Reflections from the Well
On Writing Craft, Creativity & Inspiration
By Alexander Slagg
It is Thanksgiving in the United States this week. While I love to quibble over the historic record of how and why we celebrate certain holidays, I’m more interested in the underlying theme – giving thanks. As we move into the winter months and the tail end of the year, it’s natural to want to slow down and take stock, recognize and celebrate all of the fortune that has come our way over the last year. So I’ve put together a few things that I’m thankful for, and that I think others practicing the craft of writing can be thankful for as well.
Be thankful for the luxury of time you have to write. There are many people out there living paycheck to paycheck, making just enough to get by. They are focused on putting food on the table, keeping their children clothed, keeping the heat on. They have no free time for activities that aren’t tied to day-to-day living. You are handling the business of living your life AND you are making time to write. Congratulations. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Be thankful you have the ambition to write. Getting anywhere with your writing requires you to push yourself. No one is waiting for the publication of your novel or poetry chapbook. But still, you are tapping away early in the morning before work, sneaking in a few sentences or lines on your phone over lunch, typing and basking in the blue light of your laptop in bed as you settle in for the night. Every time you sit down to write, you are moving forward. You are a hustler, making something out of nothing.
Be thankful for the gift of your imagination. We are all born with the ability to dream and make believe. But not all of us retain these skill sets. As we grow as humans, life has a way of dampening our imagination. School and other social structures turn our attention to being practical, cultivating “real” life skills, such as that algebra that we all put to good use as adults – ha! Imagination is a muscle, if we don’t exercise it, it withers. As a writer, you have made the choice to be a pumped-up imagination babe or beefcake, exercising and toning that muscle. That’s a wonderful choice.
Be thankful for the progress you’ve made on your writing this year. Are you exactly where you were on your writing projects on January 1? No, you’ve made progress. That idea in your head has taken on life. It has grown and changed in ways that you never imagined at the outset. Maybe not as much as you thought you might do, but you have made strides.
Be thankful for the people around you. Writing is nothing without other people. While it is a solitary activity, writing isn’t done in a vacuum. We have family, friends and significant others that support us and cheer us on in our pursuits. We have failed relationships that have wounded us enough to turn us inward and seek out writing as a way to vent or make sense of our troubles. We have writing group members that alternately buoy us and competitively spur us on to writer better, faster, stronger, longer. For good or bad, the people around you have an effect on you. The question then becomes, have you, as a writer, figured out how to glean something valuable from it?
Be thankful you’re still alive and writing! As the Bible says, somewhere around Proverbs 27, we are not promised tomorrow today. Tom Clancy, Doris Lessing, Elmore Leonard, Seamus Heaney, Richard Matheson, Daniel Hoffman, Sylvia Browne – all great and/or successful writers that passed away in 2013. You’re still alive, you still have time to join the pantheon. Get to writing!
Touching on various aspects of the writing process, Reflections from the Well offers a literary lounge, where writers and other creators are invited to share their own experiences. Share your experiences with Alex for possible inclusion on the LWN blog or in his next reflection at firstname.lastname@example.org.