Every blogger, poet, journalist, novelist, copywriter, song writer, short story writer, screenplay writer, textbook writer, memoirist, novelist or author of any kind knows and fears it. Those with computers, at least. It flashes on and off the screen, steadily. Hide and seek. Come find me! He/She/It/They says, taunting, daring, challenging the would-be composer of word art. I dare you! Just do it! Write something, already, you hack! When the muse visits and the words come, the cursor dances across the screen, doing your bidding. But sometimes you’re stuck, sitting there at your desk, on your couch or bed or deck chair, at the school library or maybe your favorite coffeehouse. Waiting for inspiration. That blinking cursor, it mocks you, makes you question your abilities and perhaps, on a bad day, your entire existence. What is one to do? Well, writers write. So even if it’s crap (perhaps like this paragraph, you may be thinking), you plow through it. Like I just did.
I’m thinking about writing recently because I finally picked up Welcome to the Writer’s Life: How to Design Your Writing Craft, Writing Business, Writing Practice, and Reading Practice. I checked it out from the library again, now that at least one can get books on hold. Paulette Perhach’s friendly, jam-packed tome from summer 2018 is a handy guide for the newbie writer or a refresher for the experienced.
Today I read the chapter on reading, and was reminded how much work I have to do in this department. Paulette (yeah, we’re on a first-name basis because we communicated over the world wide web) writes that being a good reader is essential to being a good writer. Short of being in an MFA program (Master of Fine Arts), books are one’s best teachers. She goes on to list a number of diverse authors she recommends to expand one’s view from the white male paradigm that dominates the publishing world. It’s a timely pointer given the rise of the movement for racial justice.
As for that blinking cursor, I’m sure she’ll get into writer’s block in the next chapter on craft of writing. I addressed it myself in a previous post titled Writers Block: Real or an Excuse?. I kinda do think it’s a thing but yet not really, mostly it’s overblown, and there are ways out of it. (HINT: All of them include writing at some point.) But the thing I appreciate about her book thus far is that it’s not just a resource book full of tips and yes, other things to read, but her tone. It really is as if a friend has taken this aspiring author by the hand and in a friendly but no BS way said “Hey, the writer’s life is not easy, but it can be done, so feel welcome, and why not try this?
One super-handy tool on the website is called Resources from the Book. Links, exercise, worksheets and more are available to help the writer follow-up on things from the book. I’ve been taking notes, but this is a fantastic list to refer back to when wanting to learn more. Some are websites, others are tools, and many are books. It all still seems a bit daunting, this idea of becoming a writer as a job; it may never happen for me. Or rather, I may never make it happen. Most days I’m just trying to get through and do my job or find the next one, which is a job in itself. With the global pandemic killer virus, everything’s much harder and competitive, too. And then there’s all the bicycling, walking, yoga-ing, and yes, writing.
After two and a half years of adopting a daily writing habit, I have approaching 500 blog posts and the first draft of a whole book written. Actually, I’m almost done editing it, so technically it’s almost a second draft. But I still have a long way to go to make this blog much better and bigger and to get the book edited and published or self-published. I hope Paulette’s book will help me with that. We shall see.
This obviously isn’t a full review of the book, but if you’re interested in getting a copy yourself, you can buy Welcome to the Writer’s Life on Amazon. Or you can check out her blog, which has some of her signature wit and warmth in shorter and free form. She has a series, “My Favorite Writers Favorite Books” with celebrities from Michelle Obama to Anthony Bourdain. Another recurring them is “Read This to Learn That.” There are some silly ones in there too. After all, this is from a woman whose powerful essay “Fuck Off Fund” went viral and got her “the bump” that helped her succeed as a freelance writer, writing coach and publish author. But she still had to put in the work. And beat that cursor. From which we can all benefit. I know I have learned from Paulette’s advice and hope I am able to put it to good use.
Well, that’s another post in the can for me. I somehow vanquished that blinking cursor yet again. Will this win any prizes? No. Will it help one or more people with their writing? I hope so. Let me know if you gleaned anything of note from this. Until next time, remember that writer’s write. And if you’re not one, that’s fine. Readers read, and you can’t have one without the other. Thanks for reading, if you did. And if you didn’t, I don’t guess you’re seeing this. In which case, I better end this before it becomes too meta.
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