I am grateful for the good and the bad and everything in between. What a predictable subject for a post the day before Thanksgiving! Frankly, a post about gratitude during the week of Thanksgiving will get a better response. It is the nature of blogging on the web. And yet, it feels so . . . inadequate. The struggle is real though, people. I could simply lie back and post whatever the heck I want to put out there. Alas, that would definitely mean that only my mom and sister would read what I wrote. I am grateful I can work past the inevitable.
Grateful for Plans
So the predictability of writing about thankfulness in November is two-fold. First, writing has to be on a schedule. If I wait for inspiration, I could wait for days. Heck, if I look back over the last couple of decades and zero in on when I was a brand new mom, we could be waiting years for revelation. One must follow a plan. I am grateful I at least know I need to have a plan.
Second, following a plan means inspiration takes a backseat. Hence, I am writing about gratitude in the days before Thanksgiving because, well, I am not very imaginative with my plans. I am grateful that I accept motivation comes after I enact the plan and seldom anytime before that.
Grateful for The Demise of “All or Nothing”
My writing has in the past been an all or nothing proposition, a zero-sum game. Always, I strived for the elusive perfection that would come someday. This “go big or go home” mentality meant many projects sat on a list, never attempted. At some point, I realized huge looming tasks send me to hide in my hole. And, of course, it affected just about every aspect of my life. Gradually, I’ve learned to break those big bad projects into manageable parts. To exercise, I have to do a few minutes on the bike, not imagine competing in a triathlon. I am grateful I actually have no plans to run a marathon and instead ride a stationary bike.
Over time I realized big-eyed writing goals need to have teeny-tiny steps along the way. A child thinks a novel or screenplay pops out instantaneously. On the contrary, dreaming isn’t enough. The child must grow up and accept that the muse only visits diligent dreamers. Now I make myself sit and write, no matter what. It’s called a job. An artist who doesn’t show up and get down to business is hallucinating about their vocation. I am grateful I don’t hallucinate, well, not usually.
Grateful for the Small
Any writer would be loathed to admit writing 500 hundred words every day for a month was a miracle. Yet, that’s what I must confess. Originally, I set a goal of getting my butt in a chair to write for at least thirty minutes. Quickly, I realized that with that amount of time 500 words was a no-brainer. That’s what I write every day now: 500 words. It is my goal, as dull as that may be. They don’t have to be perceptive or stylish words, just 500. Just get something on the page, Stacia. It’s that kind of goal. I am grateful I can at least make it to 500.
To view writing as anything less than a habit is to pretend that inspiration and art are like magic. It is most assuredly not. It is routine and consistency and buckets full of some other really boring crap. Yep, it can be ridiculously boring and just plain bad. Sometimes I reread what I typed into the digital void moments before, and I think, well, can we pretend I never put that tripe out there? I am grateful there is a delete button.
Grateful for Routine
Writing is more like a disease for me than a dream or a blessing. I cannot deny I have this writing illness. The symptoms come out now and again and words spill on the page as blood oozes from a wound. It is not so much that it is beautiful or wise or even useful. It merely is.
And like a disease, I never seem to have control over the words floating in my mind. If they emerge from the darkness and onto the page, or the screen more recently, then I feel no power or control over them. Birthing words brings forth all the pains and uncontrollability of bearing a child. At least, with a baby one is thankful, but I have never known if I should rejoice or simply feel relief due to the much-needed exorcism of all that chaos finding a place to run off the cliff. I am grateful there’s a “cliff” from which to drop that rubbish.
And so, there is a part of me that is grateful for the consistency of writing every day. And yet, all the enchantment of a writer’s life fades when one realizes that putting thoughts to paper is work, slow and laborious and not glamorous at all. I am not coolly sipping coffee at the local cafe. I am instead fighting the cat who thinks she should help push keys on my laptop, and the boys are probably losing brain cells as I write this while they watch another blooper reel on YouTube. Nothing glamorous remains about writing. It is a job. I am grateful it is a job that I like most of the time, monotony and all.
Grateful for Loved Places & People
A certain amount of “me” goes into everything I write. It’s a bit excruciating, but I have this feeling that’s true for other writers as well. I can’t imagine not describing my life in what I put on the page. The places I live in and travel to take on a world of their own. The people I meet and share my life with weave in and out. As many have said in some version or another, “Woe be to the family of a writer.” There are issues, situations, and relationships I deem off-limits, and no doubt some folks would like to sign up for that off-limits list. Nonetheless, I am grateful for so many fascinating places and beguiling people in my life.
If not for family and friends, then recent frustrations, illnesses, and losses would have buried me. If not for my attempt to honor and encourage us all through writing, I would have no means of catharsis with which to work through any of it. So much is wrong right now. So many are missing from this Thanksgiving. So little happens that makes sense. All the same, family makes sense and so does writing. I am grateful for the abundance that remains.
Grateful in Lack & Abundance
The routine of writing and other habits in my life actually adds to my abundance. The predictability of habits develops a structure. That structure can then be added to, and that’s where the pizazz comes. Without the foundation I find in family, God, and even writing, I don’t have the strength for inspiration when it actually comes. Creativity needs a place to land else it becomes a formless blob. I am grateful I haven’t been reduced to a blob. Ewww.
And so the mundane causes me to notice what I did not before. The slow and the ordinary take on new meanings. Yesterday I drove to Stamford, a small town in a rural county. It was time to buy supplies for Thanksgiving and I set off to check off one of my small tasks, a seemingly tiresome chore I dread—the grocery store. I am grateful for chores I loathe which become something else entirely.
In spite of the expected drudgery, light and thanksgiving came for a visit. I drove with cattle and cotton fields on all sides. The November sunset didn’t burn the eyes like a late summer afternoon blaze. Instead, I basked in a moment to give thanks in prayer for all that remains and the hope of days ahead. I am grateful for the ordinary, the structure, and the stability given by God. Each day the sun rises and sets. Each day emotions give way to the tasks at hand. Each day a moment comes when I know how much I have because of how much I have lost. I am simply grateful.