Who will you thank?
We’re talking about teamwork at the BRP this month, and I’m sure a few obvious team members come to mind: your agent, your publisher, the husband who put up with you, the best friend who always believed in you, the English teacher who opened your eyes to literature, the group editing blog where all your questions were answered (woot!—thanks back at ya).
That should cover it, right? Because writing is for introverts. We mostly work alone.
I’d like to dispel that myth. Yes, we writers must tolerate stretches of time spent by ourselves—that's what it takes to apply our craft. But whether we write fiction or nonfiction, we pull our material from dramas played out on life's stage. Everyone we’ve ever met is material.
Thank that bully that knocked you down during your first school recess, and stole your lunch money while pretending to help you up. So cliché, you thought, as you dabbed at your knee with a tissue. But you learned to carry what little money you had in an inside pocket (useful tip for the working writer) and learned about subterfuge as a plot twist. And conflict! What a story you told when you got home.
Thank your sister for telling that boy you liked in junior high that you had bought a dress just in case he asked you to go to the dance with him. You learned the heart-breaking consequences of betrayal.
Thank your uncle for keeping his novel writing habit a secret. Now that you’ve discovered he hung up his ambitions after only a dozen rejections, you feel less alone (and much more successful).
Thank your aunt for letting you keep a seashell collection at her beach house. She didn’t have room for it any more than your mother did, but she understood the importance of encouraging your passions.
Thank the city planners for their faulty lighting schemes and the people who rummage around in the shadows for teaching you twenty different ways of saying “the hair on the back of her neck prickled.”
Thank the perpetrator for the one time the previous situation didn’t end well, for you have learned what it is like to face your demons and fight your way back in a character arc that will never lose its tension.
Thank all the people to whom you are so obliged that you can only find forty minutes per day to write. It’s better than having no people, endless time, and nothing to write about.
Thank your mother or your first husband—whoever it was—for laughing at you when you said you wanted to become a writer. You’ve forged in your own bones the kind of steely resolve that motivates both characters and entire writing careers.
You get the picture: because we write about life, our writing team is as big as the world of people we’ve ever met and those we can ever imagine.
Today I ask you to think outside the box. As you unfold your acceptance speech, what oddball source of inspiration would you like to thank here today?
Kathryn Craft is a developmental editor at Writing-Partner.com, an independent manuscript evaluation and line editing service. Formerly a dance critic and arts journalist, she now writes women's fiction and memoir. The first chapter of her memoir, Standoff at Ronnie's Place, modified as a stand-alone essay, has been published online by Mason's Road, the online journal of Fairfield University's MFA program. She blogs about Healing through Writing.