Tag Archives | Thanksgiving

Otherwhere: Grateful It’s Over

LT on chairYeah, so I know I wrote a whole post about being grateful and I am, truly and all.  But today, two days after I wore myself out cooking for 14 people and a baby, I have one more thing to be grateful about–and that is that Thanksgiving is over.  At about noon on Thursday, after being up since 5:30 working in the kitchen, I said, to nobody in particular, “I’m done.  Not doing this again.”

I’ll let you know how that works out next year at this time.

The thing is, turkey day has totally messed with my NaNoWriMo word count.  Last week, on which exact day I can’t remember because my brain is fogged, I figured I had about 10,000 words to go.  At my usual rate of 2,000 words a day, that seemed like a breeze to accomplish. EXCEPT I FAILED TO FACTOR IN COOKING FOR 14 PEOPLE ON THANKSGIVING.  And also, at least in my world, there’s not only cooking but cleaning, and lots of it, as well. So now, all these days later, I still have 10,000 words to go and oh, let’s see, three days to finish.  So I’m not going to make it.  But I’ll probably finish with about 42,000 words.  And that’s 42K more than I had on October 31.  And I wasn’t really doing it anyway, since I already had around 17,000 words.

Okay, enough about me.  Let’s head out and see what happened in other places on the internet this week.  It’s a short-ish list because lots of what was happening on the internet this week was Black Friday related.  But here we go:

How Long Should Your Legs Be?  A funny title but a good post from novelist Eleanor Brown.  I’ll let you figure out what she means.

Why I Left My Agent.  A guest post on Jane Friedman’s site, I read this one with avid interest.  Because, I love my agent and I love feeling like I have someone in my corner to help me with my career.  But, as we know, there’s a lot of changes in the publishing world these days and so I’m interested in all viewpoints.  You probably should be, too.

Why You Should Commit to Continuous Practice. I follow the author of this post, Saundra Goldman, on Instagram, and often like her snapshots of her writing practice.  Finally it occurred to me to go check out her website. Turns out she teaches with Natalie Goldberg and has a cool site.  Check it out.

A Literary Gift Guide: Top 15 Paris Books.  Because, Paris.  Always and forever.

Say No to Say Yes.  From Barbara O’Neal, one of my favorite writers.

Okay, that’s it for me.  That’s all I got.  I’m going to go eat leftover turkey and maybe sneak in a piece of pie for dessert.  How about you? How was your Thanksgiving?  (Or if you live overseas, what lovely non-turkey related things did you do this week?)

(Photo of my cat sleeping on my office chair, since I wasn’t using it.)

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Gratitude, Schmatitude: Writers, Let’s Complain Instead

turkey_gobble_dinner_268746_lToday is Thanksgiving day in the United States.  For those of you living in other parts of the world, our Thanksgiving is a day to feast and be grateful (never mind that it is slowly getting co-opted by big box stores trying to sell Christmas stuff early).  It began waaaay back in the day, when the first settlers of our fair land, the Pilgrims, made it through their first winter and subsequent harvest season and threw a feast to celebrate.  They even included the locals, Native Americans without whose help they wouldn’t have survived.  (Fat lot of good it did them in the long run.)

As mentioned, gratitude and gratefulness are cornerstones of this day.  And to that I say–bah humbug!  No wait, that’s the wrong holiday.   To that I say–uh uh, no way.  Because, c’mon, we writers have a lot to complain about.  Such as:

  1. Writing is hard.  It just is.  It takes a lot of energy to throw words at the page, make them sound pretty, and have them make sense.  And never mind that you also have to come up with a great story.
  2. The publishing industry sucks.  They pay all their money to a few star authors and ignore the rest of us.  It is slow and dinosaur-like and in general the worst business model ever in the history of the world.
  3. Even when you get published, your book won’t sell.  Because, like, all those stupid self-publishers are out there gumming up the works with their crap.  Our brilliant tomes don’t stand a chance.
  4. There are all kinds of scams preying on writers.  Yeah, its just too much effort to figure out who gives good advice and who doesn’t.  Easier to become an actuary.
  5. Sitting is bad for you.  And lord knows, one must sit for hours at a time to write.
  6. You have to learn grammar! Enough said.
  7. And you probably have to read poetry to be a real writer.  One word: ugh.

