On Being Grateful

Edith here, perched in my second floor office watching the sun come up, somewhere north of Boston.

Yes, I know everyone and her fourth-cousin-once-removed is going to write about gratitude and thankfulness this week. I, too, am feeling exceeding grateful, but some of the reasons are a bit quirky. I’m going to try to explain as only a language geek can.AmericanHeritage

The root of the words grateful and gratitude is the Latin grātus: “pleasing, favorable.” According to my favorite (and well-worn) American Heritage Dictionary, the Indo-European root for grātus is gwere: “to praise aloud.” Which makes gratitude directly related to the words agreeable, congratulate, ingrate, and ingratiate. It’s also related via Celtic to bard: “he [sic] who praises.”

MommyDaddyYoungvert2Since I left my day job to write fiction full time two and a half years ago, money has been tighter than when I earned a plush salary writing technical manuals in high tech companies. But that’s okay – I know how to live on a shoestring. So the first people whose praises I want to sing are my late parents. Daddy was a high school teacher and our mom stayed home with us four kids until we were in high school ourselves. We had enough, but life was not luxurious. And I had a very happy childhood. I’m grateful I know how to scale back and live simply (I’m also grateful for being a Quaker, a faith which also stresses living with simplicity).

Many writers have a spouse or partner who is their first reader, who provides a valuable sounding board and helpful comments. Mine? IMG_2281Doesn’t even read fiction. Has no idea what I’m doing, really. He’s a dear, and brilliant in many areas. Commenting on fiction is not one of them. So I could be upset by that and wish for something different. Instead I find it agreeable to be left alone to type away on my books. Hugh is glad I’m happy (and that I’m starting to bring in a bit more cash) and that’s enough.

I  hope I don’t sound like an ingrate when I say I’m grateful the muse continues to be with FirstDraftDoneme. Friday I finished the first draft of my eleventh novel. I’d hoped to have it done by the day before Thanksgiving. Instead the last ten thousand words just poured out. Plot problems resolved themselves. Suspense, tenderness, even killing in self-defense – it almost wrote itself. I’m not sure if this happens because I’m getting better at it from experience or if I’m just channeling some creative spirit out there. I know I would not be able to write three books a year if this didn’t keep happening, and I’m way grateful for that.

We Wickeds talk a lot about appreciating each other – because it’s so true – so I’m not going to go on too long. But singing the praises of my closest author pals and congratulating them on their many successes is one of my favorite things to do. So I guess that makes us all bards.

What about you? Anything negative in your life that is really a blessing? Whose praises would you like to sing? Also – Happy Thanksgiving a few days early to all! We’re all grateful for having readers come to our cozy blog.

25 Thoughts

  1. Wonderful post, Edith! I have more things to be thankful for than I could list here. One “negative” that became a blessing for me concerns my daughter. She will not be joining us this year for dinner which made me sad, but then she started calling every day to ask for all my recipes. It seems she wants her dinner to be like the ones we always had at home. This year, though she will be missed, I take comfort in knowing she has such warm memories of our holiday she wants to recreate them.

  2. Lovely post, Edith. I’m grateful for so much. One negative thing I’m grateful for is losing my job back in 2008 (at the time I wasn’t though!). It gave me the opportunity to pursue writing full time. I’m especially grateful for a husband who works hard and pays the bills. And he doesn’t read fiction, either–although in his defense he did read the final book, lol.

    1. Joyce, I also lost a job in 2008, which is when I picked up writing a novel again after fifteen years! Really a blessing – and the next job I got was only four days a week – perfect.

  3. My husband reads all day–just not anything I write!
    I learned about living modestly when we unexpectedly had twins and I unexpectedly halted my career to do the stay-at-home-mom thing. It was more of a forced decision than a choice, but it’s served me well in the long run.
    Grateful? I’m thankful every morning that I wake up with a task and a purpose, even if it is simply starting a writing thread. We all need a reason to get out of bed in the morning, so I will sing the praises of my writing champion friends.

    1. So I’m in good company! And I feel the same way about the writing champions club. Even on the odd day (usually Sunday) when I don’t join in, I still know you all are out there sprinting away.

  4. I’m starting to see a trend here about husbands who don’t read their wives fiction. At least now I know I’m not alone in this. My husband has yet to read any of the 39 draft versions of my work in progress. Perhaps this Thanksgiving he should be thankful that he has been spared from reading all those versions. I have been getting better, so he can read the final version–someday when it gets published. And I’m thankful that through my connections to other writers, SINC, and the Guppies that my writing has gotten better.

