If genuine, open-hearted engagement is the basic ingredient of the creative process, then we all have the capacity to move a reader.
Never have I read a recovery memoir that was so ripping hilarious, emotionally astute, and theologically provocative. Marty was a fantastic writer. He worked on that tome (three volumes long!) for as long as I knew him—over a decade. It was one of the most exciting projects I’ve ever supported.
What’s the real value of our writing? Others may answer this differently, but here is my take: Does the act of writing help you come more alive? Then it’s valuable. Does your writing help even one other reader come more alive? Then it’s valuable.
Stories weave themselves into the fabric of our lives and irrevocably change us. That my story did this for Nikki seems a miracle, or at least an act of grace. Perhaps the miracle is that I actually got to know Nikki and watch her build her own amazing story with my words in the margins.
The literary world isn’t served well by our super-star culture. Publishers throw money at certain books to guarantee their stardom. Readers get a thrill from reading the books of famous people rather than from reading good stories. And writers must labor at building platforms rather than honing our craft.
How then can we crow-bar ourselves out of hierarchical thinking into a place of greater freedom?
I’m increasingly convinced that what makes writing (both the process and the product) valuable is its service to the story. Nothing else satisfies in the end—not success, not recognition, not extraordinary craft accomplishments, certainly not money.
Over my years of teaching writing I’ve had hundreds of people ask me, “Is this writing good enough?” This question shows up in different forms—“Is it publishable?” “Do I have talent?” “Should I keep going?” But it’s inevitable. I’ve yet to work with a writer (or meet any artist, for that matter) who didn’t ask …
(A big thanks to participants in the Book Binders’ Salon for a stimulating conversation last night about rejection. I’m indebted to you for most of this post!) “Rejections slips,” wrote Isaac Asimov, “however tactfully phrased, are lacerations of the soul, if not quite inventions of the devil – but there is no way around them.” The …
Here’s the scene that comes to me: Hannah, fairly new in her midwifery apprenticeship, making a mess of her first attempt to draw blood. She’s hesitant to poke the needle deep enough to catch a vein, so blood spurts everywhere and the man who has offered his arm is hurt, albeit not much. Hannah develops a full-fledged terror of drawing blood. She’s sure that by inserting herself into others’ lives, she’ll hurt them.
In case you’re wondering, I’m writing this (at least the first draft) by hand, in a spiral notebook with a fountain pen. My laptop makes a great lap desk. I like the new paper against the back of my hand and the ink easing from my pen tip. Writing can be a calming, sensory delight. …