Oh, I could go on and on–I’ve not even touched on writer’s block for instance–but I’ll leave it to you to add some complaints to your list.  And today, at the Thanksgiving table, be sure to sigh loudly and mention all these complaints when the topic of gratitude comes up.   I’m certain your assembled guest will be delighted.  And if not, pour yourself another glass of wine and mutter about how misunderstood writers are.

But wait.  What about that moment when you sit up in bed in the middle of the night because you’ve just gotten the idea that pulls the whole book together?  Or the time when you write the most beautiful, heartbreaking sentence known to man? That feeling you get when you’ve completed a writing session and you are in love with everything in the whole world? What about all that?

Yeah, its all that stuff that keeps me writing.  Plus the fact that in however many years I’ve been doing this, writing is the one thing that has never gotten boring to me.  Ever.  And those of you who’ve been reading my blog and newsletter for awhile know that I’m a big fan of a lot of woo-woo stuff like gratitude and that this is written with my tongue planted firmly in my cheek.

Because I am so grateful to be a writer I can’t imagine doing anything else.  I love every aspect of it, even all the things I listed above, and I detest the kinds of writers who think its cool to complain so much.  So today, on Thanksgiving, let’s all give our deepest, most humble thanks for this wonderful work that we get to do.  For the stories we get to tell, the fun we get to have every single time we sit down at our desks.

And the truth of the matter is that I’m actually complaint-adverse.  Or at least I try to be. There’s nothing that turns me off faster than listening to someone bitch and moan.  Especially if it is about writing!  So let’s all celebrate the true meaning of Thanksgiving (it is NOT just the day to be endured before Black Friday) and be grateful.

Photo by kindhelper.

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Otherwhere: November 21

PiepieIt is a sunny but very cold Saturday here, and I’m holed up inside trying to finish up my NaNoWriMo word count for the day before I start in on yet more cleaning in anticipation of hosting Thanksgiving.

But, as always, or at least for the last two weeks, I have saved up a lot of cool links as I travel the internet and I share them with you today.  Most of them have to do with writing, as befits a writing blog (duh) but I threw in a couple bonus links on other topics, too.  Here goes:

Writing

I didn’t find as many useful past as usual this week, but I do offer you a collection of posts on writing scenes.  I went in search of these for a student.  Collectively, I think they are helpful:

10 Ways to Launch Strong Scenes

Excellent advice here.

The actual advice in this post is a bit too anal for the way I write, but there are some interesting examples of scene lists from famous writers here.

This post is titled How to Write a Scene, and it may just help you do that. Let’s hope.

And, how about some writing prompts specifically oriented to getting you deeper into your scene?  Here you go.

Social Media

I adore Instagram.  I used to spend spare moments scrolling through my Facebook feed, but now I look at Instagram instead.  However, I’ve been a bit stumped as to how to use it effectively as a writer.  After all, there’s nothing particularly fascinating about photo after photo of a computer.

This post from Jane Friedman offers ideas.

Pie

Of course you need posts on pie.  Because, it is almost Thanksgiving.  And who isn’t baking pies this week?

Quiet Reflection–Making Pies From Scratch

Thanksgiving Pie Ideas

“Be Happy, Make Pie”

How to Make Pie Dough

Okay, enough with the pies. A couple other items of interest:

Here’s a brief, interesting history of Black Friday.

And, for the knitters, this post on knitting Icelandic sweaters makes me drool.  Its all I can do to stop myself from ordering pattern and yarn.  Except I have declared a moratorium on all yarn purchases until 2050, which is about when I will have finished all my current projects.

