So many of us write New Year’s lists: what we’d do if we could. The people I know (many of us WEbookers are in this category, too) often write a variation of this sentence: I will write this year, if I can. If I find the time. If I had a place to write.. A better job. If my son/daughter were a little older. Graduated from high school. College. Law School. If I had more money. A better job. If I didn’t have to take care of my aunt. My mother. My diabetes. If I were thinner or fatter. If only I had a new computer.Nora Roberts, the remarkable and not uncomplicated writer who generates book after book, said in The New Yorker this summer, when asked for writing advice: Put your ass in the chair.
I have read many writing books. In fact, I’m addicted to them, although I know that no one even me can tell you how to write. I’ve read Anne LaMott and Brenda Euland, Stephen King and John Irving, Dorothea Brande and Annie Dillard: all experts, in different ways, of how to write. And I’ve taught writing, for years. Or tried to. But I’ve never heard such succinct and practical advice. To be a writer is to write. To write is to sit in one place – the circumstances don’t matter, even a little. The room could be a dark small warren crowded with pizza boxes or a villa on top of the Tuscan Hills. What matters, and all that matters, is putting words right down on the page. One of my favorite writing book authors, Peter Elbow (what a name: Peter Knee, Peter Shoulder, not nearly as succinct) talks eloquently about how you have to write many words, inane flat words, to get to those words that sing.
Buy a new notebook, if that’s part of your ritual, or a ream of Staples paper. And begin. That’s all. Just begin. Remember that you are not Leo Tolstoy or Joyce Carol Oates, and that’s a good thing.
For so many years now, as one of the ways I’ve earned a living, I’ve helped people, friends and strangers, write their books. The way I’ve helped, in weekly sessions that sometimes lasted for years, is just by being there as a reader, repeating over and over again that writing is what matters. Writing anything and everything. Dreams and journals often help writers find the story they want to tell. All writing is stories. If we’re lucky, if we practice and try and don’t give up, if we listen carefully, pay attention, and live as fully as we can, our stories will be good enough to tell one another, somehow. I await all the stories, all the unexpected sentences, that WEbook writers will create, in 2010.
Many words to you all..