Brooke Warner wrote to me today, sharing news of a prospective client and her reluctance, life-long, to become a published author even though becoming an author was a life-long dream. I asked her if she minded if I shared her note through this blog, and she graciously agreed…
From Brooke –
Last week a prospective client contacted me about a novel she wants to get published—her fourth completed work of fiction, but the first project she feels compelled to see through to publication. She was upbeat on the phone, telling me how getting published would be the culmination of a dream. She didn’t say it was something on her bucket list, but I was getting that impression. We chatted for a while, and then she told me she had to tell me something. I wondered what it was. I thought maybe she had a terminal illness, or no money. It wasn’t that. She was in perfectly good health and wasn’t hesitant about working with someone. “I’m seventy-eight years old,” she said.
Although she’s a tad older than the typical client who contacts me for a sample session, the scenario she presented was something I see variations of all the time: the writer who has a number of complete manuscripts lying around the house, locked up in storage; the would-be writer who has a story they’ve been longing to tell for a decade, two decades, sometimes more; the untapped writer in all of us who dares to finally ask the question, “Can I really do this?”
Here’s the hard truth: It’s easy to not write the book you’ve always wanted to write, but it’s also draining, potentially even damaging. Not writing a book that wants to be written is a little like having an abandoned child who you keep up in the attic of your subconscious. You can relegate it to a far corner, but it keeps screaming for attention—sometimes loudly. I have worked with countless authors who come to me for help simply because they need the accountability—someone to help them make goals; someone to talk to them about something they love but can’t share with their spouses or children or friends in the way they want to. Many writers feel misunderstood, like this thing they want so badly doesn’t have enough merit somehow. I’m not sure how this society that so values being a self-starter and seeing things through has gotten to a point where it propagates the message that being a writer is somehow not enough. But that is the message we’re confronted with when we decide we want to write.
And yet, writing the story that’s been in your heart and pulling at the edges of your consciousness—begging to be written—is fulfilling in the way that manual labor is fulfilling. You set a goal. You measure your progress. And there’s an end in sight. I talk to authors a lot about the power of dreaming big. On my website I feature David Whyte’s quote, “Anything or anyone that does not bring you alive is too small for you.” I love this for what it says to those of us holding the dream to write. I sometimes ask my clients if they might be holding themselves too small. Writing for an audience, after all, requires you to step into your full potential and to live fully and completely out loud.
There is no right or better time to start writing a book. Maybe you’re one of the lucky few who is looking at your life and realizing that you finally have the time and the space to do this thing you’ve always wanted to do. Or maybe you still need a gentle shove. I’ve talked to writers who’ve confessed that they don’t want to die without telling their story. It seems like a morbid thought, and yet sometimes it’s the motivating force that propels a writer to finish what they’ve started.
I’ve found that women, in particular, need community to support them in their endeavors, and nowhere is this more true than in writing. If you are longing to write the book you always knew you would, could, should write, find community. Convene with fellow writers. Get a support group. Join a writing group or book club. Find other women who love books and writing as much as you do. Invite the very notion of being a writer and being a published author into your mind space and you will manifest it into a reality. Banish all naysayers and inner critic voices telling you that you can’t or shouldn’t. If you look deep inside, you’ll probably agree with the sentiment that you have a responsibility to yourself to be the creator you know yourself to be. Start with one word, and see what unfolds. To end on another of David Whyte’s brilliant and profound messages from his poem by the same name: Start Close In.
Start close in,
don’t take the second step
or the third,
start with the first
you don’t want to take.
Brooke Warner is a longtime publishing professional and founder of Warner Coaching Inc., as well as the publisher of She Writes Press. She teaches a course, “Write Your Memoir in Six Months,” geared toward helping writers finish their memoirs. Brooke is the author of What’s Your Book? She’s one of our Experts at Women At Woodstock 2012 Expert-Connect.