And now I am off to organize the hall closet so we can actually fit coats in it.  And dream of pie.  And cozy Lopi sweaters.

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Five on Friday: This Day is Unfortunately Living Up To Its Name

fingerscrossedTook awhile for it to register that it is actually Friday the 13th.  I always choose to think of it as lucky day, but today has been anything but.  The attacks in Paris destroy me and now there’s been an earthquake off the coast of Japan. But I guess the rest of us have to carry on.  And send prayers to those who are suffering.  So, here goes with our usual Friday fare:

Who I’m crushing on: Azar Nafisi, author of Reading Lolita in Tehran.  I heard her speak on Wednesday night here in town and she was awesome.  I’m now reading her book and loving it.  Plus, she wrote my name in Arabic in my book and drew doodles in it, too.

What I’m plugging away on: My next novel.  I was on a pace of 2,000 words a day, but then my 2.5 year-old granddaughter came to stay and I lost my momentum.  Its damn hard to get up in the morning and write when you also have to get a child organized for school.  I now understand my clients who complain about this a lot better.  But I have managed to get 1K a day done.

What I’m loving: The autumn storms and leaves everywhere on the sidewalks and streets.  This has been one of the most beautiful falls I can remember.  And what is better than sitting by a fire, as I am right now, on a rainy day?

What I’m Stressing About: Thanksgiving.  Love the holiday, but I cook for 14 people every year and it never gets easier.  Though I do love making pies.

What I’m Looking Forward To: Christmas.  I love it.  Love, love it.  We’ll go to a tree farm the Saturday after Thanksgiving to cut down a tree.  And hopefully it will not take me two weeks to get all the decorations in, as it did last year.

And yeah, there is and will be writing throughout all of this.  Because that’s what we writers do, carry on and keep writing.  What’s up with you?

 

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Thanksgiving: No Whining on the Yacht

Today is Thanksgiving in the United States, a day to eat too much turkey and stuffing and mashed potatoes, and show our gratitude for, well, everything.  And because of that, I highly doubt that many of you are reading blog posts or newsletters today.  So I'm going to keep things simple today, with a reminder that nearly all of us can appreciate: Tatoosh_paul_allen_794745_h

No Whining on the Yacht.

I get that there are many people suffering all around the planet.  I am deeply, truly sorry for their pain and wish I could wave a magic wand and have it all go away.  However, for most of us–likely you who are reading at this very moment–things are pretty good, at least comparatively speaking.  We are passengers on a yacht and rather than appreciate it, we complain.

Things are good are for me, too.  Yes, I would love to lose a few pounds.  And gain a few dollars. And I wish to God my house were more organized.  But, honestly?  Beyond that I am rich in blessings.  I have great health, a satisfying career, a wonderful family and a passel of amazing friends.  I have a warm house with a fire we light on cold nights, and a big backyard with a deck we enjoy on warm nights.  I have hobbies I enjoy.  Two fat cats and two adorable grandchildren. 

I get to rise every morning and write, which besides the afore-mentioned grandchildren, is my biggest blessing in the world.  I am rich in blessings. I am dripping in them. I am immersed in them.

And sometimes I forget that.  I think we all do.  Instead, I like to bitch and moan about things. Kvetch about the state of the world.  Go on…and on…and on about what's wrong and why it is so unfair to me.  

But more and more these days, I am working to catch myself when I do this.  Because, complaining is really nothing more than a bad habit. And so, on this day designed to remind us to count our blessings, I offer you this: 

A Complaint Free World.

Will Bowen started this project as a little thing his church could take on and it mushroomed into an international movement.   You can order his bracelets (cheap and well worth at $10 for 10) and wear it to remind you not to complain.  Every time you do complain, you switch the bracelet to the other arm.  The goal is to go 21 days without complaining.

A brief aside: one thing I've noticed about my efforts to quit complaining is that I may not always be able to stop myself from complaining, but if I catch myself I can then ask myself why I'm complaining.  And sometimes that reveals a deeper concern that needs to be addressed.  (And sometimes often it just reveals me being bitchy.)

