One of my favourite authors of all time, prolific and gifted fantasy satire author Terry Pratchett, passed away last week. It hit me suddenly; I realised I had missed my chance. I wished I could have written to him before he moved on, to thank him for how he changed my writing, my life.
“You are a wonderful writer. Your books live in two and a half whole shelves of my largest bookcase because I enjoy rereading them so much. Thank you for your clever characters who made me think about the world differently. Thank you for your involving plots and your hilarious sense of humour, which gave me another world to live in on grey days.”
I know I’m just one fangirl of many. He’s such a famous author that I know he must get stacks of fan mail every day, from emails to postcards (“Terry, here I am at the edge of the Disc!”). By the time he died at 66 years old, he’d written 70 novels, including the 40-novel Discworld series that I loved so much.
But I still wish that I’d been able to express my gratitude to him in some small way – for me, not for him.
That day I made sure I didn’t miss out on other opportunities. I wrote two letters to authors at the publishing house where I work, whose novels are currently being copy-edited (an arduous process in which you question every word choice). I’d read the first or second drafts of their manuscripts in preparation for promoting their work and loved – simply loved – the writing and the characters. I’m not a crier, but I cried over the happy ending of one of them, sitting there at my desk in the marketing office.
So I wrote and told them, “I loved your book. It moved me greatly and I feel inspired to go out and do something about it. Your theme is one I’ve seen in real life and it thrilled me to see someone put it into words so accurately and with such real emotion.”
And I learned a big lesson.
Your encouragement is the best gift you can give a fellow writer.
All writers need encouragement, and it blessed me to express my gratitude instead of just feeling it. They both delighted in my note. They replied with effusive thanks. I felt great, as if I had done something worthwhile in the world, just by encouraging them to keep writing.
I already knew it was true for myself – I love encouragement and that all the hard work of creating is worth it, validated, if someone likes the result. But I’d thought people didn’t need encouragement for their writing, once they were famous. Don’t the awards won and the bestsellers achieved make any doubts in your own talent fade away to nothing? No, they don’t; writers will still doubt their creative work.
One of the authors I wrote to is famous, while one is new, but both of them are humans. Both said, “The copy-editing is just killing my faith in my own work! I have no idea whether any of it is any good at all anymore.”
(Which is super common, by the way. If you get to the copy-edit stage of your work and suddenly hate every line of your own novel because your editor has picked it apart, don’t stress, that’s normal, and that ‘polishing’ has to happen so your novel can really shine.)
Everyone in our lives needs encouragement, of course, but they all need it in different forms and different ways. If you haven’t read The 5 Love Languages by Dr Gary Chapman (http://www.5lovelanguages.com/), you absolutely should! You can take a quiz to find out your own love language – how you “hear” I am loved, and how you “say” I love you to someone else. For example, my husband is like me and loves to receive from me Words of Affirmation and Physical Affection, but my best friend needs Quality Time and Physical Affection. I sometimes find my love tank is filled best through Acts of Service, like when my husband takes out the trash for me. 😀
The good thing is that generally for writers, it’s pretty hard to go wrong by sending Words of Affirmation. We work with words, so we usually love to receive words as well. “You’re a great writer.” “I love your books.” “That character description was written so well.”
Even better, when we encourage others, we’re fulfilling what God asks of us.
“So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11
“But encourage each other daily, as long as it is ‘today’, so that none of you is hardened by sin’s deception.” Hebrews 3:13
Even when Terry Pratchett wasn’t writing, during a few gaps that followed his 2007 diagnosis of early-onset dementia, he was still an inspiration to me. He was an active advocate for dementia research, and he received a knighthood for services to literature in 2009.
It makes me wonder whether I could be so prolific and yet still have such a heart for achieving change in the world – both at the same time – like he did.
What is your favourite Terry Pratchett book?
What author would you like to send a love letter to?
My top 5 favourite Terry Pratchett books:
- Men at Arms (City Watch series) – because it’s a love story disguised as a crime novel.
- Night Watch (City Watch series) – because it’s the only time travel novel I have genuinely enjoyed, and it’s about the love of a man trying to get home to his wife.
- Mort (Death series) – because of the musings on the nature of the gap between life and death.
- Thief of Time (Death series) – because of the examinations of the nature of time.
- Truth (Times series) – because it’s about the start of Ankh Morpork’s first newspaper, and it’s hilarious and rings so true historically.
This post is © TJ Withers-Ryan, 2015. Reblogging is highly encouraged as long as you credit me as the author.