10 Things Writers Have to be Grateful For

Filed in The Writing Life by on November 20, 2017 4 Comments • views: 910

Writers have a lot to complain out.

We’re overworked and underpaid, and we often toil for years with little to no encouragement from the outside world.

We all know what’s tough about this gig, but at this time of the year, it helps to remind ourselves what we love about writing. Sometimes we can get so wrapped up in our challenges that we can forget why we decided to go on this journey in the first place.

So what do we have to be grateful for? I’ve got ten things below. I’d love to hear what yours are in the comments!

1. We work a lot of hours…but we get to choose which ones.

Whether you’re a full-time writer or not, you get to choose when you’re going to write. In some ways, that can be a challenge, as you have no supervisor making sure you show up on time. Many writers struggle to fit their writing time in for this reason. (For help on time management, see Overwhelmed Writer Rescue.)

This is a really great benefit, though. There are so many things in this world that we have to do at someone else’s appointed time. I love that writing is about my time and my space, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been grateful I didn’t have to get up at the crack of dawn to head into an office!

2. We spend a lot less on wardrobe.

I used to work for a corporation, and there’s no doubt that when you’re working with others in a professional atmosphere every day, you have to have the right clothes to wear. And clothes are expensive.

Writers can do their thing in sweats and T-shirts, saving the nicer clothes for signings, presentations, and meetings. (Though dressing up now and then has benefits—read more about that here.)

Ever since I went freelance, I’ve spent a ton less on clothes. Now shopping is more of a fun experience instead of a necessary work-related task. I like it better that way.

3. We have true flexibility.

Full-time writers have true flexibility when it comes to when and where they work. I’ve already talked about flexible hours, but location is flexible, too.

Though it’s not as open as some might think—cost of living varies from place to place, and how much you earn depends on how many hours you can work per day, and how much you’re making for those hours—it’s still a lot more open than it is with most professions.

Usually a job requires you to accommodate the company when it comes to where you’re located. As a writer, you can go wherever you can make it work, financially and personally.

You can also leave to be with family at critical times, though it can be a double-edged sword since freelance writers don’t have paid vacation days. But it’s comforting to know that if there’s an emergency, I don’t have to ask anyone’s permission to leave.

4. We can read as part of our “research and development.”

Most writers are voracious readers, and as writers, we get to indulge in this habit without guilt.

We’re researching, studying, seeing how it’s done. We’re learning about genre, characterization, setting, plot, pacing. When others say we’re spending too much time with our noses in books, we can explain—it’s part of the job.

And it is!

5. We get to explore the big questions.

I don’t know about you, but ever since I was a kid, I was interested in where we, as humans came from, and where we were going. I was constantly asking questions that no one could answer.

Fiction provides me a satisfying way to explore those questions. There will probably always be parts of our experience that are beyond our understanding (“what really happens after we die?”), but it helps to be able to explore those questions in a story in which the characters can go beyond the boundaries of where we can go in our everyday lives.

6. We get to create things that didn’t exist before.

Every creator—musician artist, writer—gets to do this, but that doesn’t diminish how cool it is. Any writer who has held her own book in her hands, or seen her story in a journal, or her poem in a magazine, feels the thrill.

It’s partly because we can’t really believe that this thing that lived in our heads at one time is now a physical, tangible product in the world. But it’s more than that, because once a story is out there, it takes on a life of it’s own. We look at it and wonder, “How did I do that?”

The miracle of creation is a kick, and it never gets old.

7. We get to work with the muse.

Not every writer feels this way, but many of us do—that something outside of ourselves is working with us during the creative process.

When we leave this world and go into the one our characters populate, it’s a sort of out-of-body experience at times, where the ideas for what comes next seem to erupt from the ether and float into our brains.

Some call it getting into the flow, that place where we feel like we’re almost in another dimension, our made-up worlds gaining clarity around us, the people talking and moving just as realistically as any in the “real” world.

Many of us really like that space. It’s what keeps us going back to the page.

8. We get to pursue projects that fascinate us.

I know of few other professions in which you can have an idea occur to you, become fascinated with that idea, and decide to pursue it to your heart’s content.

You can read something in the newspaper or on the Internet, talk to someone on the subway, go see a movie, whatever, and an idea hits you: “What if…?” As a writer, you can take that idea and run in whatever direction you want to go—short story, novel, poem, screenplay, or even just a simple blog post.

Most people that have such thoughts let them go right on by, as they have too many other things in their lives going on that demand their attention. As writers, it’s our job to pursue these fascinations. How lucky are we?

9. We can continue to grow until we die.

There are a lot of things that you can do only for a short time. I played piano for a ballet teacher, once, who talked with longing about her dancing days, before a knee injury took her out of the game in New York. She turned her talents to teaching, and she enjoyed it, but her dancing days were gone, and there was something sad about that.

As writers, our writing days will never be gone unless we decide they should be. Writing is something we can continue to work on our entire lives. Even if we get to the point that we can’t type as well as we used to, there’s speech recognition software and a number of other technologies and techniques we can use to translate our thoughts to the page.

We don’t have en expiration date, and thank heavens. I know I need all the time I can get to keep improving!

10. We get to do something that helps us feel more like ourselves.

I listened to one of my heroes, Andre Dubus III (House of Sand and Fog, Garden of Last Days), talk at a writer’s conference one time, and he spoke about how the first time he sat down and wrote, he felt more like himself than he ever had up to that point.

I had never thought about it like that until I heard him speak, but in his words I recognized the truth. Writing has always been a safe place for me, a place where I could go and just be myself, without any outside expectations. To have that authentic version of myself validated in the books I’ve had published has helped me gradually develop my own voice, which is really more about embracing more completely the inner self and allowing it to shine.

I’ve talked to a lot of people who are trapped going through life like fish out of water, still looking for one thing that will make them feel most like themselves. We writers aren’t searching anymore. There’s a cherished peace in that.

What are you grateful for as a writer?

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Comments (4)

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  1. Donna Cook says:

    This is a fantastic list and made me smile the whole way through. Thank you, as always, for uplifting us. 🙂

  2. I spent a lot of years in the corporate world before retirement, so every minute of every day I get to choose writing over a real-world job is a blessing. I’m also grateful for the freedom to write or not write….I know my crochet hook and yarn are on standby if I decide to retire from this writing life. 😀

  3. Anna says:

    Today I am especially grateful that a poem I submitted at the end of October was just accepted for publication: blind juried in a respectable venue. Less than three weeks — a record time, surely, and not likely to be matched again. Not only that, but I am grateful that of all my poems it is the one I am most pleased to have out in the world.

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