So go forth and quit complaining.  No whining on the yacht, guys!  

I'd be grateful if you left a comment telling me what you are grateful for!

Photo by MC Hart.

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Rewriting: The Middle Way

Table_269134_lThis is a short-ish post, seeing as how it is two days before Thanksgiving, when I host a dozen family members here for dinner, and the lovely Olivia (19 months) is spending the day with me, and the house needs a lot tad bit of cleaning and, oh right, I do have to figure out a few recipes.

I'm deep into rewriting my next novel, and all I can think about writing-wise is related to rewriting, which is kind of an individual thing.  So I've had a hard time coming up with ideas for writing posts lately, which you know is unusual seeing as how we're coming up on eight years of blogging and over 1,000 posts.  Craziness.

But, upon further reflection, I did realize I had something of minor brilliance to say.  It may even be major brilliance–it all depends on if it resonates with you or not.  Here's the story:

The other morning, 5:30 ish* and I'm working on my rewrite.  I come to a part I'd dreaded, because it involved the way one of my main characters, Jack,  reacted to a situation.  Readers commented they didn't believe his reaction, given his actions earlier. 

What's the obvious fix here?  Why, give him the opposite reaction, of course.  Which is what I had figured I'd do in all my rewrite planning.  But as I started making the fix, it didn't work for me.  Didn't feel right.  Didn't seem like something Jack would do. 

So I got up from the computer (actually I sat there frustrated for a few minutes) and took a shower. And the answer came: Jack doesn't have to have a different reaction, he just has to have his current reaction challenged by the other characters and thus explain his reaction.

In other words, what I needed to do was make it work on the page.  

This, my friends, was following the middle way.  It's the sometimes circuitous path between two black and white option, and it comes to us not just in writing but in life.  You look and look and look at an obstacle and can only see it as something barring your journey.  But then, suddenly you realize you can just go around the damn thing–and get back on your road.

And so that is what I did.  Jack is happy.  And so am I.

I had a counselor once who called this grace.  And that's what it feels like, doesn't it?

Have you had moments of grace in your writing or life recently?

*I've used "ish" twice in this post.  Last week, I was having lunch with a childhood friend (we grew up around the corner from each other) and we agreed that both of us had the same laidback attitude toward life, which she attributed to being the baby of the family.  She said–and I love this–that her favorite word is "ish."  As in,  soon-ish.  Or later-ish.  You get the picture.  Thus, the preponderance of the word "ish" in this post.

Photo by monmart.

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Are You Grumpy about Gratitude?

It is hard to talk about gratitude without sounding trite.

I mean, who hasn't heard Oprah talk about how important gratitude is, and how using it changed her life?  And with Thanksgiving (in the US) bearing down on us, chatter about gratitude is all over the place.

It's easy to get grumpy about gratitude.

It's also easy to get glib about it.  

And when you get grumpy and glib about something, odds are good you will no longer partake of it.  Which is a shame, because gratitude really does rock.

Here are some reasons why I think we tend to not rock gratitude and their antidote as well:

It can feel superficial, like you're just making crap up.  Which of course, you are (because we make up all our stories, the ones we write and the ones we tell ourselves about ourselves).  But who wants to waste their time on trivialities?

The antidote:  Keep going with the gratitude until you get to the deeper stuff–or you realize that you really are grateful for those little things (like hot water, I am grateful for hot water every morning, truly grateful).

It can feel like the booby prize, like you're just saying stuff because you're supposed to, when really your life totally sucks and you don't have anything to be grateful for.

The antidote: Do it anyway, because you really do have something to be grateful for–you're breathing aren't you?  Start wherever you can and keep going.  The thing is, we get what we concentrate on.  So if you're concentrating on lack, that's what you'll get more of.  

It can feel like it's not worth it.  Ah, humans.  So often we only do something when we think we're going to get something out of it.  We've been told that a practice of gratitude will enhance our lives, so we do it once and then when nothing happens, we stop.

