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.