Wednesday
Nov242010

Thankful (Thanksgiving) Thursday

Dear Thanksgiving,

Thank you for not bowing to commercialization. You offer no songs, mascots, or greeting cards (though Hallmark keeps trying). I like your simplicity.

As holiday cheer cranks to a frenetic pace, you remind me to reflect. Thank you for giving me the gift of gratitude.

With appreciation on this very Thankful Thursday,

Drew

 

 

Saturday
Nov202010

Thankful Thursday: Delayed

A funny thing happened on the way to gratitude this week.

As Thankful Thursday approached, I gathered many things to share (favorite bookstores, bodies of water, author quotes, words) and mentally distilled and arranged my appreciation in a hierarchy that would reveal gratitude, thoughtfulness and, if I was lucky (and honest about my desire to impress), a touch of creativity.

My enthusiasm, however, was doused when a taken-for-granted internet connection was cut. No email. No Facebook. No blogs. No interaction with anyone outside of talking distance.

I was bereft -- for about one minute. And then I was awash in gratitude. Really.

I shut the computer off, put my shoes on, and walked. And walked. And thought. And watched. Colors were vivid, sounds crystal. And the inner voice, the one that cajoles me to be more clever, more insightful, more productive, more of everything I am not, hushed.

If this sounds dramatic, it is. Sometimes the world is full of too many words. I need to pare down. Talk less. Go quiet. Even -- shudder -- stop writing.

Yes, three days later I turned the computer back on, and was again connected to the larger world. But I know now that I can turn away again at will. On this Thankful Thursday on Saturday, I am grateful for the contemplative silence that was always within my reach but that I forgot I had the ability to access, control, invite and enjoy.

 

Sunday
Nov142010

For the love of language 

I can be a bit peevish (a Thankful Thursday word) about grammar.

Your and you're.

It's and its.

Their and they're.

And don't get me started on apostrophes.  Admittedly, I sometimes take an annoying self-righteous tone. Thank goodness Stephen Fry has — in creative typography — simultaneously spoken for me, and put me in my place.



Thursday
Nov112010

Thankful Thursday: Feel Good List

My pet lizard died, said the young girl, I can't write.

The others nodded and the mood turned dour. Happy Hour for Young Readers & Writers was not at all happy.

Okay, I said, easing my grip on the prescribed assignment. Let's make a Feel Good List!

They picked at their nails, sunk in their seats. They sat resistant until I wrote the one thing that every 10 year-old loves: pie.

From there, the list grew quickly:

burping
grandma's house
the phrase "holy smokes"
lasagna (both for its taste and the funny spelling)
books
poems
blue
gladiolas
people who listen

Pens raced across journal pages and joy bounced around the table. In just a few minutes, we had 50 things and much happiness.

This morning, as I contemplated Thankful Thursday, I thought of the youngsters and our ability to shift — with appreciation — the mood in the room and in our hearts. Instead of focusing on what we had lost (the lizard, for example) we looked for what we had. Such a simple shift yields profound results.

A moment ago a friend called. Where's Thankful Thursday? she asked. I look for it every week. I glowed with gratitude. Her inquiry kicks off today's Thankful Thursday List of Things That Make Me Feel Good:

A friend who is a fan

greek yogurt with honey and berries

the low angle of light in November

tapioca

cashmere

the earrings I bought for $1.50, purchased in a bright, loud mall

the fact that malls exist (and that, because I live in a small, remote place, when I do go to a mall everything seems so bright and shiny and sorta wonderful, for about an hour, before I become overwhelmed and retreat to the serenity of my quiet, small town life)

bubble baths

sunshine

my sister

pens that glide

beaches

the song Here Comes the Sun

lavender

magnolia trees

mittens

summer

the letter I received this week, handwritten and sincere

manners

the word peevish

warm, soft sheets

pie - including, but not limited to, peach, apple, pecan

Today is Thankful Thursday, a weekly pause to appreciate people, places and things. What are you thankful for today?

Continue the good vibe. Visit these grateful people:

Molly Spencer

Kelli Russell Agodon

 

Monday
Nov082010

Platitudes & Poems

Don't give me platitudes.

You gotta play to win.

The real failure is the one who doesn't try.

Blah blah blah

As a writer, I like to see my words out in the world. Because the established form of credibility is publication in literary journals, my routine goes like this:

1. Write poems.

2. Submit poems to journals (and there are thousands, of varying quality and prestige).

3. Wait for response from journal editors (days, weeks, months).

The competition is demoralizing. A single journal can receive hundreds of poems, for instance, with space to print just a handful (and most journals are published one to four times a year). The goal is to earn placement in the top tier journals (a ranking built on shifting sand) but the reality is that poetry, as with other art forms, is subjective. The entire process has its flaws and produces in me a raucous internal monologue:

Who reads these journals, anyway?

What is my desired audience? If it is people who do not yet know or appreciate poetry, why am I courting the converted?

Am I looking for the stamp of approval? If so, how do I justify a stamp saturated with subjectivity?

Why isn't the act of writing enough? Must I be published to feel joy or value?

In whatever way I answer these questions, the end result is the same: Rejection stings. A bit of kindness is a balm, which is why I am (almost) pleased with my latest rejection: 

This is a form letter—necessary with a tiny staff and all these submissions—but what I’m about to say is sincere . . .  We rely on your persistence and generosity.  We really do hope you’ll keep sending new work as it’s ready.

Also, it should go without saying that our decision to return this submission doesn’t mean much.  We’re just fans of poetry ourselves, and all tastes are subjective.

Which reminds me of the one platitude — in poem form, naturally — I can swallow:

'Tis a lesson you should heed,
Try, try again.
If at first you don't succeed,
Try, try again.

- Thomas H. Palmer, Teacher's Manual (1840)