For each new morning with its light,Ralph Waldo Emerson(1803-1882)
For rest and shelter of the night, For health and food,
For love and friends, For everything Thy goodness sends.
Oh, Ralphie, you always were an old sap. Just like Emerson, this time of year always makes me nostalgic (and full of thanks and giving, duh). I often wax poetic on the good old days when the settlers and Indians gathered to break bread (and deer hindquarters), a nice pause before the centuries of raids and decimation by horrible illnesses. But let’s focus on the uplifting Thanksgiving of today, with its football obsession, non-smallpox-spreading blankets to warm us in front of the fire, and the ability to gather with friends without being concerned that we’ll have to resort to eating each other to make it through the harsh winter.
To counteract the obviously questionable and often disturbing thoughts running through my head during the holiday season, I am going to focus on giving thanks for some of the things that we writers (and editors) take for granted. These are important points to remember as you recover from another Thanksgiving celebration filled with inevitable drunken ramblings and strange third cousins showing up at your door with troubling Jell-O molds. So let’s get to it! Gobble, gobble.
- Computers—Okay, sure, writing a memoir by hand might allow future generations to gaze upon your handwriting in awe, dissecting each loop and line in order to see deeper into your soul, but this is a very remote possibility. So for about 90 percent of us, computers are the way to go. Thank you, oh, rich nerdy guys who figured out how to turn zeros and ones into the next bestselling biography on some rich nerdy guy.
- Freedom—Yes, America has some issues. We’re not perfect. After all, Benjamin Franklin wanted to usurp our traditional Thanksgiving gobbler and turn it into the national bird. Specifically, he wrote: “For my own part I wish the eagle had not been chosen the representative of our country. He is a bird of bad moral character. He does not get his living honestly. . . For the truth the turkey is in comparison a much more respectable bird, and withal a true original native of America.” Ben does make some good points. Whenever I see an immigrant eagle, he’s inevitably lying, cheating, and/or stealing, his razor-sharp talons poised to wreak havoc on some unsuspecting patriotic American. But I digress…Bottom line, writers can tackle any subject matter in this great country, although that doesn’t guarantee it will be published. But let’s be thankful this year that any old nut job can write whatever he wants (I’m looking at you, Bill O’Reilly). This is America, after all!
- Thesauruses—Lest we forget about our friend, the saver of repetitious authors, I want to give a shout out to the Holy Bible of wordsmiths. Whether it’s an online version or a weathered copy of Merriam-Webster, this tool has saved many an author from repeating redundancies and copying recurrent and reiterated words.
- Books, and lots of ’em—Let’s face it. The best way to become a great writer is to read the great writers. So absorb everything you can get your hands on before some whack-a-doo starts up those pesky book burnings again.
- Amazon.com—We can all agree that it’s much easier to hop on Amazon to buy the book titled, Tackling Your Out of Control Nose Hair: 10 Easy Steps to Trimming your Nasal Locks and Getting the Girl than to purchase it in person at a bookstore, or God forbid, have your local librarian put it on hold for you.
Of course, there are hundreds of things writers should be grateful for—creativity, imagination, publishing houses, agents, editors, dictionaries (don’t think I didn’t notice the King of Spelling getting pissed off when I singled out the thesaurus!), family members who tolerate our insanity as we write, spouses who sustain the family as we write, and the many other support systems that provide encouragement, love, and inspiration. And also the pen. That’s a good one. Finally, as a Texan who hosted Thanksgiving this year, I must say that nothing beats a good pecan pie . . . except for maybe a deep-fried pecan pie. Gobble, gobble goodness to you all and happy holidays!