Things I’m Thankful for


There was a great late 70s New Wave band called Ian Dury and the Blockheads with one of the least likely front men in the history of pop music (a wry art student crippled by childhood polio) who had this wonderfully random song called “Reasons to be Cheerful (part 3).” It was a list of all the good things in life (everything from porridge oats to Buddy Holly, and Steve Biko to the great British “ploughman’s” lunch) and, as the “part 3” bit of the title suggested, merely a sample of an infinite list. Each Thanksgiving since transplanting to the States, I find myself composing new stanzas for Dury’s feel-good anthem, and this year I’d like to add a special shout-out to all at Magical Words.

The How To book we’ve been finalizing these last few weeks has given particular shape to my thoughts because between the covers of the book I see how ideas I thought were soliloquy have become dialogue, and it’s this that I’m most grateful for in MW. We say it a lot, but it bears the repetition. Writing is lonely or, at very least, solitary. That is as it should be, and I’d be suspicious of anyone who expected to become a novelist without experiencing the joys and horrors which come with that sense of being the only person on a very small island, alone with your thoughts and a means to write them down. But MW demonstrates that being a writer does not mean being a hermit, even if the creative process is an essentially isolating one, and that’s where a sense of community can really be a lifeline.

It has been just over a year since I became a regular contributor to the site at the invitation of the core group, David, Misty and Faith, after a couple of guest posts dating back another six months or so. That invitation brought me friends (and I’m including Stuart and Ed) and a sense of being part of a writerly community which I’ve simply never had before. I don’t need to point out that for a lot of writers the last few years have been rough. Excruciating, in fact. The life of the novelist which is always full of ups and downs seems lately to have been mainly downs with the occasional serious drop, and some truly scrotum-tightening plummets into the bottomless pit. These are tough journeys to make alone and friendless, almost impossible to survive without people who feel your pain because they know it, share it and have lived through it. I’m in a good place right now, personally and professionally, but I won’t deny there have been some pretty dark patches lately, and sailing through them to where I am today was partly facilitated by the Magical Words group, whether they know it or not. For this relief, much thanks.

Speaking as a reader of the MW blogs as well as a writer, I’d like to add a special note of generosity on behalf of all who have learned from the wisdom and experience of the other posters. It’s easy to forget that any benefits these guys get from contributing to the site with such diligence are indirect at best. No one gets paid for doing this, and for busy writers to contribute so much time (not just on their posts but through the constant dialogue surrounding other people’s) requires a real desire to help others at the expense of one’s own productivity. I’m not trying to paint these guys as constantly rescuing orphans from burning buildings, but the core group (David, Faith and Misty) have been doing this for a long time, and it’s good that from time to time we take a moment to recognize their selflessness and willingness to help.

So. As someone who constantly learns from what you say, thanks guys.

I called MW a writerly community, and so it is. That means that my thanks go out not just to my fellow bloggers but to all who read and respond, or who simply read without following up with hate mail. Writers are necessarily fragile beings. We live in a world of ideas and must be sensitive to how others respond to our work. It is easy to get bruised along the way. So. Thanks for taking me—and indeed us—seriously, for not tearing down every comment we make, every bit of advice we offer which you might have heard before, every tale of personal experience we float for scrutiny. Places like MW are delicate things, like paper balloons with candles that lift them gently into the air. Such things are easy to swat down, to tear, to burn. I’m thankful that those who frequent this site take what is offered here gratefully, supportively, and politely, even if they disagree, and that everyone who visits here constantly reaffirms a shared sense of purpose. We need each other, as readers and writers always do, and for this generous and mutual symbiosis, I am most thankful.

Happy holidays, all.


19 comments to Things I’m Thankful for

  • Couldn’t have said it any better. Thank you all — MW writers and readers — for letting me be a part of this wonderful place. And an extra thank you to AJ for putting words to my feelings about MW. Happy Holidays! 🙂

  • Deb S

    Yes. Thank you, MW bloggers, for your time, your wisdom, and your kindess! Much appreciated. May your holidays be filled with happiness…and yummy food.

  • AJ – what a great personal way to honor the holiday! I think sometimes we get so bogged down in the “traditions” that it takes transplants like yourself to remind us what we’re actually celebrating.

    MW is one of the few places I’ve found truly comfortable as an unpublished fantasy writer. You all here are so professional and considerate and truly interested in what everyone has to contribute. I’m thankful this site exists.:)

  • Stuart,
    thanks, brother. You and I are in the nice position of enjoying the benefits of other people’s work in establishing the site! Like you. I’m glad to be part of it. Cheers.

