good things that benefits us. According to a recent brain-imaging study conducted by the University of Colorado Boulder and Icahn School of Medicine, imagining the worst can help us overcome our fears and anxieties in real life. Imagine that.
What would we write about if we didn’t have family? Seriously, these are the inescapable relationships that inform our own past, our present, and our future—as well as those of our fictional characters. Right now, we’re either stuck together in close quarters or unable to see each other at all. Either way, we should be grateful for the messy jumble of love and loyalty, conflict and chaos, grievance and grace that mark family relations. It’s the stuff fiction is made of.
Note: If, like me, you can’t conceive of writing without a cat on your lap or a dog at your feet, then count them as family, too.
Henry David Thoreau wrote: “I took a walk in the woods and came out taller than the trees.” And I’m betting he wrote that glorious sentence literally after a walk in the woods. Nature is the comfort that consoles us when all else fails. I am extraordinarily lucky in this regard, writing here in my own literal neck of the woods in New England. Wherever you are writing, I wish you a tree-lined path to walk whenever you need a little green.
Writers—even those who claim to be extroverts—embrace solitude. We need solitude to work, the way fish need water to swim and birds need sky to fly. We know the difference between loneliness and solitude, and that is a gift worth remembering now, when so many of us are living isolated lives.
Being a writer means being part of a large and luminous community of like-minded souls: librarians and publishers and booksellers, agents and editors, reviewers and bloggers and podcasters, and last but certainly not least, our fellow readers and writers. This book-loving fellowship has been a constant source of companionship, inspiration, and motivation for me—as I hope it has been for you—and will continue to be, come hell or high water, acceptance or rejection, bestsellers or remainders. Community endures—even when it’s on Zoom.
Reading is the reason we are writers. Stories are the reason we are storytellers. I haven’t gone a day without reading since I was six years old. Because a day without reading is a day not worth living. Books, books, books. Yours, mine, and ours. You show me yours and I’ll show you mine.
Readers are not only our audience, readers are our judge and jury, our teachers and our coaches, our fans and our friends—in short, readers are our tribe. Without them, our stories die untold. With them, our stories live on, in the fertile ground of their imaginations. We are readers, too, and as we dream our stories to life, we rely on reading to stimulate our imaginations in turn. This sacred relationship between writers and readers is a symbiotic one that we should thank the writing gods for every day.
A grateful writer is a happy writer. I’d love to hear what you’re grateful for—as a writer, as a reader, and as a human. Join me on Facebook and we’ll talk gratitude.