I’m having a crisis of authorial faith. “Hey!” you might say, “maybe it has something to do with the strain of having seven children to look after yesterday and your mom recovering from double knee replacement and your husband having been at trial and your kids going back to school and you diving in to a new book!” OK, OK, you may (hypothetically, of course) be right. But humor me.
One of my favorite pieces of writing advice is to write the book you want to read. It makes me imagine that there is this room deep in your imagination and memory where you keep all the books that have touched you indelibly. If you get really quiet, you can find your way there – avoiding the forests of anxiety and the caves of intimidation, of course, not to mention the beasts of bravado – and edge your way into some corner to sit down and write in solidarity and hope. It has, in fact, got me through many previous crises of faith (are you noticing a theme here?).
But here’s where it gets sticky: I want to read a book I will fall in love with. I always do. Yet this falling in love comes from a place of resonating with someone else’s story and voice and experience, getting the sense that, across the great black distance of time and space, a little familiar light you never knew was there is suddenly shining out to you. I want to fall in love with new ideas and artistry. And as much as it might have seemed for a hot mess of an existential moment when I was sixteen, I don’t want to fall in love with myself.
I don’t even think I can, as far as my writing is concerned. For one thing, it’s impossible to read your work without the writing informing it. It’s kind of like trying to see the back of your hair in a single mirror. Each sentence – and in some places, each word – of a book I’ve written is chock full of the experience of writing it. So I’m starting to believe that I can’t write the book I want to read. That I shouldn’t, and maybe can’t.
Yet all is not lost! Because just as I’m letting go of this one lovely piece of writing advice, I’m reaching for another. I can’t quite make it out clearly yet, but I think it has to do with writing the book that reflects your love of words, of stories, and most of all, of readers. I’ll let you know if I get any closer. For now, tell me your stories to keep me company while I’m reaching out – to keep us all company! Because another thing I’m starting to think is that writing is much more of an act of profound social faith than I ever thought.