    Thank you Deb and ek. I’m delighted that you find the site helpful and that it makes you feel comfortable. That’s what we’re going for. Best for the holidays.

  • This is so very true, AJ. I am very grateful for this website, and all that it has to offer. Every day I learn something useful here. You all put your energies into a very good cause, and because of it you’ve created that community. Thank you.

  • Thanks Moira. As I said to Stuart, the credit really belongs to D, F and M, though I’m happy to ride their coat tails 🙂

  • Well, I hope you don’t mind, but I recommended you all as “authors I would like to see” on the feedback form of the writing conference I attend.

  • Thank you AJ for the thoughtful post. I too am grateful for this website. The support, and cheerful guidance and dialogue have really helped me the past couple of years that I’ve been following the site. And like Moira, I feel like I learn something every day.

    Thank you to all who post and respond to the posts!

  • Thanks Moira. It’s always lovely to be invited to a convention/conference where we can talk face to face. Thanks for the recommendation.

    Thanks Alistair. Always nice to be appreciated 🙂

  • (lump in throat)
    Thank you, AJ. This community is one of the best things that ever happened to me. I feel gifted every time I log on, every time I see a comment from one of our readers or writers, every time I read a post that lets me know I am not alone in this professional endeavor and solitary lifestyle. I especially love having made friends here. Thank you for saying what is in my heart so much better than I would have.

  • *hugs AJ* You made me weepy!

  • F and M. You are more than welcome. It just seemed a good time to say it. 🙂

    Oh, and “generosity” (para 4 line 2) should be “gratitude.” Sorry.

  • I really do appreciate all the folks on this site. The stuff you all have posted here has been incredibly valuable. Thanks to all of you. Also, thanks for the in-person kindness that all of you have shown. You all have been gracious and kind (things you don’t have to be) every time I’ve seen you at Cons, etc. The time you’ve taken really does make a difference to writers like me. I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned from your talks and your posts and your comments!

  • Unicorn

    This blog has helped me so much even in the barely six months that I’ve been reading it. The words written here are truly magical.
    Thanks all! Happy Thanksgiving!

  • Late to the dance, as always. Post-holiday household chores… A.J., I’m profoundly grateful for your kind words here, and for your contributions — Stuart’s and Ed’s as well — to this site. When Faith, Misty, and I found ourselves without Catie and needing to bring in new people, we were deeply conscious of the good chemistry we already had. We didn’t want to lose that. We felt very strongly that you and Stuart would blend well with us and with our readers. Little did we know that you would actually do far more than that. The two of you have imbued the site with your personalities, and thus made it into something that is both new and a continuation of what it was. The best of both worlds as far as I’m concerned. Being able to work with people I like is wonderful; being able to work with people I respect is a privilege. Being able to do both at once — that’s more than I can ask for. My thanks to all of you.

  • Pea, thanks. It helps that the people who want to talk to us at cons are always nice, interested/interesting themselves!

    Unicorn, that’s what we’re here for. Glad it helps.

    that’s really kind of you and beautifully phrased (as ever). I’m sure Stuart will agree that we’re delighted to be here. Too bad we can’t toast the year with a dram of something peaty. Cheers.

  • Sarah

    *Sniff!* This is why I love this site! May I add one more thanks for how practical you all are, both the MW pros and my fellow Betas? We have real laughs and real discussions of theoretical issues, but in the end this site is about the craft. You guys, AJ; Misty; Stuart; Faith, David; Lucienne; Ed; Mindy, CE and Diana, always bring us back to the basic question “How can I write better?” I’ve learned so much from all of you. I spent the weekend at LosCon having a blast, but more than once I thought “If this were the MW writers on the panel we’d be learning more about actual craft.” You guys are the most analytical writing teachers I’ve ever met and I’m incredibly grateful.

  • Thanks so much, Sarah. That’s a very sweet thing to say and it’s much appreciated.

  • Thanks A.J. and ALL the MW bloggers. I’ve both learned from and enjoyed reading Magical Words. It’s been fun getting to know the style and some measure of the personality of the regulars who post here. Some of you I’ve even taken to following on Twitter and Facebook. 🙂 Connecting with other writers here from time to time makes the sometimes isolating world of “being a writer” feel a bit little less lonely. Thanks again!