Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Giving Thanks

I hesitate to share this little bit of advice. If too many people followed it, it might dilute some of what makes it so great. But in the spirit of giving thanks it seems almost criminal to keep this idea to myself. So here it is: Charming Notes.

This comes straight from the always inspirational Carolyn See in her book Making a Literary Life and I’m not sure I can do it justice, so if you’re still doubting at the end of this blog that writing charming notes will make you feel wonderful, cause others great joy, and generally increase the power of love in the world, then read Carolyn’s chapter about it. Because I’ve failed.

A charming note is nothing more than a handwritten thank you note. And oh, wow, have those gone out of style these days. I’ve even given up hounding my kids about them lately, instead urging them to facebook or email a gift giver. Which is sad. But I digress.

The main idea underlying the charming note is that writing is such a solitary activity--you toil alone at your keyboard or holed up in your attic ala Emily Dickinson, and unless you’re published, you rarely get a response to what you’re creating. I suppose even published writers feel this way. How nice it would be to get a little note in the mail one day, a few words about how much a story you’ve written meant to someone else. The next time you finish reading a book that moves you, TELL the writer how you felt. And no cheating—emailing a writer on his webpage. Carolyn See says to go out and buy the most beautiful stationery you can afford and have it engraved with your name. Write your note of thanks on that. Send it c/o of the admired author’s publishing company. You’ll be surprised how many will write you a charming note back. I’ve received nice thank-yous to my thank-yous from Sara Zarr, Kate DiCamillo, and Rebecca Stead. Each one mentioned that they rarely received handwritten notes anymore.

In addition to sending out the love to your favorite writers, you’ll also want to thank your favorite editors. Now, you might be thinking, but I don’t have a favorite editor. I’m an unpublished writer. The only response I get from editors is curt little form rejections with an occasional “nice story” tacked on at the end.

Now follow me here: you’re going to get out your lovely engraved stationery and thank these people for taking the time to send you a rejection. This is a bizarre idea on the surface, but I promise you, the next time you get a rejection and feel your insides churn and your heart clamp up with despair, writing a thank you is the only thing that is going to help. (That and gorging yourself on chocolate and/or drinking a bottle of wine. But I digress again)

Every rejection is a little stab at your dream that makes you question your decision to keep writing, and believe me, you do not want this dark cloud of bad karma hovering over your head for the next few days as you try to create. Thank that editor, and be sincere. No snarky, thanks so much for rejecting the novel I spent three years laboring over that you merely read the first ten pages of and pronounced unworthy of your time. It was sooooo freaking kind of you.

NO. You’re going to really mean it. This editor is a person (albeit a very young one) who DID in fact take the time when many other editors simply tossed your manuscript in the recycle bin. Who knows what she’ll think when she gets your note. It really doesn’t matter because you’ve taken the bundle of negative rejection energy, changed it into something gracious and kind, and sent it hurtling right back.

Try it. You’ll be surprised how good it feels to reach out to other writers, to connect with editors—to forge a tiny bond in this world of writers and readers—one that you are a part of too.

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