Still, in those long stretches between acceptances when I hear nothing, or have to stomach yet another rejection notice, I've come to rely on other ways writing can nourish my psyche, if not my bank account.
Here are five life-sustaining rewards (plus a bonus) that I hope you will explore:
LIFE-SUSTAINING REWARD #1
Perhaps most obvious, is to write my way toward a solution for some vexing challenge at home. Here's an example. I live in a wildfire-prone region of the West. I heard the call of fire-fighting authorities to reduce vegetation around homes. But I also want to conserve native vegetation for wildlife. I did research as I always do for a nonfiction piece and eventually came up with a plan to selectively prune native shrubs on my lot and also preserve vital micro-niches for wildlife use. It felt good to find that balance. Months later, the actions taken, and the research done, produced the impetus for an article which was sold to High Country News--a bonus situation!
LIFE-SUSTAINING REWARD #2
Over the years, family members and friends have come to me with requests to write everything from wedding vows to a remembrance of a lost loved one. People are grateful for such short pieces of word-craft and I felt honoured to be asked. Recently, I wrote a review of a book written a few years back by a local independent bookstore owner. The book had not received much publicity and the author was happy to see confirmation of the value of her book. Keeping a small bookstore in business is a huge challenge these days and I was pleased to bring a smile to the author/owner through a mere 500-word review of her very good book.
LIFE-SUSTAINING REWARD #3
There have been occasions across the years when I received a bill from a vendor that seemed excessive. Again, the patient research I do as a writer helped me build background and proper context from which to argue for a reduced bill from my perspective as a patient. Recently, it was an invoice from a regional hospital for a visit to the ER. I had to investigate medical billing practices and local, state, and federal policies that influence costs. I wrote a two-page letter (500 words) to the hospital administrator and after two months received notification that they accepted some of my rationale. The bill was reduced by over $1,000 which really helped our modest living budget. It was the largest "pay-day" for my writing in a long time!
LIFE-SUSTAINING REWARD #4
I'm often indignant about some development in life, locally or elsewhere in the world. I call on the Muses to help me summon effective language to frame the issue to try to offer a helpful intervention. Usually, this takes the form of a letter to the editor of a local newspaper. One example involved lax enforcement of local leash laws resulting in injury to people's pets and a person or two. The letter got other citizens interested and a lively public discussion ensued, leading to proposals for changes in local regulations.
LIFE-SUSTAINING REWARD #5
This is perhaps most important. I write out my feelings on some life circumstance whose reality offers no immediate remedy. An example of this beneficial effect is when most of the members of a herd of wild peccaries were killed by some wrong-doer. I wrote a long letter of 'apology' to the wild peccary community and ended it with a deep appreciation for their presence in this region. It was the only way I had to try to properly grieve and heal from such a despicable act. Giving voice to those turbulent feelings helped me to free myself from the trap of rage and helplessness and move to a healthier frame of being.
To utilize the gift of creativity and our writer's craft to solve challenges, to give words of encouragement to someone in need, to shrink a debt, to 'write' a wrong, or to heal oneself is to produce yet a sixth beneficial effect which is to realize a legacy of our words is a way to reach inwards and outwards to produce a healing effect.
How do you utilize your gift of creativity?