Columns > Published on November 26th, 2013

A Thankful Writer's Top 10 List

It's November, which means Facebook's alight with thousands of "I'm thankful" posts. While 30 Days of Thankful feels overwhelming to me (and sometimes forced and a bit saccharine), I wondered what would happen if I tried to list items for which I'm thankful, with a bit of a writer's slant.

Here's what I came up Thankful Writer's Top Ten List.

1. Our families

No writer can exist in a vacuum, and everyone has a family. Whether your family is awesome or difficult, they're probably there for you in ways you don't even realize. Even family drama can provide brilliant writing fodder, no?

I'm extremely lucky in this department. My parents are supportive. My brothers are ridiculously cool. And as for my husband and child... well, sometimes you can find them wearing Boba Fett and Darth Vader helmets, duking it out with light sabers. Need I say more?

But seriously. Our families. They shape us. They support us. I couldn't write without the full confidence of my husband, nor the creative sparks my five-year-old daughter injects daily into my life. They may drive me absolutely insane at times, but they make me who I am.

So find your family. Thank them today. You may be surprised at how much you actually mean it.

2. Our friends/communities/critique partners

See the above statement about writing in a vacuum. We just can't do it. 

Writing is often (usually) solitary work. We spend hours alone in front of our computers/notebooks/typewriters, and just as all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy... all work and no play makes for utterly dull writing. We need to reach out to each other from time to time. We need to talk to our friends, grab a glass of wine or a pint of beer, and get out into the real world. If we don't do that, we'll run out of interesting topics to write about.

We also need writing communities. Only other writers understand the regret and self-loathing that appear with each rejection letter (Why'd I send it to that place? Of course they rejected me! I suck!) or the thrill of the occasional acceptance. And other writers make the best critique partners, finding the flaws in your preshuss manuscript and having the balls to tell you about it.

I'm lucky here, too. I have great friends. I've found a fantastic community of writers here at LitReactor, and my critique partners are amazing. We trade stories like other girls trade shoes or purses, and I wouldn't have it any other way. 

3. Our readers

A book can only be as cool as its readers. If a generation of literary readers hadn't thought David Foster Wallace was awesome, would we all still be discussing Infinite Jest? And if Facebook and Twitter and Goodreads didn't allow us all to share our favorite books, would so many new authors find their niche?

Even if you don't have a book published, if you're writing, the chances are you still have readers. Maybe it's your spouse or significant other. Maybe it's your best friend. Maybe it's your mom. Regardless, everyone who reads your stuff is, in some way, supporting you. Giving you feedback. Telling you they love you or your writing. And for those people, we should all be grateful.

Me? I'm grateful for my trusted beta-readers — the ones who tell me if a work-in-progress sucks or not — and for the people who've taken the time to read my books, short stories, blog posts, columns, etc. If not for the betas, I'd never feel confident in my work (or know, thanks to my oldest brother, when I have plot holes...sheesh, he has laser-eyes for that stuff!). And if not for the people reading my various other writerly things, well, I wouldn't have a job. 

4. Our vices

Oh dear God, I love my wine, my chocolate, and my morning coffee that I drink from a giant mug shaped like a whimsical zombie head. And I know we're all supposed to live healthy and take care of our bodies, but there's something to be said for giving in to our vices sometimes, don't you think? Just a little bit.

A glass of wine takes the edge off after a stressful day of hacking away at an article or a chapter I can't get right. A bit of chocolate makes me smile. Coffee...well, let's just say if not for the coffee, that whimsical zombie head would be my own.  

I'm not suggesting we all go off on weekend benders, but I am suggesting that it's ok to have the little rituals that make our lives a little happier. Our little vices. They're not all bad.

(That said, if your vice is meth, it might be time to get some help, because don't want teeth like Pennsatucky, do you?)

5. Living in the now

"Publishing as we know it is dead."

"There's no future in the printed book."

"This is the worst time ever to be a writer."

Blah blah blah blah blah.

