writing for adults
September 12, 2017
Two Celebrations That Go Hand in Hand: Authors Day and Stress Awareness Day
by Rita Reali
If you’re a writer, chances are you know a thing or three about stress. And that’s a good thing. No, really, it is. Stick with me here.
Did you realize there are two upcoming national observances just for us? Author's Day and Stress Awareness Day. C’mon, would I make that up? For that matter, have I ever lied to you? Of course not! Well, not that you know of.
Okay, truth be told, we don’t get to celebrate those ’til November 1, so there’s no need to rush right out and buy me a card now. But who’s to say we can’t get a lovely jump on preparing for them? That way, we can avoid all that stress of which we’re making ourselves aware—leaving us open to more pleasant pursuits… like celebrating Author's Day. Works out nicely, wouldn’t you agree?
Sometimes, stress can be just the thing we need to kick our writing into high gear. There’s nothing like a looming deadline to give us writers an added incentive to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard, as the case may be).
In my last corporate job, I wrote ecommerce copy—which largely consisted of creating product content for several internationally recognized brands. Sometimes, the items I got to write about were so easy to portray, the descriptions practically wrote themselves. Other times the products were so obscure or esoteric, I had no idea what to say about them so they would languish on my desk for days… whilst I stared perplexedly at them. Meanwhile, my poor little eyeballs were twitching, drying out and ready to fall from their sockets as I sat, unable to string together more than two words to enticingly depict them for prospective buyers. Invariably, though, if I sat there long enough, that magic moment would arrive: my deadline. The product copy would be due at the end of the day.
It was amazing how fast my fingers could fly across the keyboard under that kind of pressure, emitting sparkling product content about as fast as… well, let me put it this way: Have you ever tried to take a drink of water from a fire hose? Yeah, like that.
It wasn’t what I would consider ideal writing conditions… but it kept my project managers happy—and it kept me employed.
A certain amount of stress is good for us writers. Which isn’t to say I would recommend plopping your desk onto the railroad tracks and giving yourself until ten seconds before the 8:22 roared past to work up that elusive paragraph. But a modicum of pressure to perform and/or produce can be a good thing.
Too much, however… ah, that can lead to some serious consequences. Chewed fingernails. Clumps of torn-out hair. Tracks worn in the carpeting from pacing. Sleepless nights. Frequent trips out to the kitchen to stare into the refrigerator. Need I go on?
Ironically, though, one of the best ways to relieve stress is (wait for it)… writing! Click here for five simple writing prompts to help you manage—even reduce—stress in your life.
And a lower level of stress in your life can lead to more energy and an ability to focus on other, more important things… such as celebrating Author's Day. (You were wondering how I was going to tie those two together, weren’t you?)
In 1928, Illinois teacher and lifelong avid reader Nellie Verne Burt McPherson was president of the Bement Women’s Club. Some years earlier, while hospitalized during World War I, McPherson penned a fan letter to fiction author Irving Bacheller, telling him how much she had enjoyed his short story, “Eben Holden’s Last Day A’Fishing.”
Bacheller was so tickled by her letter (and her enjoyment of his writing) that he sent McPherson an autographed copy of another story.
She was so appreciative of this gift, she felt a simple “thank you” could never quite suffice. So when she was in a position to do so (i.e., president of the Bement Women’s Club), McPherson submitted an idea to the General Federation of Women’s Clubs for a day set aside to honor authors—National Author's Day. The Federation subsequently passed a resolution declaring November 1 a national day to recognize American writers. The observance was officially recognized by the U.S. Department of Commerce in 1949. Who knew there was actually a government department that handled those sorts of things?
After McPherson’s death in 1968, her granddaughter, Sue Cole, led the charge to widely promote National Author's Day. She has urged people to observe it by writing letters to their favorite authors (as her grandmother did nearly 100 years ago), to encourage and thank them for their contributions, and to “brighten up the sometimes lonely business of being a writer.”
Cole also suggests flying the American flag on November 1, to commemorate this oft-neglected national observance of this country’s many great writers (like you!). Here are some other ways to celebrate National Author's Day.
And in case you’re curious about the short story by Irving Bacheller that so intrigued Nellie Verne Burt McPherson and set National Authors Day in motion, here it is.
Rita M. Reali is an award-winning author whose work has appeared in Reminisce magazine, the S.H.A.R.E. pregnancy-loss newsletter, and newspapers across Connecticut and Tennessee. She’s spoken about editing at writers’ conferences and delivered presentations on proofreading to several professional groups. Rita also runs an editing and proofreading business, The Persnickety Proofreader, and blogs under the same moniker: https://persnicketyproofreader.wordpress.com. Her debut novel, Diagnosis: Love, was published in 2015.
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