Around Thanksgiving time, we’re often encouraged to, obviously, give thanks for our blessings. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I’m lazy about listing what I’m thankful for. I don’t stop to think deeply about the things I, rather shamefully, take for granted: people who have changed my life, experiences and trials that have shaped me for the better, gifts and luxuries I did nothing to deserve.
I want to change that, and I want to do it by compartmentalizing my life a bit. Instead of taking a macro view of my life and glazing over when I think about gratitude, I want to divide my life into different sections, like Work, Recreation, Marriage, Friendships, etc. and then enumerate the blessings within each one.
Today, I’m going to do it for one of the favorite areas of my life: Writing! (Which, I guess is technically “Work,” but I just can’t bring myself to call it that – it’s too much fun!) I hope you’ll be able to relate to a few of these, as well as be encouraged to make a list or two yourself!
1. The ABCs!
Prior to the alphabet’s invention, early writing systems had been based on hieroglyphics made by pressing a stylus into soft clay. Around 1850 B.C., a Semitic-speaking group of people adapted a subset of Egyptian hieroglyphics to represent the sounds of their language. This Proto-Sinaitic script is often considered the first alphabetic writing system, where unique symbols represented single consonants. This was disseminated by maritime merchants of Phoenicia who sailed around Lebanon, Israel, and Syria.
By the 8th century B.C., the Phoenician alphabet had made its way to Greece. There, it was refined and enhanced even further. The primary innovation of this time was the use of letters to represent vowels. Many scholars credit this invention as the beginning of the “true” alphabet.
Over time, the Greek alphabet gave rise to several other alphabets, including the precursor to Russian known as Cyrillic, and Latin, which spread like wildfire across Europe.
Without the alphabet, you wouldn’t be reading this, and I wouldn’t have written it to begin with! There would be no libraries, no cozy reading nooks, no old-book smell, no blogs, Kindles, or magazines…and no social media! So let’s all take a moment to give thanks for the ABCs, shall we?
2. The Printing Press
In the mid-fifteenth century, a former stonecutter and goldsmith by the name of Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, and began his famous Bible project in 1452. Two-hundred Bibles were printed and sold three years later at the Frankfurt Book Fair in Germany and cost the equivalent of three years’ pay for the average clerk.
Despite Gutenberg’s efforts to keep his achievement under wraps, word of the press spread rapidly. Before 1500, an estimated 2,500 European cities had acquired presses. Thanks to this remarkable feat, the cost of books decreased, and hunger for knowledge increased. It’s been compared to the “information revolution” that the Internet ushered in in our era.
Printing also stimulated the literacy of lay people and provided an unparalleled basis for scholarship and private study.
3. Social Media
I remember the early days of Facebook, around the time the dinosaur population was beginning to dwindle. The girls in my dorm were chatting giddily about what some guy had written on one of their “walls” and debating whether they should “poke” him. I wasn’t an early adopter to this social media phenomenon – it sounded creepy and a little like stalking. But, I could only resist for so long and eventually hopped on the bandwagon.
I joined Twitter about four years later, followed by Instagram, Pinterest, and finally Snapchat (what was life before Snapchat filters??). Social-media use often gets a bad rap for being a time suck, a giant distraction, and a deplorable waste of time. And, in all fairness, it very well can be all of those things. In some cases, it can even promote depression if we compare ourselves to the picture-perfect images displayed online.
But, as with most things in life, balance is key to social media: too much, and you get nothing done and might even cry; too little, and you miss out on a wonderful community with likeminded people as well as valuable connections and opportunities.
I for one am incredibly thankful for the inspiration, tips, support and encouragement I receive from social media every day and consider it a privilege to be able to give back through the posts, tweets, and snaps I produce as well!
The Internet was made available for public use in 1991 A.D. That means that for thousands of years writers didn’t have access to what I consider to be writing essentials, things like iPhones, laptops, coffee makers, and last but not least, Google!
I can’t tell you how many times a day I have to Google something utterly and completely random yet vital to making a scene believable, at least in my Type A opinion. I also regularly reference thesaurus.com and dictionary.com because, let’s face it, looking up words in physical books takes too darn long!
I can’t imagine writing a book without the research tools the Internet offers. Either writers back in the day were a thousand times smarter than we are or spent their days holed up in libraries, because somehow, they managed to pen masterpieces without so much as a single Wikipedia page or smartphone app to help them.
Technology has also paved the way for indie authors to bypass the query trenches and rejection-delivering publishing houses and publish their work themselves! Platforms like Kindle, Nook, CreateSpace, and Draft2Digital place publishing power in authors’ hands!
Mozart, Debussy, Philip Glass, Hans Zimmer, Yo-Yo Ma… These composers and so many more break away my brain’s cobwebs and ready it for writing.
Hans Christian Andersen once (upon a time…) said, “Where words fail, music speaks.”
Whenever I feel like I’ve hit a wall and ideas and words are no longer flowing, the power of music is often the only implement needed to reopen my creative channels. Great songs, even instrumental ones, tell stories of their own that are filled with truth and inspiration that we can borrow for our own works of art.
One of the beauties of music is that each one of us interprets the lyrics and melodies a bit differently, extracting different messages and experiencing different emotions that we can then interpret for our readers or explore through our characters.
I’ll be back next week with five more things we writers can be thankful for! I hope you have an absolutely wonderful Thanksgiving with your loved ones!