The antidote: Do it for no reason.  Do it because you really are grateful.  Do it just because.  And then, when you're not looking and not expecting it, watch how good it makes you feel.  And, when you need help practicing gratitude, try this:

The And Avalanche

I was at a women's retreat this past weekend and the leader, Karen Drucker, told the story of her friend who likes to participate in an And Avalanche.  It goes like this:  you find something to appreciate, and then something else.  And then something else.  And so on.  So, you find yourself in line at the post office.  It's a long line, and moving slowly.  But you tell yourself how much you appreciate the color the walls are painted. And how pretty the jacket on the woman in front of you is.  And….and…and…until you have totally lifted your mood.  Pretty nifty, huh?

So here's something that will make you feel good all over–a video of the above-mentioned Karen Drucker singing "I'm So Grateful."  My favorite part is a few minutes in, where she sings "Gratitude Before Me" complete with hand motions.  Start your day with that every morning and see how you feel! 

How do you incorporate gratitude into your life?

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Writing Your Way Back To Yourself

This morning I woke up tired, headachy, and full.   Yesterday was, after all, Thanksgiving.  And I cooked for 12 people, which is enough to give anybody an exhaustion hangover.  As I stood in the kitchen, sipping my coffee, I thought that I'd skip my morning routine of writing first thing.  Because, well, I didn't feel like doing anything more than slumping over the newspaper at the kitchen table. But then I told myself I would feel better if I wrote.  So I dragged my tired ass up the stairs to my office and my journal.  And after about a page of writing, I realized something.

Everystockphoto_154391_m

I was beginning to feel like myself again.

I can feel the writing bringing me back to myself, I wrote.

And isn't this a most wonderful gift?

All you have to do is write.  It doesn't matter what you write on, or with, or where you write or how, or even what you write about.  All you have to do is write and you'll find your way back to yourself.  And if you do this regularly, well then, miracles might even happen.

It doesn't matter if you write for a living, writing for a business, write with the hopes of someday publishing, or write for your own pleasure, I believe firmly that establishing a regular writing habit will serve you well.  It actually doesn't even matter if you want to be an artist, or a dictator, or the best barista on the planet, I still think that a regular writing habit will serve you well.

Because it will bring you back to yourself.  Again and again and again.  And I think it is one of our strangest and dearest foibles as humans that we need to be brought back to ourselves over and over again.  For most of us, this is a lifelong quest, to remember who we are and come back to it.  Some people never figure it out.  But I believe we writers and creative types have an advantage–because through our creations, we are constantly figuring it out.  And that is why we return to the page again and again and again.

And now, please excuse me while I go eat some leftovers.

I'd love to hear how your writing habits serve you.

 

Photo by clarita, from MorgueFile.

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Yet Another Post on Gratitude

In the United States, tomorrow is Thanksgiving day.

News flash, right? Not.

Turkey-daywhite

If you're anything like me, and I like to think that you are, your inboxes and online readers are probably clogged with bloggers and marketers telling you all about gratitude and why it's so important.  And even I jumped onto the bandwagon yesterday, with a post on creating energy that included some bits on gratitude.

Because of all this (or maybe despite it all), I've been thinking a lot about gratitude.  And what I think is that sometimes in our very human way, we do gratitude all wrong in a couple of ways:

1. We see gratitude at the booby prize.  Oh lord, I'm so guilty of this.  It's like, if I can't have what I want (and if anybody is listening, a publishing contract for my novel is at the top of my list) then I have to settle for what I've got.  Settling.  Ugh.  What a dull, boring, blah energy there is to that word, at least in the way I've used it.  And who wants to spend time being grateful for anything dull, boring and blah? Not me.

2. We use gratitude in order to get something.  We're told that if we're only grateful for what we have, we'll get more.  If we are grateful for the money we have, more will come to us.  And so on.  And, the thing is, I believe this is true.  But wouldn't it be nice just to be grateful for what we've got for the sheer lovely joy of it?  Which I think is the true intent of most spiritual and religious practices which emphasize gratitude.

