My mother-in-law has been in a dither this holiday. Even the relatively simple task of choosing Christmas cards has become an agonizing decision. "I don't want to send cards that say 'Merry Christmas' or 'Happy Holidays,'" she tells me, "because for so many people, it won't be..."
Indeed, I don't think there's anyone in our circle of friends and family who hasn't been affected in some way by the recession -- particularly by the loss of investment funds in retirement accounts, pensions, and just plain old "life savings." When money is tight, jobs are harder to find, and that tends to be particularly true for writers.
But we writers have an unusual edge in times of trouble -- because adversity, tough as it may be to endure, can also be the best source of material in the world. The greatest authors have always known this. Can you imagine Dickens beginning Tale of Two Cities with "It was the best of times..."? As readers it's those "worst of times" that we want to hear about. What if Tolstoy had chosen to write about happy families, instead of noting in Anna Karenina that while "All happy families resemble one another, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way"?
Think back on the stories you loved best growing up, or as a grown-up, and I'm betting you'll find that they were stories of ordinary people (like us) who manage to triumph over adversity. Of course, there's a big difference between reading a story of adversity in the warmth and comfort of one's hopefully not over-mortgaged living-room, and finding oneself the protagonist of such a tale. But the point I'm trying to make is simply that as writers, we have a rare gift: for us, adversity may be a trial, but it is also fuel and inspiration. It is something that we have the ability to turn around, and turn into something better, something worthwhile, and occasionally, something glorious.
This is not, I hope, simply a roundabout way of trying to say, "When life hands you lemons, make lemonade" (which was surely not written by a Dickens or a Tolstoy). As a writer, however, when life does hand you lemons, you have the means to make some uses of those lemons that aren't available to just anyone. As a writer, you know that life is handing lemons to a lot of other people, too -- so now's the time to think about articles like:
In other words, times like these present writers with a unique opportunity to help. Thousands of people need help right now -- help with finances, help with job-hunting, help in finding ways to feed the family for less, help in finding or creating low-cost gifts for the holidays. Articles that "help" have always been the best sellers in the freelance marketplace, and today, more people need more help than ever. In our next issue, Dawn Copeman will share tips on "writing in a recession," including a wealth of ideas on how to provide the help that people need.
It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that when times are tough, you need to put aside your dreams -- perhaps indefinitely -- because "now just isn't the time" and "you have to be practical." Yes, you do have to be practical -- but this may not be the time to put your dreams on the shelf until things "get better." Instead, this may be the time to put your dreams to work -- and use those dreams to start making things better.
Because, frankly, I don't expect the government to bail me out (possibly because I can't fly to Washington on a corporate jet to ask them to) -- so I'd much rather rely on my dreams and what skill I have at the keyboard to make those dreams a reality.
Bottom line -- I think my mother-in-law is wrong here (much as I adore her!). I don't think there's anything wrong with wishing our friends and relatives a Merry Christmas or a Happy Holiday. It's a way of saying that if your holiday is merry, then we rejoice with you -- and if it isn't, then we fervently hope that things will get better soon.
And so -- Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from Writing-World.com!
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