Gratitude and Goodbyes

It’s important to celebrate our progress–to experience the traditions and rituals of transitions from one stage of life to another. These traditions remind us to stop for a minute and treasure the moments we have…. –Patricia McGann, School Principal

These last few weeks have been a time of goodbyes. Millions of young people are graduating (including my daughter from 8th grade and nephew from high school). They are saying goodbye to old schools and routines and anticipating the next stage of life. In the children’s book world, we have had to say goodbye to several great lights: Maurice Sendak, Jean Craighead George, Ellen Levine, Leo Dillon. We are grateful for their beautiful art and writing and for their example of curiosity, constancy, and courage. Their lives enriched children’s literature and the lives of countless children.

The quote is from the principal at my daughter’s school, and it got me thinking about the importance of ritual in creative work. Showing up at the writing desk every day, setting aside time for revision, being alive to the transformation of our characters. We often live with these characters for weeks, months, even years. They dwell in our minds and hearts as we carefully craft and re-craft their worlds. And when the project is finished, how do we let them go? How do we say goodbye?

Before the advent of electronic submissions, I used to package a manuscript and walk it to the post office and then reward myself with a quiet hour or two. Maybe go for a walk, meet a friend, write in my journal. These days, it can be so tempting to just press “send” and whisk a manuscript to agent or editor and leap into the next project. But I find I need some psychic space between projects. I need a ritual, a moment of celebration. A time of gratitude to that project and a chance to say goodbye to those characters.

These times of goodbye seem to occur at different times for different writers. For some, the goodbye comes when they hold the finished book in their hands or send their proofed finals to their editor. For others (like me), the goodbye occurs when they send that manuscript off into the world for the first time.

When does the goodbye occur for you? And do you have any rituals that mark it?
~Mary Quattlebaum



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4 responses to “Gratitude and Goodbyes

  1. I'm not sure when I say goodbye but I do know that when I used to mail manuscripts off to my publisher or agent, I would hover at the post box for a long time wondering if it was ready to go. And then inevitably, when I at last let it go, I would be able to think of thirty things wrong with it that I could easily fix!

  2. Tim, I can completely relate to your hovering at the post office. In many ways, for me, it felt similar to sending a child off to camp or college. I'd ask all the check-off-the-list questions: Did you bring your sleeping bag? Bug spray? Shampoo? When, really, my heart was saying: Are you *sure* you're ready to go, little manuscript? Be brave!

  3. Interesting. I left a comment yesterday and today it's not here. I probably pressed the wrong "button". I wrote something about the blur that's created when we (I) run from project to project — without giving ourselves (myself) the time for a proper "goodbye." And now, after making that statement, there's nothing here. A blank. A gap. An emptiness.So. Maybe that is what I was trying to say. That in saying "goodbye" we give ourselves some quiet time to feel what we have done, an emptiness to be gently filled.As such:

  4. Mark, yes, I loved the way you phrased the need for quiet time and to honor the emptiness. It's a bittersweet feeling, a time of looking back and remembering when the idea first came…. A time of mourning and celebration, a threshold moment. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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