Wednesday, November 25, 2009

My turn at thanks

American readers of this blog are well aware that in the United States we are enjoying what is known as Thanksgiving weekend. Lots of food, lots of time with extended family, lots of American football on television, and--for some zealous folk of a type I cannot understand--lots of early Christmas shopping. It also common at this time of year for Americans to state publically all that they are thankful for; one of the more charming aspects of the holiday, I think. In regards to Yellow, my Van Gogh novel, I have quite a lot to be thankful for and I think it's time to say so.

First, I am thankful for Van Gogh himself: his commitment to his craft, his dogged determination, his willingness to listen and watch and learn and experiment. Also his willingess to be stubborn and follow his own convictions when he had to. I am more thankful than I can say for the brillantly bright paintings he created. If not for them it would never have occurred to me to write my novel in the first place. I am thankful that my university in 2001 was able to send me to teach a summer course in Maastricht, Holland, the only reason I visited Amsterdam and the Van Gogh museum in the first place. I am thankful for the funding I received in 2005 and my wife received in 2006, making travel to Europe, and research for my book, possible. I'm thankful for all the many resources out there regarding Van Gogh. On one hand, it's a real challenge to write imaginatively about someone whose life has been so well documented and exhaustively analyzed. On the other hand, for almost every question I need answered an answer can be found. And for that I'm grateful. I'm thankful for the sabbatical I am enjoying, for I can assure you I would never be as far along on the novel as I am without this time away from classroom teaching. I'm thankful I am married to a fellow fiction writer who can provide me with seasoned guidance, a sharp editorial eye, and, more than anything, informed encouragement. I'm thankful for computers, even though I also hate them.

Most of all, I'm just thankful to have the life I have. That I can write and produce. That I can work on finishing this book and dream of writing others. I wanted to be a writer from the first time I ever thought seriously about making a career for myself. And here I am, years later, having worked myself into the life I wished for. No life or career is perfect. My life and my career provide me as many headaches as anyone else's does. But on this day and in this post I need to stop and admit I could have done a lot worse. And for that I am very very thankful.

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