    1. I guess three makes a trend, then! I’d like to read the final version, too. ;^) Many of us say that we never would have been published without Sisters in Crime in its various manifestations: national, Guppies, local chapters.

  5. I’m thankful that authors can’t write faster. I have enough trouble keeping up with the wonderful books coming out as it is, I wouldn’t have time to find great new authors if the ones I already read and love wrote faster than they do.

  6. I guess Cliff losing his job about 12 years ago would be a source of gratitude for me. We were poor as church mice during his subsequent career as a Methodist minister, but being stationed in the hinterlands enabled me (forced me) to quit my job and write full time. Other recent negative developments are harder to be grateful for, my husband’s illnesses. I am thankful I can still write and am not yet a full-time caretaker.

    And thanks for the germ of a blog idea for Wednesday–if I get them written.

    1. And we your readers are so glad you’re writing full time, Kaye. I know a bit about your husband’s illness and can understand how hard it is to be grateful for any of that. You’re a strong woman.

  7. I’m grateful for the spirit of community I’ve found in writers, such a blessing. To face that sea of white alone can be daunting. But to know your sisters and misters do the same thing and keep plugging away helps me to domino same thing. My husband reads my first drafts and as a non- crime reader, points out inconsistencies and plot points I haven’t answered. But my writing group gives me great critique suggestions. After eleven years working together, we’ve learned each other’s styles and voices and the critique gets more useful. I’ve had issues these last two years with a lousy back, just had my second surgery Friday. Can’t sit at my desk and write for two weeks, but I can balance my iPad on my chest and answer a few emails before I doze off. And that keeps me connected to the writing community. So thanks to all of you who have seen me wearing the sausage-maker brace at times, or using a cane, and helped me carry a stack of books or just asked how I was doing. I’m great! Happy to know all of you and to count myself in the community of some of the nicest and most generous people ever– writers.

    1. Gosh, did not know about your back surgery, Marni. I hope you heal up quickly and easily! Good critique groups are a treasure. I am in one, too.

  8. Super sweet post, Edith! I’ve been doing a gratitude list with my morning pages every day, and it’s such a grounding exercise. Definitely makes you look differently at every day!

  9. I am grateful that a long-time friend decided not to be friends any longer. Our families were very close, too, but she was exceedingly demanding and high-maintenance and the universe supplied me with the best replacement friend I could have imagined. The experience also taught me the most important requirement for close friends–that they have your back. As for reading my husband’s manuscripts, I’m grateful he values my opinion on his writing.

    1. Sounds like that worked out for you, Karen. I lost a woman I thought was a good friend after my divorce, but then I was extra grateful for the people who turned out to actually be my friends. ;^)

  10. I hope you’ll do more posts on linguistics, Edith. I find this fascinating. I wish I could go back in time and hear the first language(s) spoken and find out if anything survived to the present. As for gratitude, I do my best to practice it everyday. Some days I have more success than others. BTW, neither my son nor my husband has read any of my work, though they can give a general description when asked (“Murder mysteries.” “Yarn shop.” “Greek restaurant.”). 🙂

  11. Many years ago I had a divorce I didn’t want. Boo Hoo. If it hadn’t been for that I never would have met and married Dan, my best friend, lover, trusted companion on life’s adventures for thirty six years and still going strong. And yes, he reads my work at every stage along the way. I am so blessed. Edith, when I read some time ago about your “naming rights” auction, I was inspired to do the same. The recent auction by the National Women’s History Project offered a character to be named in my next book. It brought over two hundred dollars for their cause and the winner has the most wonderfully New England sounding name that I find myself padding her part! Thanks for the idea.

      1. Here’s a saying I remember from my “depression baby” Salem upbringing.
        “Use it up; Wear it out; Make it do or do without.” Still good advice!

  12. You make an excellent point about learning to live modestly. I saw college friends tightly bound my purse strings and after-college friends in financial debt because a more privileged lifestyle carries psychological as well as monetary burdens. Debt-free and simple living brings freedoms and skills. I just put some patches on a some “good enough and warm enough to wear at home” clothes.
    I’m glad that library sales also benefit authors, because I’m relying more and more on my library these days, and love that they happily order books I suggest. I just got back from there. wishing all a happy day/week/life of Thanksgiving. <3

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