The blank page, the impossible deadline, the rush of inspiration: There is no profession more maddening or more rewarding than being a writer. Yet surprisingly, all writers pass through the same sequence of stages in the course of their careers. It was this remarkable insight that inspired veteran authors Nancy Pickard and Lynn Lott to write one of the wisest and liveliest guides to the literary life ever penned-- a volume of astonishing revelation, warm reassurance, brilliant encouragement, and welcome humor. No matter what you write or how much recognition you've received, you are bound to pass through the seven steps on the writer's path: Unhappiness, Wanting, Commitment, Wavering, Letting Go, Immersion, and Fulfillment.
Whether you're a wannabe writer or a published literary veteran, you're bound to find this book a source of true delight, vital wisdom, and lasting inspiration.
Based on the intriguing idea that writers pass through a sequence of seven identifiable stages when composing, this volume is a rewarding combination of motivational tool and writer's guide. Lott, a writer/therapist, and Pickard, author of the Jenny Cain mysteries, commiserate with readers as they detail the points on the path to completing any serious writing project. The steps, which they contend are common to all writers, begin at Unhappiness, then proceed to Wanting, Commitment, Wavering, Letting Go, Immersion and, finally, Fulfillment. Each phase gets its own chapter of explanation, advice and inspiring quotations. Particularly strong are the chapters covering seemingly negative steps, such as Wanting, which the authors describe as an "attractive power" that, like a magnet, draws to it "the things or people it needs in order to be fulfilled." At times, the self-help jargon, derived from the I Ching and other sources, can be too simplistic (i.e. "You can't feel the flow until you let go"), and readers may also tire of the authors' many references to their own lives. Overall, though, this is a fair representation of the artist's process that serves the important purpose of validating all the emotional stages of writing as normal-a valuable companion book for writers at any stage in their careers.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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May 31, 2004
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Excerpt from Seven Steps on the Writer's Path by Nancy Pickard
I had not thought of myself as geography, as invisible, internal lines I could chart, but the more I searched, the more things connected, until the rivers and the memories became a story, and also, perhaps a map. --Paul Zalis, Who Is the River
Standing on a high point, I can look off in every direction over a vast landscape. Dark shadows are settling in the valleys and gulches and the heights are made higher and the depths deeper by the glamour and witchery of light and shade.. . . [T]he country is marked "Unexplored."--John Wesley Powell, Down the Colorado
Writing is a path as full of darkness as it is of light, and so the way ahead is hard to see. There are so many ominous shadows, unpredictable gusts of wind, unexpected, blinding shafts of sunlight. It's easy to get lost, to trip over our own hidden roots, or plunge unaware into unexplored caverns in our psyche. As writers, we hardly ever know exactly where we're going. The only thing that most of us know how to do is to keep putting one foot after the other in the darkness and trust that eventually we'll get there.
Like every other writer we know, we have been lost on the writing path more times than there are rocks in the dirt. There have been times when we've frantically fumbled for a light when the way got dark. At other times, we've allowed the light to dazzle and deceive us. But we've kept going, step by fumbling, bleeding step, because that's what writers do when they don't know what else to do--they just keep putting pen to paper, until they find their way out again.
If that sounds melodramatic, it's because the writing path is a bit over the top. Anyone who walks it finds that out through hard experience. Terror! Laughter! Tears! Jeers! It's an adventure story, a romance, a drama, a situation comedy, a tragedy, and a farce. This can be a hard place for the fainthearted or the emotionally cautious to spend any time. On the other hand, this path is also beautiful and is just as likely to bring you peace of mind as it is to dismay you. We know people who would give their souls to walk it and many others who claim to have found their souls upon it.
When we first began to write, there was no book to tell us, "You are here on the writer's path." We didn't even know there was a path, much less a map to it. Most writers don't, which makes them all the braver for stumbling on through the underbrush without even a trail to follow. Maybe you've been floundering along as we have. Maybe you're an experienced writer who's having a midcareer crisis. Or maybe you've never written very much, but you cherish a secret dream to be a writer. Perhaps you're writing but not getting published, and you feel awful about that. Or maybe you would just like to have some perspective on where you've been and where you're going.
The act of writing is almost by definition a loss of perspective. When we're really deep into our writing, we're like those drops in the ocean that say in puzzled tones, "Where am I going? How will I get there? And what's this water stuff I keep hearing about?" As writers, we can get so isolated and so caught up in our passion for writing that we can hardly tell up from down or gauge distances or see the horizon. Without perspective on what we're doing, we can feel confused and alone. We can so easily forget that we're surrounded by other writers and that all of us are being carried along by the same great currents of language and desire.
Would it help to know that you are probably not lost at all but merely stalled on a real step along a real path? Would it help to learn about some ways to get you moving forward again? With this book, this map to the writer's life, we hope to help you do just that. We will lay out the path for you and teach you how to pinpoint your location on it. We trust that when you know where you are and what you're doing there, you will feel encouraged and relieved, and that will release your creative energy. At the very least, we have hopes that you will take comfort and solace from the company of other writers who know exactly how you feel, as nobody else in the world can really know.
At first glance, it wouldn't seem as if there could be one path for everybody. In creative endeavors, how could there be just one direction to go? In fact, the writer's path can look deceptively different for each of us. There are writers who feel irresistibly called to this path. For others, it looks like a detour on their way to other things. For some, it is a spiritual path, while others approach it for material reasons or to play with it. Only for a lucky few does it feel as straightforward as a sidewalk. And yet there is an underlying process we all go through, a series of steps that are common to all of us.