It is hard to write about writing, and do it well. Only a few people have done it for me – Stephen King and Ann LaMott, of course, and John McPhee (I would read anything he wrote, honestly). My writing shelf also includes The War of Art, by Pressfield. William Zissner is still on that shelf, but I find him a little boring and he smells strongly of “Old White Guy”. His books won’t survive my next purge.
But probably my favorite is Making a Literary Life: Advice for Writers and Other Dreamers, by Carolyn See. Ostensibly it is about writing, but really it is about how to be in the world as a creative person, and how to make your exterior life reflect your interior life.
She has several rules, but the one easiest to ignore is to write notes of gratitude to someone you admire. I ignore it constantly, but wish I didn’t.
Most of the work we do in the world is thankless work. You can pay the credit card bill on time for years and nobody says a thing, but let it be late for a few days, and you get a nasty letter. We live in a world designed to catch us doing things wrong.
Writing thank you notes to people who have impacted your work is about thanking people for doing things right.
I have mentioned the incalculable debt I owe Robert B. Parker for saving my life. I began to write him a thank you letter when I was in my early thirties. It sat on my harddrive. I would take it out and futz around with it for a while, edit this line, add that one.
It never got sent, and one day I woke up and Facebook told me he died. So that one never got sent. I wish I hadn’t fussed so much over it. I wish I had just sent him a note that said,
Thank you so much for sharing your gifts with us. The world you created, populated with people like Spenser and Hawk and Susan and all the rest, made the world the rest of us live in a better one.
It isn’t the best note. I don’t get to tell my story, I don’t share everything I ever thought. But at least it would be out there, and he would know his work mattered to a poor kid from Mississippi.
It’s too late to send that note. But there are lots of people I admire, who have impacted my life, who have shared their gifts with us that I haven’t thanked. That’s probably true for you, too.
I don’t want to miss out again.