Many people ask me what it’s like to write books. So many say they could never to do it. I think if you have something in your head you really want to say (scream) to the world, then you can write. So many of you have written great letters or emails that packed a serious punch when it counted. Think about that letter you wrote to someone you were really mad at…whether it was a contractor or an in-law or soon-to-be ex-boyfriend…no way that letter wasn’t extremely articulate and well written. Any form of writing is like that, I just get inside my head and feel something intensely in my heart and I meld the two to get words on a page that mean something. That may sound corny, but I don’t want it to. Writing is much easier when you can concentrate in a quiet space about something you really believe in.
I think people shy away from writing not because they can’t do it, but because they are nervous about the exposure it will engender. It is nerve-racking to put anything I feel deeply on a page because it exposes me – my feelings, some awkward sentences I know don’t sound quite right, my inability to ever construct a sentence like the storyteller Alice Munro or my journalistic hero David Remnick. If you can get over that stage-fright, you can write anything you want well.
Writers still go at it somewhat obsessively even though they feel nervous. Why? We feel deeply about something that we’ve got to get out there. What’s the point of writing if you don’t want to get a point across? We all have theories on life and death issues that control how we behave, parent, speak, and evolve. Then there’s the pain and anguish and joys of love – every single person out there has those feelings whether they are on their own and looking and lusting, happy in love, or considering a break-up. The lighter stuff…fashion…kids’ meals…your best pizza crust…all feels crucially important in the moment too.
If you feel strongly about anything in life, big or small, you can put in on paper. Writers have decided through various career mishaps and lucky breaks that that’s all they can or want to do. I personally am very fortunate to write books now as I’m parenting three kids aged 11, 15, and 17 and my work time is flexible.
Like every Mom out there, at home or in the office, I’m working extremely hard at mothering them well. A career as an author and free-lance journalist is the only job I want to have right now and I know I’m very fortunate to have developed it. If I can write from 4 a.m. to 7 a.m, that gives me three wonderful hours to write before I need to get the kids fed and out the door in the mornings. Once they are gone, I can go to a library and write again…theoretically and not always realistically for many more hours before our mandatory “meaningful” family dinner at which my children can all look me in the eye, talk to me, and simultaneously, blindly text their friends under the table without me knowing.
Back to the point of this blog: writing makes me nervous. My next novel, THE IDEA OF HIM, is out in 7 days. As a media person with two decades of working at places like ABC News and Newsweek, I have no understanding of how one gets the message of a book out there in a void with so few bookstores left on street corners. Yes, we are all grateful for the remaining big blockbuster bookstores, but the little ones with the windows that displayed books just aren’t around my neighborhood anymore.
In any case, I did write a second novel. I put my deepest darkest feelings and beliefs about most everything on most every page…mainly the notion that women can rely on themselves for their happiness rather than finding a man to fix everything. Female friendship, work, passions, mothering, life’s simple joys…all those things can and do fulfill us. We need men and partners and love for sure, but for the in-between times, having gone through a divorce, I wanted to write a book that helped women feel less desperate to cling to the next available life raft in the form on the wrong man again and focus on themselves and what they have already to be grateful for.
I’m nervous about the launch of my book. I’m nervous about people’s reactions. I started this page out saying it’s not that hard, you can do it and you can for sure….but the exposure makes me feel naked. I guess there’s a version that this is what I wanted, that I’m excited, that I tried really hard to construct a good book that moved like wildfire and is sexy and romantic, and that I’m lucky and grateful for my career. I’ll stick to the message in my book…and focus on all that I have that fulfills me and how lucky I am to have it.