Reflecting on this day of Thanksgiving, Ralph Waldo Emerson suggested that we, “Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”
For the book, On Gratitude, a number of writers took Emerson’s charge, listing some of the specific things that helped them in their writing career — things for which they are grateful.
In the book, Kurt Vonnegut said: “I’ve said it before: I write in the voice of a child. That makes me readable in high school. Simple sentences have always served me well. And I don’t use semicolons. It’s hard to read anyway, especially for high school kids. Also, I avoid irony. I don’t like people saying one thing and meaning the other. Simplicity and sincerity, two things I am grateful for.”
John Updike said: “I’m not a movie star or a rock star. I maybe get two or three letters a week out of the blue, for some reason, and as I’m an old guy now, most of the letters are kindly. They do keep you going. This is an unsponsored job. I don’t get paid without readers. So I appreciate that enduring fan base. It does keep me going. And for someone to take the time to say they like me. That’s a blessing.”
Joyce Carol Oates said: “I was only about eight years old when I first read Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, and when we’re very, very young almost anything that comes into our lives that’s special or unique or profound can have the effect of changing us … I virtually memorized most of Alice … That blend of the surreal and the nightmare of the quotidian have always stayed with me. My sense of reality has been conditioned by that book, certainly, and I am grateful for it.”
Jonathan Safran Foer said: “I’m grateful for anything that reminds me of what’s possible in this life. Books can do that. Films can do that. Music can do that. School can do that. It’s so easy to allow one day to simply follow into the next, but every once in a while we encounter something that shows us that anything is possible, that dramatic change is possible, that something new can be made, that laughter can be shared.”
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True generosity, Seneca argues, is measured not by the ends of the act but by the spirit from which it springs