On Gratitude

ET Winn, May 15, 2019

I’ve been reading “Writing As A Way Of Healing” by Louise DeSalvo and gleaning innumerable bits of good advice, reminders, and practical tips to guide a writer in their craft. I’m sure I’ll end up discussing this book again because it has been a wildly informative teacher to me, first as a therapeutic text recommended by my therapist and then as a book that I dove into to help my writing and finally as a guide for grounded living as a writer.

Right now, I’m diving into my gratitude. DeSalvo makes a case for reading as both a tool to help us write and also as a means to connect with other humans. She argues that reading allows us to form deep connections in our community, to strengthen friendships, and to bring us into contact with those we admire. She advises us to practice gratitude in as many ways as we can possibly think of. One way she suggests felt new and especially important to me: to thank our favorite authors.

I felt drawn to this way of practicing gratitude because I so often feel isolated from a writing community that is present in my life. As I prepare to eventually attend graduate school, I work in a flower shop. I find time to journal and practice gratitude mindfully, but my waking hours aren’t built around writing, reading, or revising. This makes the time I have with my favorite works all the more special. Spending time with Sharon Olds might mean, very literally, sacrificing time I would be writing my own poetry.

To me, this sacrifice enriches my own writing and also reminds me to be grateful for the time I make for myself to visit these authors and their handiwork. And so, after reading DeSalvo’s advice, I composed a short tweet and sent it into the universe, very simply thanking two writers (Ada Limón and Maggie Smith) whose work has had a profound influence on my writing and my very self. I felt centered, calm, and appreciative. I had taken some very good advice and felt satisfied in my doing so.

Never expecting any reply, you can imagine my swell of thankfulness and delight when both authors responded to my simple missive. DeSalvo’s assertion that gratitude not only brings us into contact with our best writing and our best selves but also with others was proven true in such a timely and important way for me. Feeling that responsiveness from people whose work has deeply moved me. I want to urge everyone who wants to be a writer to thank those who inspire you. Not only are they probably sacrificing time and energy to consume and create work that moves others, they are also most likely practicing gratitude in their own ways. Breaking down walls of separation and competition between writers serves us all, and I feel lucky to have taken such good advice and also to have gotten such kind responses.

The practicing of gratitude takes many forms: journaling, prayer, verbal affirmation. Making that gratitude personal taps into what drives us all to write: desire to connect with those around us in ways that build up the human spirit and keeps us all connected to our roots and deepest yearnings. Thank you for reading this piece, thank you for joining us at roam, and most of all, thank you for writing.

On Daydreaming and Staying Hungry

Michelle Sikorski

I’ve decided to give up on my dreams.

Well, my daydreams.

I can’t manage a car ride alone without acting out my half of some imagined conversation. We’ve all been there. You defend your side of an argument you’re never going to have, or reconstruct witty dialogue you wish you’d summoned while talking to that cute barista.

Or maybe you do what I do: Imagine you’re being interviewed on some fabulous talk show. For me, it’s either Ellen or Jimmy Fallon. We’re old pals at this point. Ellen always hypes up whatever work I’ve made it famous for, and Jimmy is likely to laugh hysterically at even my most half-baked jokes. I come off enormously likable whether I’m airing at day or night. The audience loves me. My twitter following goes wild for weeks after the interview goes live.

And then I get out of my car and walk into the dentist office feeling satisfied and pleased and not remotely inspired.

As fun as it is to picture myself chatting with a talk show host or accepting my Prestigious Award or whatever, I’ve realized it leaves me feeling like I’ve done something. I think I’ve been spending this time rewarding myself for the mere act of wanting to succeed. I don’t need to reward that. I need to stoke it.

So I’m done imagining my fame. I’m trading masturbatory daydreams for the entirely unsatisfying reality that there’s so much work to do.

Daydreams are junk food. Don’t fill up on them. You need to stay hungry.

Explorer’s Notes: Tips for Roaming is our weekly blog where we share our visions as editors, as writers, and as humans. It’s our field guide to navigating the world. Join us!

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If two roads diverged in a yellow wood, ideally, you’d be traveling in pairs. Someone could take one, someone the other, and you could meet back and report what each road was like. Or maybe you’re wandering through the woods in groups of three, or seven, or twelve. Maybe someone takes one road; someone crashes through the underbrush; someone climbs a tree; someone sits quietly, staring down the road less traveled and listening closely for the distant wanderer step, step, stepping toward them.

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