Finding Reasons to Be Thankful

I ignore Thanksgiving most years. I find it difficult to get behind a holiday linked to so many troubling aspects of our history. But that said, I still believe in taking a moment to be thankful for the good things in my life. This year in particular calls for gratitude.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

At its core, Thanksgiving in the United States revolves (supposedly) around being thankful for survival in the midst of adversity. It’s evolved to be about family and food and excess, but those weren’t the initial intentions. I think a pandemic that has killed more than 260,000 people in the United States and infected nearly 13 million Americans counts as a time of adversity. We’ve lost so much this year.

I tend to be a glass-half-empty person. It’s how my brain works. I see the negatives because I want to fix things. Things that work don’t require as much attention. But focusing on the bad can wear you down, so today I’m ignoring the projects and the politics and the pandemic (while staying home, very much by myself). Today, I’m thankful not to be ill. I’m thankful for food in my kitchen and my mother still on the other end of the phone line. For friends around the world who are healthy, and for those who are not but still manage to hang on. I am so grateful for my lovely co-workers and clients. For the existence of books in the world, and music and streaming TV and the delightful pen pals who fill my mail with something other than bills. I’m especially thankful for a few glimmers of hope that maybe, possibly, we can pull ourselves together and do better in the new year.

Wishing you all a day to be thankful for.

Year-End Reflections: 2019

I planned to tackle all sorts of end-of-year chores today, but instead I lay on the couch and contemplated the year. I blame this in part on nearly six hours of delays (across two flights) coming back to LA yesterday. It was extremely late when I walked in my door. The rest I blame on the state of my back, which I wrenched just prior to said adventures in air travel. The past day encompassed much of my year: forward momentum accompanied by pain and frustration.

Lately I’ve found it difficult to separate my personal goals and experiences from my world view. Politics bleeds all over everything. And while there’s plenty of progress being made, it is, as ever, nonlinear. The level of hatred and vitriol coloring social media, news reports, public events and more private interactions concerns me. There seems to be so much less harmony, understanding, compromise. No one listens; they just scream out their side of the situation. Nothing escalates gradually. We are full throttle, at war, all the time. And that’s exhausting.

The reality of the world means I can’t afford to disengage with what’s happening out there. It’s too important. But self-interest demands that I pull back to a certain extent. Getting angry over every injustice solves nothing; I need to pick my battles. Obviously, the upcoming presidential election is foremost on my mind. But that means being informed about the candidates, not tracking every upsetting thing Tweeted by our current president. Instead, I plan to focus on issues closer to home; my aging parents and their needs, my friends, my clients, promoting diversity and fair treatment in the publishing industry, my concern over climate change, my personal health, and a few other goals for the year.

It’s been years since I boiled down my life into very distinct categories, but I think it’s time for me to do so again. The older I get, the more aware I am that time moves far faster than we realize. It’s the old adage about the days being long while the years are short. I don’t want to waste time and energy being angry over things I can’t control or that won’t matter in a few weeks. It’s important to narrow my focus, and segment my time accordingly. That means dividing things into boxes: myself, my immediate circle (friends and family), my personal community, my business community, and a worldwide view. I’ll be slotting my goals into each specific box and going from there. And no one box is allowed to overwhelm my life.

Most years my goals involve specific tasks, things I want to achieve, and I’ll be coming up with a few of those, too. But my primary goal is to improve my outlook–my quality of life. Because without that change, I’ll continue to struggle with all my other goals.

How does your big picture look? Are you laying the foundations for any major changes in 2020? I’d love to hear what you’re up to.

 

 

 

Holiday Gift Guide: What to Get for the Writers in Your Life

‘Tis the season of shopping and gift-giving. But what do writers want? (Or what hints should you drop to friends and family?)

Truthfully, most writers would like a book deal, but assuming that’s not within the scope of your powers, I’ve a few more practical suggestions. Some might overlap with other gifts-for-writers posts this time of year, but I hope to spark some fresh ideas. I’ve tried to provide items within a range of budgets and for varying tastes. Apologies for the late date of this post, as I know a few of these might be difficult given shipping times, etc. Have fun, and don’t forget to leave time between shopping trips to get your own writing done!

Assorted Gifts for Writers: 2019

I love software gifts for writers with technical inclinations. Scrivener sits high on my list of great gifts. For writers working on a series, historical novels, or anything with world building, Aeon Timeline offers a simple way to keep track of dates and facts. Check out 4 the Words for writers who like gamifying their lives; it encourages a daily habit with low minimum word counts and fun monsters to battle.

Shopping for a writer looking to work on their craft? Gotham Writers Workshop offers a wide range of online classes in addition to their in-person courses, and gift certificates are available.

Subscriptions for writers keep giving all year long. Check out popular writing magazine options like The Writer or Poets & Writers. Or try a literary magazine subscription like Slightly Foxed, The Paris Review, Asimov’s Science Fiction, One Story, or Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.

Do you know a writer with a stationery habit? Check out Goulet Pen Company or JetPens for fabulous fountain pens and ink, rollerballs and ballpoints, journals, and pencases. FYI: the Lamy Safari or Pilot Metropolitan make reasonably priced gifts for anyone just getting into fountain pens. And Field Notes currently has a wonderful selection of pocket-sized notebooks with illustrations of national parks on their covers.

Bookish Gifts

Let’s not forget books. Writers love books, because writers read long before they wrote. For beautiful editions of interesting classics, old and modern, visit Folio Society. (Note: I’ve linked to the USA site; there’s a separate one for the UK.) Persephone Books reprints lovely editions of titles that have gone out of print, mostly by mid-century women authors. The ladies at Slightly Foxed have a similar mission to reprint books–often intriguing memoirs–that are worth reading but have slipped out of the public eye in recent years.

As far as specific titles go, I love this year’s Dreyer’s English by Benjamin Dryer. It offers advice on (writing) style with a great sense of humor.

Health and Wellbeing

Writers spend long hours hunched over desks, so consider giving the writer in your life something to help keep them healthy. Gift certificates for a massage, bubble bath, healthy snacks, or some soothing scented candles might all be welcome. I’m a fan of the S’well water bottles; they keep drinks cold for 24 hours and can sit on a desk without worry about spillage, plus they’re great at conferences. Keep your favorite writer hydrated!

Odds and Ends

If you’re shopping for writer-themed odds and ends–mugs, T-shirts, jewelry, printed scarves, etc.–check out these diverse sites:

The Reader’s Catalog

Out of Print

BookRiot Store

Storiarts

The Literary Gift Company

You might also consider giving the gift of cultural appreciation. Writers need to refill the well from time to time, so membership to a  local museum, gift certificates to a cinema or theater, or tickets to some sort of event can get them away from their desks and spark their imaginations.

Finally, give the gift of time. If you know a busy writer who has a hard time carving out time for their craft, offer to watch their kids for a few afternoons, sign them up for a meal delivery service or give them gift certificates for their favorite take-out place, or pay to have someone clean their home a couple times a month. Especially for writers on deadline, this type of personalized gift can really lighten the load.

Happy Halloween! Back from the Dead Edition

Despite appearances, I did not abandon the blog, and today seemed a good day to emerge from the metaphorical grave. Trick or treat!

Witch on a broom flying in front of a full moon.

When life gets busy, something needs to give a little. I love writing this blog, but it is the thing I’m most able to set aside when my schedule fills up. I do miss it, however, so this flyby marks my attempt to kick things back into gear. Today I simply wish you all a very Happy Halloween, and for those of you gearing up, cheer you on for tomorrow’s start of NaNoWriMo. Keep an eye out for more content-heavy posts coming soon.