At a picnic for published, and soon-to-be-published, and want-to-be-published writers, we were discussing the books on our shelves that had advanced our creative journeys. Like most New England writers, Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style is within easy reach, as is Stephen King’s On Writing. These stand amidst twelve other titles that provide hints on creating characters, evoking emotion, and developing dialog; books that instruct how to read literature to enhance writing and how to bash through writers’ block by Naming the World (edited by Bret Anthony Johnston); the books provide guidance from Pitch to Publication (Carole Blake) and How to Get Known Before the Book Deal (Christina Katz).
But one author’s book is my most treasured, for she stepped into my life, when I needed an encouraging friend. It was May 2011; five months earlier I had left a time-consuming job to enter the nine-to-five world. I had hoped for time to write. Yet five months later, I still was not writing. I was consumed by self-doubt, and had no idea how to pursue my dream. In the morning, I would awaken to write in my journal. Inspired by dew drops glistening in the mauve and yellow sunrise, I filled pages. In the evenings I’d read. I devoured The Help by Kathryn Stockett, and reflected on Qualities of Light by Mary Carroll Moore. But that May, it was the book Whitethorn Woods by Maeve Binchy that finally began the slow peel of fingers of self-doubt from my eyes.
When I finished Whitethorn Woods, I was curious to see what new book Ms. Binchy was touting, I turned to the advertisements, and saw The Maeve Binchy Writers’ Club. Thinking it was another novel, I continued reading. These words spoke from the page to my heart: “This book is for you because you once said or even thought you might be a writer.” I bought the book.
Now, it is 2014; my novel remains unwritten. But thanks to Ms. Binchy’s Writers’ Club, my self-doubts are much quieter. I now believe I am a writer, for I write every day. Yes, my novel stopped at partial completion. That is because I had some living and learning to do. That is not self-doubt. That’s reality.
Here are a few of Ms. Binchy’s words that I found most motivating:
- Right off the bat, Ms. Binchy lets you know that, in her experience, all writers share self-doubt (page 3). Cool, I thought. I am a writer!
- “Writing is a bit like going on a diet: you should either tell everyone or no one” (page 7). I opted to tell people. It came out something like, “Um, I really like to write”. Or I might say, “I’m thinking of trying to write”. I finally learned to state, “I’m a writer”. Because I am a writer. I’m not an author. I’m not a novelist. But I am a writer. Quite prolific, in fact.
- Join a demanding writers group, but select this group wisely (page 12).
- Visualize success: imagine what it will be like to complete the novel: the accolades, the talk shows, the late night glitz and glitter (page 49). Make this part up (we writers know the glam part isn’t very likely). Envision whatever it takes to get you writing.
- Regarding motivation, Ms. Binchy recommends threats and rewards (page 32). Here are a few of mine:
While the book and the articles from the book’s guest writers were also helpful, it was the timing of Ms. Binchy’s words that has elevated this book to my favorite. She hooked me with, “This book is for you because you once said or even thought you might be a writer” and then delivered the needed message that, as an aspiring writer, I was not alone.
Maeve Binchy passed away on July 30, 2012. She left behind a legacy of books, articles and encouragement. In her life and with her words, she made the world just a bit more vibrant, lovely, and of course, colorful.