Thursday, November 27, 2014

Alumni Voices with Maggie Moris: Giving Thanks

We’re all well versed with the usual reasons to be grateful that we’re writers.

          Writing teaches us about ourselves.

            Stories have the power to change lives.

            Writing can open, deepen and widen our understanding and appreciation of the world.

            (Insert favorite platitude, motivational quote, or advice from favorite authors that you’ve scribbled on scraps, wedged in your wallet or penned on your person.)            
Today, I offer up a new reason for giving thanks.

Months ago, when Marsha Q. put out a request for guest bloggers, I ran to the calendar and offered to take the November 27
th slot.

I hoped back then that there would be something related to giving thanks and gratitude that I could share with you, even if nothing “news worthy” had transpired around my writing life.

Heck, I figured I could only be in one of two places by now: Either my first book would have sold or I’d be depressed because it hadn’t and would need to shift my attitude away from anxious hand wringing to one of hand holding - as in, please gather with me around the “It’s Just A Writer’s Life” table.

But it turns out there was a third scenario I hadn’t anticipated.

A while back, I came across an interview with Leonard Cohen. (For those who need reminding, as I did, in addition to being a legendary and prolific songwriter, a published poet and a recipient of the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, he is also an ordained Rinzai Buddhist Monk.)

When asked whether the hard work involved in writing songs is enjoyable, Cohen had this to say:

"[Hard work] has a certain nourishment. The mental physique is muscular. That gives you a certain stride as you walk along the dismal landscape of your inner thoughts. You have a certain kind of tone to your activity. But most of the time it doesn’t help. It’s just hard work.

"But I think unemployment is the great affliction of man. Even people with jobs are unemployed. In fact, most people with jobs are unemployed. I can say, happily and gratefully, that I am fully employed. Maybe all hard work means is fully employed.” 

(Popova, Maria. Leonard Cohen on Creativity, Hard Work, and Why You Should Never Quit Before You Know What it is You’re Quitting. Brain Pickings, July 15, 2014. )

 Put a fork in me and call me done.

I am fully employed.

Better yet, this state of being has nothing whatsoever to do with whether or not we ever earn a red cent, wooden nickel, or two bits for our work. Writing, by its very nature, means that when we write – whether that time flows easy or yields an abundance of perspired blood - we are always fully employed. And folks, there are a lot of people on this planet that cannot say that about their own lives.

Having spent the better part of nearly twenty years in corporate jobs that did not employ me in any way that mattered, I can say with full conviction how blessed and grace-filled is this thing we do.
Think about it. Hold it in your heart. Gaze in tender wonder at this truth. We, as writers, with our finite lives and our limited hours, are also a community of people who live fully in the deepest sense of our words.

When I was a child, I dreamed of joining the table for writers, to one day sit and extend my hands to fellow writers on either side. But, I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about the work. Or that having a place, meant that the storyteller’s circle spirals back, around and up, through the eons that preceded us, on into the present and will wheel out into the future - all because we do our work.

Today, I bow my head for this writing life, for our community and for the chance to keep doing what we do.

I give thanks for the work.

 Maggie Moris graduated from Hamline in 2009. She will be enjoying a little pie with her pile of whipped cream today. Her website is


  1. Awe, Maggie. Thank you. Employed in the true sense of the word. Just what I needed to hear. Thank you!

  2. You are more than welcome, dearest Polly. I'm glad you liked it. :0)

  3. Cohen's idea of being fully employed is something I won't soon forget. It really validates what we do as writers. Thank you so much for this powerful post!