If you’re on Facebook with me, you may have seen me posting a quote here and there from Jeannine Atkins‘ new writing book, Views from a Window Seat: Thoughts on Writing and Life. I’ve been posting the phrases and sentences because Jeannine’s writing is just so lovely, it goes in your ears, touches your heart, and then pretty much demands to be shared. This is true of every book of Jeannine’s I’ve read, but seems to be especially true–for me, at least–of Views.
Disclaimer: Jeannine has been an online friend for many years, and her blog–the source of the pieces in Views–was one of the first I started reading. Take that away, and I would still be raving about her book and recommending it to any and all writers. For the reasons I’m going to talk about here.
For me, this collection of blog posts, or essays, that Jeannine has given us is a message of hope. I know, I know, that sounds mushy, and mushy (at least spoken out loud) is something I try to avoid. Except when…it’s true. Writing is hard. I thought I knew that when I was younger, and even a self-awarded label of “good” was so far down the line. As I get older, as I feel I have actually–here and there– achieved “good,” the writing doesn’t get any easier. (Did I think it would? I think I thought it would!) There are days when the drive to just finish something juggles itself with the desire to just write, and too often the juggling turns to pushing and pushing back, and I make no progress on either side of the battle. What Jeannine reminds me, in every piece, in just about every sentence of Views is that 1) I’m not the only writer feeling this way, 2) It’s all part of the process, and 3) It’s okay. Or if it’s not okay, at any given moment, it’s what we’ve got so we’d better deal with it. Here’s one of the sentences I highlighted as I read through the book.
Wishing I were the kind of writer who didn’t have to backtrack, draw zig-zagging arrows, and stumble into a plot may be as futile as wishing to be a foot taller or shorter.
Sometimes we have to be at the well rather than just worry about filling it.
Being at the well, without worry, is very possibly the toughest challenge we all face, both in writing and in life. The thing is, though, that, first, this book is not Jeannine preaching at or even instructing us. It’s Jeannine gently reminding herself and–if we care to listen–ourselves about the truths of writing. At the root of which is that this is a thing we do out of love, and from necessity. And that, while of course we wish it were simpler and more straightforward, if we don’t give ourselves over to the quiet and the waiting and the seeing what comes, we’re not only fighting a losing battle, we’re spending way too much time fighting, period. And we’re setting ourselves up to miss out on the wonder and magic that can happen.
Which is where the hope lives.
As I said, Views from a Window Seat demands to be shared. Which is why I’m giving away a signed copy to one lucky winner. Just leave a comment in the post (make sure you include your name and an email at which I can contact you) by next Monday night (January 13th), and I’ll draw a name and post the winner on Tuesday the 14th.
Heads up: Melodye Shore is offering another chance to win a copy of Jeannine’s book, plus a $25 price reduction to Candles in the Window writing and yoga retreat, at which Jeannine will be present as faculty. Leave a comment at Melodye’s blog here to enter (and/or follow other steps for more chances)!