Post Date: November 30th, 2008

Today’s Word Count for the Novel: 258,384. 3035 words gone!

Page Count for the Novel: 916 pages. 15 pages gone!

Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.
— Albert Einstein

Thankful, I am, and not just because it’s a ritual of Thanksgiving. It’s because all I have right now is this moment of writing.

Writers are the sort who rise with stories on the brain and wander through the day seeing stories in everyone else. Writers invent new outcomes to events and wrestle with what if’s no one else bothers to indulge. It’s a natural state of imagining and analyzing, a tendency that feels just right to those of us blessed with it. If you are called to write, you do it easily as breathing some days. That’s the Muse – the genetic fire starter. (We won’t get into what drives revision — maybe sheer will and our better angels?)

I attended a talk by Tom Wolfe a few years ago to hear him confess he despises writing. He said it was a source of torment. It made me wonder if I wasn’t missing something, the horrors of a boot camp never attended. Perhaps I’d squirmed my way out of duty? Since then, I’ve decided that I will define my writing process. I may not make it as a card-carrying member of the Suffering Writer Clan, since I’m not sure my slogging through crytiques, rejections, and years will measure up unless I hated every second. But that’s okay, because I’m happy. I really love this gig.

I love disappearing into language and story. It’s the same fun as storytelling at age nine, when I invented new people and landscapes for the sake of fun and games. Today there’s still no end to ideas and creating. As a teacher, I’ve celebrated this ability in all of us, the infinite and abundant creativity we all possess. That’s why the scarcity model of some artists and many critics – those who feel compelled to slam others’ work and reinforce hierarchies – doesn’t make sense. Yes, there should be a measure of quality. Yes, not just anyone can write a classic or join the canon. Let’s keep standards and celebrate the greats. But there is enough money, attention, and enjoyment to go around. It’s okay for us all to love writing.

So if writing is my cornucopia, my feast this Thanksgiving, I don’t have to peer much beyond all the fruit and fowl spilling out to see what I’ve taken for granted. I have time to write. I have eyes-ears-fingers to make the recording easier; the story of Jean-Dominique Bauby and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly should humble us all. I have belief in my writing, even when others may not. I also have a writers’ community of support – both former and current friends who have guided me along the path. Finally, I am grateful for family and husband who get why I write. Thank you to all of them.

So in this spirit of thankfulness, I refuse to define my writing success by a big book contract. I refuse to rail against myself for not having finished the novel years ago. I am thankful that this year I’m in a third draft of it; that two short stories were finalists in contests this year; that one short story was accepted to a journal. If today’s work is a joy, a chance to disappear into the fiction I’ve created and make it better, then why give myself fits? We will write no novel before its time. What’s Your Hurry, my husband sings. Is it worth your worried mind? When it’s over, it won’t matter. Tell me, are you satisfied?

Today’s Writing Goal: Continue editing up to page 450, cutting words, and removing any passages that slow momentum.

Writing Prompts: Please note that writing prompts should always be pursued in emotionally-safe environments with the supervision of someone who interested in encouraging good writing, self-awareness, and reflection. A wonderful resource is Pat Schneider’s Writing Alone and With Others.
© Lyn Hawks. Writing prompts for one-time classroom use only and not for publication in any form elsewhere without permission of this author.
Elementary, Secondary, and Adult
What things and people make you happy? Who or what are you grateful for? Make a list of ten people and things – places, objects, events – that give you joy.Choose one and write a poem, a song, a letter, or a prayer (or a combination of any of these) that explains why you are thankful for this part of your life.


  1. Anonymous says:


    Enjoyed your latest post. I too am plowing through my novel and the edits that aproach infinity. Yet I never seem to tire of revisiting my words and finding areas to improve. Why am I not bored yet?

    Your analysis suggests some answers to my self questioning. Writing a novel, which is part memoir, is like raising and nurturing your children. You watch them (and it) progress and learn.

    Thanks again for sharing your thoughts.


  2. Lyn Hawks says:

    Yes, and if you don’t love your kid, what kind of a parent are you? 🙂 You’re right, it’s all about the evolution.

  3. bobmust says:

    I remember the first newspaper review of my first book all too well. It was tepid, to say the least, and that set me off on an anxiety attack: would prospective readers note this review and be dissuaded from buying my book? Was I now the laughingstock of the writing world? And on and on.
    I suspect Wolfe and other big-timers with the same thing to say about writing are worrying more about the concerns of their audience, not the satisfaction inherent in pounding out stories.

  4. Lyn Hawks says:

    Hi, Bob,

    That was exactly it for Wolfe – the fear of public expectations about what the next book should be. All those shoulds. Yet and acclaim and attention often comes to the writer who writes from his truth, rather than trying to satisfy some general sense of “standards.” I always find that when you try to please the amorphous public (the haint in your mind), your writing ends up shooting down the middle toward a centrist compromise. That’s fine for politics but fight it with all your will in art. Never mind P.T. Barnum’s wisdom (paraphrase): “You’ll never go broke underestimating the taste of the American public.” I mean that in the nicest way possible. 🙂