Dear Author: Thank you.
Have you felt that dark force that tries to keep you away from your writing desk? Yeah. You know it.
Once you finally get yourself to your notebook, do you hear a nasty (and convincing) voice in your head that tells you: This is no good?
Okay. You've been practicing. You've learned how to push the voice away. You hear it telling you that your writing is terrible, and you write anyway. Good. This is strenuous work. It takes a great deal of energy just to write something -- anything! -- in front of that super-critical voice.
You write a first draft. You finish something, and you put it away. You feel exhilarated, maybe a little bit scared.
The next time you read your draft, you see that parts of it are okay, but most of it needs work. So you sit down and work on it again.
This goes on for some time. You might not even show it to anybody for months, or years.
But to fortify yourself during all of this, you continue to read that special book. The one by the author you love. The one that inspires you to write. The one that you keep by your bed and by your desk because every time you read those sentences, you feel the desire to write your own sentences.
That book is a gift. You can say thank you.
When I tell people to write their favourite author a thank you card, they seem surprised. The answer is YES: you are allowed to contact an author and send them a note in the mail!
This is why I write my favourite authors thank you cards:
1. Writing is difficult, solitary work. And I know that the difficulty does not go away when you publish a book. In fact, it gets even more challenging. That critical voice gets louder and more convincing as you continue your work.* I am very grateful that my favourite authors are writing despite their resistance; I get to read their brilliant stories because they have chosen to keep showing up on the page. I benefit so much from their work, and I don't take it for granted.
2. Writers don't get fan mail the way soap opera stars do. I know that my letter (and my gratitude) will likely reach the author directly.
3. It's an elegant and kind thing to do. I always send a thank you note when someone gives me an important gift. Especially when the gift has changed my life.
Note: when you decide to do this, remember that it is just a thank you card. That means that you are writing in response to a gift that you have been given. It does not mean that you expect a response of any kind. The note should be SHORT. Simply writing, "Thank you" will do.
You can send your card care of the author's agent or publisher, anywhere in the world. Send it in the post -- email feels too much like work -- and choose a pretty stamp. Make it real.
* You've seen Elizabeth Gilbert's TED Talk, right? About showing up to write even when you don't think your work is any good?