By now, we've all heard that the end of publishing as we know it is nigh. But really...does anyone actually believe that? I don't. I think this has to be one of the most exciting times to be in the publishing industry. The traditional method of publishing (agents, editors, big publishing houses) is thriving, as is evident in recent $2 million advances to first-time novelists. Small press publishing houses are taking chances on unknown writers and releasing eBooks first, allowing thousands of new voices to be heard. And self-publishing is allowing decent writers to make decent living wages, publishing their own stories and finding their own way. 

Sure, the industry is changing, and change can be scary. But me? I'm thankful to be living in such an exciting, vibrant time.

6. Exercise

I have to run, at least three times a week, or else I morph into a raging beast with paralyzing writer's block. It may sound a little dramatic, but I swear it's true. Running keeps me level-headed and calm in my regular life, and it saves my writing. I've spent hours plotting out stories and finding character motivations while pounding the pavement. I'm so thankful for running that I could explode.

If you don't run, no worries. Walk. Bike ride. Buy a punching bag and punch it. Any exercise works, and all exercise is good. I'm willing to bet anyone with a regular exercise routine agrees, and is grateful for it, just like me.

7. Our life experiences

We, as writers, draw from our lives, even when we don't know we're doing it. I read books about the Holocaust and World War II. Now, when I write, those stories find an outlet in other worlds and on other planets. I'm also a mom, and many of my stories deal with the relationships between a mother and child, even when I'm slaying zombies or aliens. I'm a wife and a friend and if something's happened in my life, I often deal with it through writing.

If we're not grateful for the things that make us who we are as writers, then we're being blind. Even when life sucks, our experiences shape us and, ultimately, our writing. Remember what I said about writers not existing in a vacuum? Yeah. It applies here, too. 

8. The people willing to share their knowledge

Y'all. Can I just take a second and be a Twitter fangirl? I can't think of another place in which I've learned more about the publishing industry.

There are dozens of agents and editors and writers out on Twitter right now tweeting nuggets of information about the publishing world. They talk about their own personal preferences, which is great for a writer about to query their first (or fourteenth) novel. They talk about process. They talk about what's hot and what's not. And amazingly enough, they do this all for free and out of the kindness of their own hearts.

It's not just Twitter, either. There are web sites devoted to helping new authors perfect their queries. There are people compiling Tumblrs about agent/editor wish lists. There are authors holding massive contests connecting writers with agents. It's never-ending, and it's sort of amazing.

I remain so grateful to those agents/editors/writers who go out there every day and share their knowledge because they care. Because they love their jobs and their industry so much they want to help all of those who want to be involved. 

9. The people willing to take a chance on us

At some point in your writing career, you will find a person (or multiple people) willing to take a chance on you. Maybe it'll be an agent who wants to sign you. Maybe it'll be a publisher who wants to buy your book. Maybe it'll be the editors of a super-cool website who give you a venue on which to air all your dirty literary laundry. You just never know. But some day, you'll find yourself with an opportunity you never dreamed possible, and it'll be because someone took a chance on you.

I've had several people take chances on me, and it's changed my life. I freelance for a small handful of venues now, and I've released two books. I can't imagine my life if these people hadn't said, "You know what? Go for it." I am in awe of their generosity, and their continued support and friendship.

10. The ones who came before.

William Shakespeare. Jane Austen. Mary Shelley. Bram Stoker. Ernest Hemingway. Harper Lee. Anne Frank. Madeleine L'Engle. Roald Dahl. Judy Bloom. Stephen King. Kurt Vonnegut. Toni Morrison. Zora Neale Hurston.

You know. Just to name a few. 

These are a small handful of my favorite authors, and they've paved the way for all of us to be here, doing what we do, today. Their books were the whetstones of our imaginations, and their voices ring in our ears when we sit down with pen and paper or fingers and keyboard. They are the ones who came before, who molded and shaped and defined our literary world. 

There are so many more than just that tiny list, and I promise you: I'm thankful, every day, for each and every one.

So there you have it. My thankful list. Now it's your turn. What are you thankful for this holiday season?

About the author

Leah Rhyne is a Jersey girl who's lived in the South so long she's lost her accent...but never her attitude. After spending most of her childhood watching movies like Star Wars, Aliens, and A Nightmare On Elm Street, and reading books like Stephen King's The Shining or It, Leah now writes horror and science-fiction. She lives with her husband, daughter, and a small menagerie of pets.

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