Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Today I ventureed outside, sweeping leaves, picking the garden (yes, I have beautiful collards in the garden right now), talking to the chickens, and smelling the aromas that make autumn and the beginnings of winter. Nothing rejuvenates me like nature, and for some reason I needed the boost.
This world is immense, and the odds of writing great words and putting them in the hands of its occupants are not that keen. So many people write. Some publish. Many more don't. The world is gagged to the gills with submissions and manuscripts, and one can't help but wonder "why bother?"
Writing messes with your ego, you know. It's inevitable. We're accepted or declined, exuberant or slam-dunk depressed. People openly say yes or no to our hours of hard work. It's masochistic in so many ways.
So when I see a lack of numbers in subscriptions, tweet responses, blog comments, whatever, I stop and wonder what the heck I'm doing. Especially when I could be outside inhaling crisp autumn air, admiring the cardinals and chickadees in my abelia bushes, feeding the birds so desperate to find winter forage. I could be building new playgrounds for my chickens, taking boat rides on the lake, maybe taking a few trips I've always thought about.
And art. I used to dabble in charcoals, you know. I have a few pictures here and there - at my mother's, in my study, under the bed, even in my bathroom. Haven't done that in years. The urge still nibbles at times.
I sew, and turn to the machine for expression several times a year. And of course, there's the gardening. No end to opportunities there. I keep saying I'll plant giant pumpkins one year, and never do.
But as I stand in the leaves, wrapped in my cozy, not-to-be-worn-to-the-mall, plaid Tractor Supply work coat, I ponder life and my mission as a writer. I'm chilled, fingers frozen from removing ice out of chicken waterers, ears cold because hats stop me from hearing which birds call from the trees. Eventually I go back inside, not really wanting to. As always, I am drawn to the computer.
I check email first, always eager to hear from readers, but also scared to open messages that might tell me I'm wrong for something I tried so hard to be right at. Someone usually fusses that I shouldn't charge anything, or the contest wasn't managed correctly. Others complain I shouldn't have posted this market, or that publisher, because of a personal experience he had. Then a few write me with success stories, and I breath easier for a while, smiling. But then . . . I receive the occasional email that rocks my world:
I just wanted to say thank you for doing what you do. As writers we often never see the impact of what we do and we get discouraged and even begin to question why do we even do what we are doing. Our society tells us that if you are not seeing results quickly then you are going in the wrong direction. Just the other day a book I wrote was on amazon in Japan for sale, and a new copy at that. That encouraged me to keep going because how many other places are being impacted in the world by what we are doing? Keep doing what you are doing, and I thank you for the emails you send out every week. May the God of all grace bless you a thousand times today.
Writers have doubts. All of them. The successful and the newbie, the seasoned and the student have days that dip down so low that the negative feelings can entice someone to pivot, make a change, leave writing and pursue another life.
No, I'm not making a plea to be stroked. I'm suggesting empathy for all writers that cross your path.
Next time you read a great blog post, a striking editorial, a heart-touching novel, or mind-blowing how-to, thank the writer. You never know if your message could be the one that tilts his world back on its axis, and convinces him that writing is worth the bother.
And it might come back around to you, too.