Hello to both my faithful readers!
I’m sorry I’ve neglected you. For like a year. My bad. My focus has been on a new manuscript (yay!), and, admittedly, the sorry state of the presidency (boo!). Who hasn’t felt beaten down by the steady drip, drip, drip of dreadful news?
But an interesting thing can happen when living with the fact that a craven, immoral authoritarian is squatting in the oval office…or that a flock of feckless invertebrates (Republicans) keep telling their naked emperor that his clothes are the finest in the land. Yes, anger happens. And disgust. Sure, that too. Dismay. It’s a real thing. But beyond all that, something else surprising can happen…grace.
Maybe you’ve experienced this too. Here’s what happened to me. I recently ran into a lovely woman in the neighborhood one morning while we were both out walking our pups. As usual, we asked one another how the other was. Good. Good. After a beat, she said the funniest thing: It’s so strange, we’re New Yorkers, we’re supposed to complain. She was right. Complaining, after all, is a real thing here. I wasn’t born or bred in NYC but have lived here long enough to see how serious New Yorkers are about their complaining—it’s like a sport, and kind of funny. (You know the ones who win all the gold medals at The International Complaining Olympics? They’re all from NYC. Look it up.) But the thing is, everything about the government, about this dishonest kleptocrat and his merry band of lemmings is so defeating that folks might find that they’re focusing a bit more intently on the grace within their own lives. If even for a moment, it’s a respite from the day-to-day dreariness we’ve all been living through.
Maybe we’re more grateful for our health, or our relative health. Perhaps we’re happy to be able to pay the bills. Maybe we take a moment to acknowledge that our lives are made fuller with quality time spent with quality people, be they family, friends who are like family, new acquaintances, or even a stranger who you might share a kind word with while crossing the street. These tiny moments in our life, these bits of grace that we cling to, give way to something bigger, something stronger. Love and kindness can, and ultimately will, win.
All of this has me thinking about this season of gratitude. It’s my favorite time of year—perhaps it’s yours as well. And it seems now more than ever we need to wallpaper our walls with thanks, with gratitude, with whatever else it takes to reclaim our corner of the world from the nasties until the 2020 election when we should be ALL IN on whichever candidate is going to challenge this autocrat who’s demeaned this country, diminished our standing on the world stage, and thumbed his nose at the Constitution and every pillar of democracy.
But I digress.
Because I want to keep this post focused on writing (I know I veer off-topic, just go with it), this past year spent with my manuscript has me feeling boatloads of gratitude for so many. Because working on a novel, as any writer knows, doesn’t happen in a vacuum. I mean it does at first. We sit with our words, let them marinate in our heads before spilling them out, all juicy or maybe cooked. But then there comes a time when we can’t be alone with our words—they need to be shared, consumed by others. This is quite the imagery I’m summoning here, people eating things out of our heads. Again, let’s go with it. My point is, to quote the woman who won the popular vote in 2016: It takes a village to write a book. (This is a post about writing…truly.)
And so, in thinking of everyone I’m grateful for writing-wise, I have to start with the husband, who’s given me a Virginia Woolf-worthy room of my own. What he does for our little family each and every day allows me to work on stringing words together. To have such steadfast and unwavering support for my non-paying second act (in a former life, I was a journalist then a financial editor), is a rare thing. But my husband is a rare, gracious, big-hearted man. The kind you come across once in a lifetime. The kind there should be more of. And my gratitude cup overfloweth for him. If I knew how to insert a heart emoji, I would put it here. And then a smiley face one. The one that gives a hug. The other one that gives a kiss. So, just picture all the loving emojis in a big pile-up right here. They’re all for husbaaaaaaaaaaand.
I also have to give a shout-out to our little furry pride and joy, our pup, who’s the coziest writing companion anyone could ask for.
Honestly, this is sounding like an Academy award speech, which it’s not. Because, people, nothing of mine has been published. I mean, not including this blog post, which I’m hoping both my readers will read (fingers crossed!). Not that this post even counts, because I’m literally paying WordPress to let me own this domain and publish words on it. The point is, you have to have gratitude along the way for this publishing process, which is a long, long…such a very long one. Anyone who tells you it’s easy is either lying or just a far better writer than me and, well, if that’s the case, then I say, good for you super-fabu writer! You sell your book at auction, and all the foreign rights, then get a movie deal and have Reese tout it to the moon. All cool! Cool, cool, cool! Yayyyyyy….yay.
That’s a lie.
Kidding! I’m really just insanely jealous of them. Winky emoji.
One of the best, and I mean the absolute BEST parts of writing is the incredible women you meet who are also doing this word thing. As long as I’ve been focusing on fiction—and folks, it’s been more than a minute—I’ve been fortunate to meet some of the most sparkly, talented, funny and gracious women you could ever hope to meet. When you step off the office treadmill as I did, you find that you need to be proactive about meeting writer friends and colleagues. And at conferences and workshops over the years, I’ve met writers whose friendship and opinions I treasure. I know writers who will read my work, who will tell me if something resonates or if it’s drivel. But perhaps more importantly, I’m lucky to call a tribe of women who are sprinkled across the country friends. Friends who get this writing thing, who are striving to do the same. And they’re friends who you get close with because this is a craft/business/call it what you will that fosters close relationships. I’ve been fortunate to find women with whom I can share my (few) successes along with my (many) insecurities. And they get it. These friendships are never just about the writing—they’re all deeper than that, involving other aspects of our lives, a testament to the bonds created. From my first friend made during my first conference, to my forever friend in Chicago—called “forever friend” because we figure we’ve known each other at least 75 years in writing time…maybe it’s 80 by now—to my friend in D.C by way of Southampton, to my friends from San Francisco, to my friends from Squaw Valley, both near (Bronx in the house!) and far (Austin!), I’m grateful for them all.
Also, I have monster gratitude for my intrepid agent, who is always up to brainstorm, plotstorm, read countless drafts…even eat a massive cheese plate with me. The time and dedication she’s shown me leaves me in awe.
Finally, there are those friends or family members who couldn’t be more supportive of what you’re trying to do. I’m lucky to have folks read my manuscripts (one of my dearest friends on the planet recently subjected herself to reading my latest one twice), or help me work out kinks in stories, or are simply interested, asking how it’s going. Knowing that people are rooting for you is such a powerful means of support. I really do feel like I hit the support jackpot in terms of friends and family.
And so, in keeping with this season of gratitude, if there’s anyone out there, maybe in the #amwriting community or beyond, in need of a bit of encouragement, I’d like to offer some.
We need words more than ever now. We need our world to be beautiful, to reflect the best of who we are, or the honest emotions that foster true feeling. We need words that bind us to one another through story. We need words to laugh. To cry. Maybe to get angry so we know someone else out there is feeling the injustice we’re feeling. But mostly we need words to heal. And words, thank goodness, allow for a wide array of healing. Words are powerful. Let’s use them for good. Let’s make all the best stories. Let’s call out what requires calling out. Or sit and be cozy with a story just so we can smile. Let’s create something we can enjoy, something that sparks a bit of grace within all of us, however it happens. We need that more than ever right now, so keep going, writers. Put one word in front of the other. Give us a journey. Give us insight. Give us connection. Give us hope.
Give us words.