Worth Sharing

How easy it is to forget why you’re doing what you’re doing even while you’re doing it. To write is to collaborate with your imagination to share something wonderful or lovely or funny or scary or profound with other people. The sharing with other people is important because without them there would only be you and your diary, which is fine also, but aren’t we all glad for those people who shared what they had written with us? Indeed we are. And aren’t we happy, more or less, to pay a few bucks to read or watch or listen to what those people have shared. Why, yes we are.

It’s the dreary business of staying alive that can gum-up the creative life. There are artists out there who find a paycheck ample motivation, but I count myself among the many others who do not. The moment my attention wanders from the sharing of something lovely with other people to simply building my career, or growing my readership, or padding my savings, I soon wake up to discover that I loath the whole writing business. In fact, I can’t remember ever liking it.

Now I am a hero whose only purpose is to stay alive until the final meaningless word has been writ. I begin complaining. I complain first about other people, and then about myself, and then about life in general, that which summoned me forth for no apparent purpose. The complaining does not help, but perhaps I haven’t done enough of it. No, that doesn’t help either.

Somewhere at the end of all this unhappiness exhaustion gives way to memory. At first it as if I am recalling a story I once heard, until I meet the protagonist and recognize his days as mine. I am glad to find his story is not through, and that he finds it worth telling beyond reasons he can count. Nothing in the world worth knowing can be counted, just as nothing in the world worth dreaming is worth keeping.

9781935961994-Perfect_CS.inddWrite Within Yourself: An Author’s Companion.
A book to keep nearby whenever your writer’s spirit needs feeding.” Deb Caletti.

Remember to catch Bill every Tuesday at 2:00 PM PST/5:00 EST on his live Blogtalk Radio program Author2Author!
You can find Bill at: williamkenower.com
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Share Alike

Today’s column is a blog within a blog within a blog. I had the good fortune of being invited to contribute to Laura Munson’s fabulous blog this weekend, and so I thought I would share both that essay, and Laura’s lovely preamble to it, with you today. Enjoy.

Read the essay.

9781935961994-Perfect_CS.inddWrite Within Yourself: An Author’s Companion.
A book to keep nearby whenever your writer’s spirit needs feeding.” Deb Caletti.

Remember to catch Bill every Tuesday at 2:00 PM PST/5:00 EST on his live Blogtalk Radio program Author2Author!
You can find Bill at: williamkenower.com
Follow wdbk on Twitter

Share Alike

Any avid reader, which most writers are, has had this experience: You finish a book and think, “I can’t wait to tell my friend/wife/husband/mother/boss about it.” In fact, the literary agent Donald Maass pointed out that this was how breakout bestsellers are made, by one friend dragging another friend across a bookstore and saying, “You’ve got to read this.”

This is how we should sell books: as if we have just discovered it and can’t wait to share it with the rest of the world. There is no purer motivation than love, no better stance from which to offer anything. “I love it; I thought you might too.” It never feels like enough to love something by yourself. It is only the fear of rejection that restrains love’s natural, gravitational movement toward others.

The ego preens in false modesty. Who am I to draw undue attention to myself? All stinginess and withholding is fear. As if our love of something could be contested by another’s opinion. You will never know anything as clearly as you know what you love. It is your first and last knowledge, your guide, and your happiness. To withhold what you love from others is to judge them as unworthy of it. It is never for any of us to judge who is worthy of love and who is not. Give them the same chance you would ask.

And anyhow, what you love was never yours to begin with. What you love came to you, and you recognized it, and you asked it to wait a moment, and now you’ve helped it find a way to other people. That’s all our writing is. We are just the conduits of love from that which gives to those who wish to receive.

If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual and group conferencing.

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Junk

A regular reader of this column might have formed the opinion that I do not now suffer from any of the torments about which I so regularly write. But that it were so. If I have any authority at all in the area of doubt and self-torture it is from extensive and continued field research. My troubles, however, stem not from writing, but from not-writing, an emptiness I sometimes choose to fill with worrying about writing.

But as Andre Dubus said, we are all better people at our desk—kinder, more compassionate, more patient. This is certainly true of me, which used to be a concern of mine. When I sat down to write a novel for the first time at the age of 21, I actually thought, “I can’t do this. I don’t know what life is all about.” A rare moment of humility for my younger self, but not actually a reason to give up a novel, which I did.

It does not matter what fears we choose to believe while bustling about our day. Fear leaves no mark on us once we cease to believe it. The lines of worry our faces carry are not in fact the tracks of a life’s worth of hardship, but the expression, quite literally, of our current concern for some imagined future.

The gift of this column and of all my work is that I must begin with this question: “What is the very best thing I could share with someone?” It requires me to set aside all the junk I may have cluttered my day with, because no matter how much energy I poured into that junk, it is quite obvious as soon as I take a look at it through the prism of writing that it is nothing worth sharing with anyone else. What is left, once the junk is dropped, is always what I wish I could have said if I hadn’t been so distracted by the junk.

Perhaps I will someday be able to live every moment as I do on the page. I continue to hold out hope that it is possible. In the meantime, my fallen self finds solace in sharing—not so the world might learn what I have seen, but that I might travel to that place where things worth sharing always wait.

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Don’t Forget

I made the mistake last night of watching a movie right before I went to bed. My wife has pointed out that I seem to have too weak a filtration system for this sort of thing. I’m a bit of sponge, it turns out, and when the movie in question is addictively interesting to me but also incredibly violent—as this one was—the result is a very restless night’s sleep.

So I dreamed of murder and bodies in bed sheets and woke up very glad for the sunrise. I have tried to explain to some friends of mine, many of whom are devotees of action/gangster movies, my aversion to watching execution of any kind – that is, I take no stand against it aesthetically, I just can’t stomach it personally – and they have come to accept me as likeable movie wimp.

But the movie brought to mind something that I can often forget: stories do affect people. It’s easy while caught up in the business of trying to become a writer to lose sight of the reason we write, which is to communicate with other people. Because once the book has been written, and once you find an agent, and once the agent finds a publisher, and once the publisher gets the book into bookstores, at some point a person, just a regular person, is actually going to pick that book up and read it for the same reason you pick up books and read them—to be moved and entertained.

You will affect people. People will think about what you’ve written, and maybe cry and laugh about it. And this fact will be surprising and maybe even a bit alarming. Yes, it will be nice to get paid to write, and yes, it will be nice to be your own boss, but in the end, if you look at it honestly, you will see that the responsibility that comes with writing—no matter the genre—outweighs any personal gains to your lifestyle. The money will be spent, your hours will come and go, but the reach of your words will endure beyond the book jacket.

With this in mind, what then do you most want to share?

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