Words of Thanksgiving for Wordsmiths
by Erin Brown
For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food,
For love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
Ralphie, you were such an old sap. Just like Emerson, this time of
year always makes me nostalgic (and full of thanks and giving, duh).
I often wax poetic on the good old days when the settlers and
Indians gathered to break bread (and deer hindquarters), a nice
pause before the centuries of raids and decimation by horrible
illnesses. But let’s focus on the uplifting Thanksgiving of today,
with its football obsession, non-smallpox-spreading blankets to warm
us in front of the fire, and the ability to gather with friends
without being concerned that we’ll have to resort to eating each
other to make it through the harsh winter.
counteract the obviously questionable and often disturbing thoughts
running through my head as this Thanksgiving approaches, I am going
to focus on giving thanks for some of the things that we writers
(and editors) take for granted. These are important points to
remember as you stare into the gaping maw of another Thanksgiving
celebration filled with inevitable drunken ramblings and strange
third cousins showing up at your door with troubling Jell-O molds.
So let’s get to it! Gobble, gobble.
1. Computers—Okay, sure, writing a memoir by hand might allow
future generations to gaze upon your handwriting in awe, dissecting
each loop and line in order to see deeper into your soul, but this
is a very remote possibility. So for about 90 percent of us,
computers are the way to go. Thank you, oh rich nerdy guys who
figured out how to turn zeros and ones into the next bestselling
biography on some rich nerdy guy.
2. Freedom—Yes, America has some issues. We’re not perfect.
After all, Benjamin Franklin wanted to usurp our traditional
Thanksgiving gobbler and turn it into the national bird.
Specifically, he wrote: “For my own part I wish the eagle had not been chosen the
representative of our country. He is a bird of bad moral character.
He does not get his living honestly. . . For the truth the turkey is
in comparison a much more respectable bird, and withal a true
original native of America.” Ben does make
some good points. Whenever I see an immigrant eagle, he’s inevitably
lying, cheating, and/or stealing, his razor-sharp
talons poised to wreak havoc on some unsuspecting patriotic
American. But I digress....
Bottom line, writers can tackle any subject matter in this great
country, although that doesn’t guarantee it will be published. But
let’s be thankful this year that any old nut job can write
whatever he wants (I’m looking at you, Glenn Beck). This is America,
after all! *Please keep in mind, though, that the Ayatollah is just
itching to find another Salman Rushdie.
3. Thesauruses—Lest we forget about our friend, the saver of
repetitious authors, I want to give a shout out to the Holy Bible of
wordsmiths. Whether it’s an online version or a weathered copy of
Merriam-Webster, this tool has saved many an author from repeating
redundancies and copying recurrent and reiterated words.
4. Books, and lots of ’em—Let’s face it. The best way to
become a great writer is to read the great writers. So absorb
everything you can get your hands on before some whack-a-doo starts
up those pesky book burnings again (I’m looking at you again,
5. Amazon.com—We can all agree that it’s much easier to hop
on Amazon to buy the book titled, Tackling Your Out-of-Control
Nose Hair: 10 Easy Steps to Trimming your Nasal Locks and Getting
the Girl (yep, Glenn Beck in da’ house again), than to purchase
it in person at a bookstore, or God forbid, have your local
librarian put it on hold for you.
course, there are hundreds of things writers should be grateful
for—creativity, imagination, traditional publishing houses, agents,
editors, dictionaries (don’t think I didn’t notice the King of
Spelling getting pissed off when I singled out the thesaurus!),
family members who tolerate our insanity as we write, spouses who
sustain the family as we write, and the many other support systems
that provide encouragement, love, and inspiration. And also the pen.
That’s a good one. Finally, as a Texan who is cooking the turkey
this year, I must say that nothing beats a deep-fried bird...except
for a deep-fried pumpkin pie. Gobble, gobble goodness to you all and
Erin Brown worked as an editor in New York City for
over eight years. She recently left Manhattan to start her own
freelance editorial business. To learn more about Erin, visit her
website at www.erinedits.com