Early this month, Bobby Mac (that’s my husband’s nickname) and I went to see Wes Anderson’s new movie Isle of Dogs (basically a slow-motion acid trip), and afterward we went out to dinner. I’d been grumpy for the last two days, an out-of-sorts rumpled around the heart feeling, and over a fine Sauvignon Blanc, I understood why: I didn’t want to write the new book I just started.
Why? Because it was feeling far too heavy. I was trying too hard to use the material from my failed memoir like my Aunt Edna reused her tinfoil. I took a sip of wine and declared to Bob, “I will only write a new book if I really, really want to and if it’s fun.”
This may seem like a stunningly obvious observation – write the book you actually want to write! – but I get highjacked by shoulds around my writing: I should be wise, I should be helpful, I should be useful, I should rock your world.
Shoulds cover up my voice like an oil spill on a pristine beach. It’s one way I hide as a writer. Shoulds are safer and easier to write than doing the painstaking work of figuring out what I really want to say.
I’ve started yet another new idea (!!) with the subtitle Lessons the Self-Help Guru Had to Teach Herself. I’m committed to having fun and writing true. Of course, I keep veering into ponderous heavy shoulds – old dog new tricks and all that.
Stay tuned to see if this book idea sticks!
Recently On my Blog (in case you missed any posts)…
Journal Prompt of the Month (for your writing pleasure)
A great exercise I learned from my buddy Michael Bungay Stanier’s book Do More Great Work is to make a This/Not That list. I used it to get clear on the guiding principles for writing the book.
Here’s my list:
What project of yours could use a THIS/NOT THAT framework? The being you are your best, not that being you are at your not so best.
What I’m Reading / Listening To / Watching
Circe by Madeline Miller
Like her first novel The Song of Achilles, which I also adored, Miller takes a figure from mythology and imagines her life, in this case, Circe from the Odyssey. I was so sad when this book ended. The language! The imagination! The story! The feminism! The ending!
The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer
I love Meg’s voice. I loved her last book, The Interestings, and while this one wasn’t as satisfying, I still had a blast with the characters, and the love story was so believable.
Hurry Slowly is a podcast created by the wonderful Jocelyn K. Glei. It’s all about how pacing yourself is the key to avoiding burnout, improving your productivity, and activating your creative mind.
How Do We Write Now by Patricia Lockwood
If you don’t mind cursing, read this bracing essay on why even now with the world burning down our ears, writing matters.
If male authors described men in literature the way they describe women. My favorite was Tolstoy.
What I’m Excited About
My new book idea. I’m not strangling it or insisting it work. Instead, we are courting.
Being in love with my husband. We went through a hard patch at the end of last year and we used it to grow closer. I am so proud of us.
The breakthroughs that happen every week at the Writer’s Oasis . Our theme in April was coming out of hiding. Members shared breakthroughs that included:
- Working through the worry “that [my essay] would provoke lots of loud/angry/challenging responses from my readers”
- Buying new clothes and realizing her wardrobe along with her sweet self had been sadly neglected
- Many difficult conversations about money
- Attending an open mic night (3 people did this in April!)
Teaching in Taos. I am here reveling in the magic as you read this. Consider joining us next year .
And being in conversation with you!