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

 

 

Creative Tuesdays and Feeding My Unicorn

Wait, did I just say “feeding my unicorn”? Yep. It’s a thing.

And now, too, is my self-appointed weekly exercise I’ve called Creative Tuesdays. In short, I have challenged myself to crete something new, something I’ve never done before, once a week on a Tuesday. Why Tuesday? Simply because it fits in with my childcare and writing schedule.

One of the fundamental premises of The Artist’s Way is taking yourself on a weekly artist’s date. But if you’ve got tiny people in your life (babies and toddlers, that is, not fairies, though I say yay for you if you have fairies), it’s really difficult to get out of the house on schedule. But as I am a creative being in a creative job, I need to feed my unicorn. And the in-home Creative Tuesday is the only way I feel I can do that right now.

But do it I must! Because I don’t want to drain the well or there’ll be nothing left to creative yummy books to read. And I love that and want to keep doing that.

So, here are my first two efforts for Creative Tuesdays.

Week 2: Relish! The kitchen was a freaking disaster but I declare the relish a triumph. Yummo!
Week 2: Relish! The kitchen was a freaking disaster but I declare the relish a triumph. Yummo!
Week 1: Christmas ornaments made from recycled wood and wire from our farm
Week 1: Christmas ornaments made from recycled wood and wire from our farm

Want to join me? I’d love to hear from you ūüôā

Getting published: There’s no reason it can’t be you

In February 2009,¬†QWC¬†published an article I wrote called ‘The Power of the Positive’ in their¬†WQ¬†magazine, and I’m betting more than a few people thought I was a little nutty and ‘woo woo’.¬†

I started off by saying, “It seems to me¬†that¬†there can be a¬†tendency in writing circles to dramatise the negatives‚Ķ the main message is all about how difficult writing is, how it’s nearly impossible for a first-time writer to get published, how the annual salary for¬†full-time writers in Australia is ridiculously low, how you ‘shouldn’t give up the day job’, how you ‘shouldn’t get your hopes up’, how everything is so competitive and how the slush pile is so high and¬†the editor’s time is so short.”

 
Sound familiar?
 
An excerpt from my article, 'The Power of the Positive'
An excerpt from my article, ‘The Power of the Positive’

The rest of the article goes on to talk about the importance of believing the positive, visualising success, and channeling all that creative energy you have into something useful, rather than¬†something that’s going to tear you down and bring others down with you–incorporating some sports psychology and some new age theory too.

But most importantly, it poses the question, ‘Why can’t it be you?’
 
Now, my first novel,¬†The Tea Chest, has finally made it out into the world. And I am living proof that you can rise above all that negativity out there that will shoot down your dreams before they’ve even started. I’m not saying it’s easy to face more than a decade of writing books (10¬†manuscripts in 12 years for me before I got a publishing deal) and literally hundreds of rejections. It’s¬†emotionally hard going when you’ve put your soul into a piece of art that other people criticise. And then it just sits silently and invisibly on your laptop with no where to go (which is why I’ve turned some of my manuscripts into books via http://www.lulu.com, just so I could see the completion of the project).¬†
 
And just for the record, The Tea Chest was submitted to every mentorship program and manuscript development program out there and not picked up.
 
You’ve got to do the¬†work. Of course you do. I¬†guarantee your book won’t get published if you don’t write it. But there is no predetermined¬†expiration date or outcome on this. The sky truly is the limit (or¬†maybe not even then).
 
Having said that, I do actually want to ‘ground’ this notion in a larger philosophy: that of art for art’s sake. Because I’m not saying you WILL achieve all those things you dream of. Sometimes, good work just won’t get published. This is not about bulldozing your way into perceived success via milestones and paycheques. The most important thing of all is to write. Just WRITE.¬†
 
If you are going to become attached to anything, become attached to being a writer, not to your manuscript. Then you will be able to move on¬†from the wonderful manuscript you’ve worked so hard on for so¬†many years and write a new one, or indeed something else entirely.
 
And just for once, I won’t quote Julia Cameron in¬†The Artist’s Way¬†(I do not work for Julia Cameron or get commission ¬†though the amount I plug her I probably should‚Ķ), but instead I will¬†quote Australian author,¬†Torre de Roche:¬†

Forget the stats, the numbers, the wealth, the¬†prestige, the popularity, the things you¬†imagine¬†to be waiting for you on the other side of ‚Äėsuccess.‚Äô They‚Äôre not there, and if they are, they won‚Äôt stay long. Instead, work tirelessly to make your soul happy.¬†Keep going until you‚Äôre standing before a big, glorious creation made by you, for you. Your baby‚ÄĒmade of cells, or paper, or clay, or words. That‚Äôs yours.

Be proud. You did it for the simple joy of creating. There is nothing more to life than that.

So don‚Äôt quit.”¬†

What I’m saying here is that we write because we must. We write because it makes us happy. That is why we do it. So do it.

But there is no harm in expecting the best along the way. There is no harm in valuing a financial reward for your art. Imagine your biggest, scariest possibility of whatever you deem to be ‘success’. Got it? Good. File it away somewhere in your heart and mind to revisit at a later date, shrug of the criticisms and the crazy looks you get when you say you’re working on a book (to which someone will instantly say, ‘oh, do you have a publisher?’ and you’ll squirm inside and say, ‘no, not yet’), and go write. It doesn’t matter what anyone else has to say about your ‘chances’ of being published. That’s their reality, not yours. Feel free to invent your own.