Writing BooksI Will Write My Book by Joe Henry

‘Il dolci far niente’ is stale, and the time for dreaming is ‘finito’. Dreams are essential for a fulfilling life, but if those dreams never come true, how gratifiying is that? And how can dreams become reality if we forever wallow in ‘the sweetness of doing nothing’ instead of taking action to bring those dreams to fruition? In every life there are pivot points – words that speak to us, events that spur us to action, emotions that ignite a passion so burning that it can’t be snuffed. I was spinning on a pivot point this past weekend, doing my best to stay upright in my wobbly pirouette, and it’s a relief to find that I’m still standing now that the twirling has stopped. An air of dizziness still surrounds me, but that’s more like my everyday blonde trying-to-do-too-much condition.

The San Francisco Writers Conference took place this past weekend, and I spent four fantastical days immersed in the literary world. It was exhilarating, but at times I truly felt like an imposter faking my way, a would-be singer lip-syncing, a giddy freshman lost on her first day of high school, a spy caught in a web of intrigue. The first two days were utterly overwhelming, and once or twice I simply wanted to walk out on the difficult, daunting world of writing.  I was grumbling, “You don’t need to do this! Why are you torturing yourself?” In response I was muttering, “You need to do this for your soul. But why?”

Why do writers feel compelled to write? Why We Write is the perfect book for frustrated writers, and I keep it on my desk to pick up whenever I slam into a wall. It has a great quote by David Baldacci: “If writing were illegal, I’d be in prison. I can’t not write. It’s a compulsion. When the sentences and the story are flowing, writing is better than any drug. It doesn’t just make you feel good about yourself. It makes you feel good about everything.” I’m no Baldacci – if writing were illegal, I would probably never lift a pen, coward that I am. But I understand the compulsiveness of it, and I’m starting to feel glimmers of feeling good as a result of it. Another trusty companion book, Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, comforts me with this quote: “Very few writers know what they are doing until they’ve done it. Nor do they go about their business feeling dewy and thrilled. They do not type a few stiff warm-up sentences and then find themselves bounding along like huskies across the snow. One writer I know tells me that he sits down every morning and says to himself nicely, ‘It’s not like you don’t have a choice, because you do – you can either type or kill yourself.’” I feel ever so much better knowing that if I never wrote again I certainly wouldn’t kill myself and would continue to live happily. At least I’m not a tormented artist. But I do feel inexplicably compelled to write.

After the first two head-spinning days of the Conference, there was a slow build of inspiration and profound clarity on the third day. Bonding with other writers – including published authors who continue to seek guidance and wisdom – was reassuring. Consulting with editors who found good in my work – and gave me “A-ha!” advice on the bad – was illuminating. Meeting big scary literary agents – who of course are just regular people like the rest of us – was insightful because they want to find a good story to sell (almost) as much as we writers want to write that good story. It began to feel like we were enveloped in a cocoon of encouragement and support. After being buried alive in a pile of Writing Advice, I dug my way up and poked my head out the top to greet the light where it all came together in one cohesive, simple message: “JUST WRITE!” The last day of the conference created a feeling of empowerment as I realized that there really are no rules, no rhyme, and no reason to what makes a bestseller or a book worth reading. After taking copious notes and learning an abundance of valuable knowledge, I came to the conclusion that the most important thing is to write with passion and write with ferocity… every single day. Now that this vast collection of writing and publishing information has been assimilated in my twirly little mind, I can forge ahead.

Whatever your dream – to run a marathon on the Great Wall, start your own business, grow a vegetable garden, sail around the Greek Islands, appear in an off-Broadway play, lose 100 pounds, get off the grid, cure the common cold, learn to sculpt, be on a reality show, design an ipad app, cook a soufflé, become a Red Cross volunteer, party at Burning Man, find your biological mother, see the earth from space, become a doctor, survive in the wilderness for a month, be a ninja, knit an afghan, hang out with Bruce Springsteen, jump from an airplane, live in Italy, or even win the lottery – just remember that it won’t happen simply by sitting around dreaming about it. Praying may help, but it won’t cause it to happen. And believe it or not, it won’t magically occur with the Law of Attraction theory of “putting it out to the world” (as much as I believe in that theory too).  To make our dreams a reality, we must PLOT it. Make a plan, strategize, do the things to put the wheels in motion. We must dream up the idea, create the storyline, and above all stick to the plot!

14 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Mac
    Feb 20, 2013 @ 21:31:24

    Love it – sounds like a great weekend!

    There are never any rules…


  2. Dory Schramm
    Feb 20, 2013 @ 22:07:21

    Hoo hoo! Glad to hear your weekend was so exhilarating, Jana. You go girl! Smeone is going to be published…….why not you?!


  3. Benvo
    Feb 21, 2013 @ 16:15:42

    Go Jana…looks like the Mojo is back….


    • janahaertl
      Mar 02, 2013 @ 16:11:32

      It’s such a game of tag, chasing down and tackling the Mojo… and then every once in a while Mojo actually tackles ME unexpectedly. Thanks for cheering me on, Benvo!


  4. Cathy Miller (@millercathy)
    Feb 22, 2013 @ 18:11:22

    Sounds like a wonderful conference. I could use a shot of your Kool-aid, Jana. 😉


  5. shuttersandsunflowers
    Feb 24, 2013 @ 14:41:30

    YOU ARE WRITING and doing it brilliantly!! What comes across from the beautiful way you write is your honesty and your passion, you really ‘get it’ and must ‘keep at it’ because you have true talent!!!! I so totally relate to what you have just written and can’t wait to see you and hear about the conference. Caroline xx


    • janahaertl
      Mar 02, 2013 @ 16:27:57

      Thank you for your encouragement, Caroline… coming from a fellow writer is especially sweet! So much to share about our writing adventures… how I would love to catch up over a latte in your beautiful Provence someday! xo


  6. Kim Helgans
    Feb 28, 2013 @ 04:22:42

    Your dream is written beautifully. I am grateful for your story, reminding us that every good voice has an audience when it comes to receiving heartfelt intentions. You have been practicing your words for many years Jana! Your written words stay with us a long time.! For your soul and the greater good…please write, write and write some more!!


    • janahaertl
      Mar 02, 2013 @ 16:23:18

      Wow Kim, thank you from the bottom of my heart for your lovely words… you have buoyed me up immeasurably! I will tack your message to my wall board to remind me why I write and to help me keep at it! xoxo


  7. Ana Meehan
    Mar 02, 2013 @ 03:31:17

    Great piece and message. XO


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