And I think that is how to do gratitude right: just do it.  Because you really do probably have more than 99.9% of the rest of the world.  As Anna Griffin, a columnist for my local newspaper put it this morning, "No whining on the yacht."  Cuz must of us are steering pretty good little boats, even with all the terrible problems of our troubled world.

It really is pretty damn wonderful that we still have a holiday that is devoted to the practice of gratitude.  Well, and eating.  But the point is to eat the abundance for which we are grateful.  And so tomorrow, as my extended family gathers around the table to eat our feast, we'll go around the table and take turns saying one thing we're grateful for.  And as I try to think about what one thing I'll say, there's so much I'm grateful for, truly, deeply grateful for, that I can't even begin to narrow it down.

So I'll say this: I'm grateful that I have so many wonderful things in my life that it is difficult to choose just one thing.

And, by the way, my loyal and wonderful blog readers are included in the many wonderful things in my life that I'm grateful for.  What are you grateful for this year?

 

The awesome raindrop turkey was designed by my the very talented graphic designer, Christine Rains.  Check out her website here.  You'll see why I'm so grateful that she also happens to be my sister.  Plus she's bringing mashed potatoes and hard sauce for dinner tomorrow.

 

 

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Give Thanks for Being a Writer

Everyone and their uncle are writing thank you posts and sending out newsletters telling about how grateful Everystockphoto_162217_m they are today. 

Don't get me wrong,this is a good thing–I'm all for gratitude, especially now that I've figured out being grateful doesn't mean settling.  (This is generally where I get hung up on my spiritual journey, misunderstanding the basic tenets of it.)

The only problem I have today is how to say something original about being thankful and full of gratitude.  It is not yet even Thanksgiving, and I've read a gazillion posts and emails and newsletters that say essentially the same thing: we're so grateful for you, our customer reader, its all about me you, I'm going to give you something that costs a lot of money if you read the fine print free, etc., etc., blah, blah, blah.

All these people are well-meaning, even if some of their emails are thinly veiled sales pitches.  But from a writer's point of view, they tend to repeat the same old platitudes.  And let's face it, even the sweetest among us get tired of platitudes after awhile.  I'm not in the least bit sweet, and I get damned sick of them really fast.

But before you accuse me of massive curmudgeon-hood, hold up a minute.  Because I have lots and lots of things I am grateful and thankful for, not the least of which is you, my wonderful loyal readers.  But I'm not going to say that because everyone else already has and I need to be original.  But if I were going to say it, I would truly, deeply mean it because I do so appreciate every one of you.

What I am going to talk about being grateful for is the fact that I am a writer.  How I had the great, good fortune to get a career that is centered not only around words, but on pulling words up from the deepest levels of self to share.  A career that is about making meaning of life through story.  A career that enables me to spend my days doing what I love most–putting words on paper.  And, let us not forget, once in awhile I get to go out in the world and share my love of writing with you, and I love that, too.

Sometimes, even after all these years of doing this, I sit at my computer working away and the thought overtakes me: I'm writing.  I'm writing and it is the best thing ever.  I know people who write for a living and hate it (I'm not naming any names, you know who you are) and the thought is simply unfathomable to me.  Just as the thought of being alive and not writing in a journal is unthinkable to me, or not coming up with fifty million ideas for novels I'll never have time to write.

I've recently had the wonderful experience of someone coming up to me and saying, "I want to be you."  And in general, when I stop to think about it, I'm pretty happy being me–because I get to write. So besides the fact that I'm grateful for my family, my friends, many of whom truly are family, and so much else in the world this Thanksgiving, I want to state again, how grateful I am to be a writer.

It is a privilege, an honor, and a thrill.  I hope that all of you out there think of it the same way, no matter where you are with your writing, a beginner or an old pro.  And don't forget to give thanks for it.

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