Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our day-to-day lives (especially the stress of our routines) that it becomes nigh-impossible to slow down and appreciate the moments that not only shape our lives but show us the beauty of the world around us. I’m ever-so-slowly coming to realize how important it is to – even in the face of stress and pressure – take the opportunity to stop and check the amazing gifts that I have in my life. So, simple as this post might be, it’s the right topic at the right time for me. Below is a list of ten people/places/things that I’m grateful for right at this moment, at least as they pertain to my writing career. Please understand that even if you didn’t make this list, it has nothing to do with you – if I listed every one of my friends and their influence on me this list would grow exponentially. You all mean a lot to me. I’ve also left out critique groups because I’ve written about them recently and my gratitude toward them should be abundantly clear.
Oh, and first I want to give credit where credit is due: this list began with an overheard conversation at a Supermarket in Herndon, Virginia, so hey anonymous stranger sharing a list of gratitude with his girlfriend and/or wife.
The Internet. This is a broad topic and some of my other topics might be included here, but humor me. The Internet has changed how writers do their jobs, from the very beginning of the idea through research and on to publication. I might capture the spark of an idea in my email account or on Evernote and later pull that information out to paste into a document on Dropbox. I then take that idea to Wikipedia or Google and research any topics that don’t immediately come to mind. I use Google Maps to plot the course that my characters’ travels take and can zoom down to the street level so I more authentically understand that part of the world. As I write, I maintain the document on Dropbox so that it’s available at just about any location that has Internet access (and I can plan for when that’s not available as well). Once I’m finished, I use online-based tools to clean up the document and prep it for release. When that’s done I upload the files to my service of choice, and customers can then purchase it through that service. The changes that the Internet have brought to the average writer’s life cannot be overstated – and I am incredibly grateful for these changes.
Imagination. I admit it, I feel a little goofy listing this one, but screw it. An active imagination can be a double-edge sword, as it can quite easily ramp up an anxiety disorder, but I wouldn’t trade my sense of imagination for the world. It’s easily the trait that I value the most, both in myself and others. I think imagination and creativity are truly what set the human species apart and may ultimately play a part in whatever further evolution we see as a race. Not to mention that it just helps to create cool stories, characters, and environments.
Other writers. Couldn’t mention imagination without mentioning the writers who share their visions with the world. I likely wouldn’t even have this gig today if not for the Clive Barkers, Stephen Kings, and C.S. Friedmans of the world. I’m grateful for every word that they shared, and for every change that they wrought in my life.
Print on Demand. Of course, this is related to the Internet that I mentioned above, but I also feel that it’s a separate enough innovation that it warrants inclusion here. I love having the ability to create my own printed books (and I seem to be one of those authors who sell better in print) from copyright page to cover. I love that it’s now possible to create books that are on the same level of quality as major publishers and not have them take up precious resources and storage space until someone wants them. There are lots of reasons to like POD, and these are just a few.
Community. Writing is a lonely pursuit, and until very recently I felt very alone in pursuing it. The early years were especially rough, as I had absolutely no writing friends. Growing into the community and making writer friends both on- and off-line has made a huge difference in both my work and my attitude. I’m grateful for every moment of camaraderie every kind word, and every bit of knowledge shared. Writers (mostly) rock.
Random Word Generators. Some of my best ideas have come from plugging away at a random word generator and connecting the dots between wildly unrelated concepts. This is truly where technology and imagination intersect to bring forth original ideas, and I couldn’t be more grateful for these magic little boxes. What I wouldn’t have given for one in 1995.
Tablets/Smart Phones. Again, this goes back to the Internet. Often I’m walking around and a random snippet of dialogue or exposition occurs to me. The answer? Type it up and send it to Evernote. If I’m in a place where I can do it, act the scene out and record it, then upload it. I may also take a picture of a particularly inspirational scene or item and save it to Dropbox. The point is that it’s never been easier to capture the passing ephemera of a day and turn it into gold. I’m amazingly grateful to give up the notebook and gain the world.
Editors. Editors have seen a profound change in their world via the Internet, as well. True that fewer of them hold important ranks within New York publishing houses these days, but they also wield a certain power that can help transform a self-published writer’s work into something far greater. Quite simply, if you want to be successful, you need an editor for you work – which means far more work for editors, even if it appears to be less prestigious. Here’s to the editors, especially my current editor, Shelly Burnett.
Cover Artists. If editors can transform your work on the inside, cover artists can transform it on the outside. Books live or die on the talent and vision of a cover artist these days, and it’s never been more important to be able to source an artist that not only possesses those abilities but can work with you and communicate well. I’ve been extremely fortunate to find Ryan Bibby, whose art lives and breathes on my covers, posters, and other marketing materials. I salute you guys!
My Wife. All right, all right. Yes, it’s probably cheesy, schmaltzy, what-have-you to list her here, but as corny as it may be, it’s also true and unavoidable. I wouldn’t be here without her; not long before I met her I had given up on chasing the dream and decided to settle into a quiet career while pursuing other interests. I thought that I had lost it. Mary showed me otherwise, and helped me to believe in myself again. I absolutely had to find that within myself, but she supported that search and continues to support me in chasing this dream. I’m ever so grateful to have her in my life. Thanks, Mary!