How to Write a Book (for those who want to, but have a hundred excuses not to).

Consider this post both a gentle, supportive hug, and also a loving butt kick. I’ve had too many conversations in the past month with beautiful, talented, creative women that go something like this:

  • “Yeah, I’d love to write a book but I don’t want to do it and have it be bad.”
  • “I don’t want to write a book and have people criticise it.”
  • “I’d love to write a book but I know it’s so hard to get anything published [and therefore why would I bother].”
  • “I really want to write a book but I know hardly anyone makes money out of it and I need to be able to support myself… I can’t give up my day job.”

Look, to be blunt, none of this is new. All of this has been said before, by me and every other person with a creative wish. As Elizabeth Gilbert says, “your fears are boring”. (Ouch! Hurts just a bit, doesn’t it?)

People get so messed up in their heads thinking about the outcome of their creative project that they fail to even start it.

And in my experience, what happens to your book  after it is finished is largely out of your hands. You have very little control over it after it leaves your laptop and flies off into the world.

Maybe it will sell, maybe it won’t. Maybe it will start a revolution across the world, or maybe it will change a single person’s life and help them through a difficult time. Maybe it will make you really rich, or maybe it will pay a phone bill, or maybe you’ll end up in debt.

Like bringing a child into the world, there is only so much you can do to protect, shepherd and guide her where you want her to go. She has her own journey.

Is this poking at your deepest fears? Can you feel your stomach knotting and your breathing constrict?

Here is something terrifying.

That fear never goes away.

I emailed my lovely fairy godmother, Monica McInerney, not long after getting my contract for The Tea Chest and The Chocolate Promise and asked her how to deal with the paralysing fear that was stopping me writing. She laughed (lovingly) and told me it wouldn’t ever go away and she was going through it right then too, on her tenth novel.

Julia Cameron, master of living a creative life (and famed author of The Artist’s Way) confesses in her book, The Creative Life, that as time goes on, the mind’s tricks, which it plays to stop us from writing, only get trickier.

Please, beautiful people with creative dreams, don’t be a slave to the ego’s fear.

You are stronger than that. You are wiser.

Accept it.

Name it, if you like. (My creative monster, my ever present fear, is called Maureen. Julia Cameron’s is called Nigel.) It is like an unwanted relative. You can’t get rid of it. It will always be at the table, eating your food.

Give it a job if you like. Many years ago, I listened to my saboteur tell me that everything I wrote was crap, turned to the corner of the room and said, ‘Really? Thanks for that feedback. Now go do something useful and find me a book contract.’

But please, write.

Please write.

Write.

Write for the sake of writing. Write because you want to. Write because in this hour, this day, that is what your soul calls you do to. Write because you love it. Write because you have something to say.

What happens to it after that?

It’s irrelevant. The important thing is that you wrote.

Much love,

Jo x

 

 

Reclaiming Your Inner Artist

Me, in the middle in blue, participating in a public drumming performance, roughly ten years ago.
Me, in the middle in blue, participating in a public drumming performance, roughly ten years ago.

Ever had that moment when you suddenly think, ‘Far out! What happened to me?’

You’re wondering where your ‘life’ went. You’re wondering where the real YOU went?

I’ve had those moments, many times, such as when I realised I couldn’t lead the life in the corporate world any more. And most recently, when I declared to my husband across the kitchen sink, ‘I’m an artist without any art!’ like it was a national crisis.

A tad melodramatic, sure. But this is what our inner artists do. We ALL have an inner artist and if we don’t pay attention to them, they will start shouting at us louder and louder until we listen to them and do what they want… which is to feed, nurture and love them. (Think of your inner artist as a toddler or a dog and you’re pretty much on the money.) To the inner artist, having no art in my life WAS a crisis, akin to a lack of oxygen. My husband (quite used to me by now) merely said, ‘Well you need to go out and find some.’

So I did. I reclaimed a part of myself that’s been sad for more than 9 years, which was when I stopped going to African drumming classes. The reasons I stopped going were all very logical–we moved inland to ‘the bush’ and I simply had no access to a drumming circle. Then we moved to the Sunshine Coast last year (for the very reason of accessing artistic and lifestyle goodness) but now having a toddler and big, conflicting work schedules for both my husband and me, it just didn’t happen.

But finally, it has. And it felt GOOOOOD. Oh man, my soul (my inner artist) was so, so happy and has been all day today and especially so while I was working on my latest manuscript.

I'm in there!
I’m in there!

It is the central tenant of being an artist that we must

FILL THE WELL BEFORE WE DRAW FROM IT.

In other words, we cannot make art (in my case, novels) if we aren’t first nourishing ourselves with the sights, sounds and experiences we need to then be able to draw from.

Our inner artists are constantly telling us what they want; it’s just that we don’t always listen. That moment when you think, where did my life go, is just a call to action to change something, to make a minor adjustment in the course this ship is sailing.

What’s yours saying?