Agreeing With Life

I have spent more time teaching writers in the last two years than I had in the previous forty-eight. Most of the writers I work with, either as clients or students, come to me in the second half of their life with the book they have wanted to write for some time. Most of the writers, if they forget to be afraid, or to doubt themselves, or to doubt whether anyone would want the book, can write as well as anyone would need to tell the story they want to tell. The challenge for these newer writers is not skill, although they usually believe so. The challenge is creation itself. To write a book is to confront the reality of making something on purpose. Writing a book is not like deciding to paint your own house. There is no list of dos and don’ts that, if followed and married with time and labor, will produce a satisfying product. To begin a book is to begin a relationship, bringing with it all the joy and confusion inherent in all relationships.

Trust is the foundation of all working relationships. Without trust all relationships are slaves and masters. Without trust anyone is a potential enemy. To trust a friend is to know that despite arguments and misperception, your goal and your friend’s goal remains the same: love. To write a book is to trust that my imagination’s goal is the same as my goal. I don’t get to boss my imagination around; I don’t get to tell it where to go. My imagination and I must agree to go somewhere together, or we will not go anywhere.

In this way, creation contradicts the story that we are ever alone. I cannot create alone. I don’t know how. I alone don’t know what a story is. I alone don’t even know what the right word is. I know what the right story, the right scene, or the right word is when I have reached agreement in this relationship. Fortunately, there is no better feeling in my life than this agreement, for it is agreement with life. And that is how you write a book: you agree with life. The rest is just details.


Write Within Yourself: An Author's Companion.

"A book to keep nearby whenever your writer's spirit needs feeding." Deb Caletti.

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