Because You Have To: A Writing Life
By Joan Frank
(University of Notre Dame Press, Paperback, 9780268028930, September 2012, 200pp.)
The Short of It:
Writers, true writers will appreciate the grit contained within these pages.
The Rest of It:
Sometimes you look for a book, and sometimes a book finds you. This is definitely one of those times where the book found me and the timing could not have been more perfect.
Is this a book about writing? Yes. Without a doubt, this is a book about writing but it’s not a “how to” and it doesn’t include useful tips on how to get your book published either. What it is, is a collection of essays about the act of writing. Specifically, the writing itself and what it means to be a writer.
Many writers struggle financially and although this is something that we immediately realize as fact, it’s not something that comes to mind when you think of becoming an accomplished writer. Yes, being able to pay the rent does affect your writing. The type of job you have affects your ability to write as well. Working a 9-5 job and then coming home to a family that needs you, also affects your ability to create. It’s obvious, but hearing Frank tell it like it is, is somehow refreshing and comforting. Hearing her admit it somehow makes it okay and yes, writers everywhere will feel validated and empowered that there are others out there working through the same challenges.
Frank also goes into the mechanics of writing and the need for stillness. Creating art in an age where technology is buzzing all around us is a distraction in and of itself. Her essay titled The Stillness of Birds speaks to this and while I was reading it, I was distracted no less than ten times by my daughter who happened to be watching The Brady Bunch while writhing around on the floor. Yes, I could relate.
Frank also admits, that writing can be a lonely life. It’s not something that you share with everyone. Some will want to critique you, others will want to commiserate with you but most of all, her fear of being a whiner is what keeps her from discussing the early stages of her work. The act of writing brings with it, a healthy dose of misery. Who knew?
Reading this book was like taking a much-needed time-out. I’ve longed for a career in writing and feel that I have stories to tell, but the act of actually writing them down has been a dark cloud hanging over my head for as long as I can remember. Marriage, family, work. These are the things that continue to throw me off-balance and they are the very same things that Frank talks about in this book. Granted, she does not offer advice really, but what she does is tell you that you write, because you have to, not because it’s something you dreamed of doing. You write because physically, you’d be sick if you didn’t. Writers write, whether they get paid for it or not. That is the distinction and it’s been a bit of an eye opener for me.
I love that the collection is both honest, yet positive and hopeful. Clearly, Frank’s love of writing outweighs the misery that tends to go along with it. This is a book to pull out every time you are experiencing frustration of your own.
If this sounds like a book for you, enter my giveaway for a chance to win your own copy! Details below.
Joan’s TLC tour stops.
This giveaway is for one copy of Because You Have To and is open to the US and Canada. A winner will be chosen randomly by me. The book will come directly from the publisher. Only one entry per person. Giveaway closes on November 21, 2012 (pacific). I will contact the winner for his/her mailing address.
To enter the giveaway, please click here. (This giveaway is now closed!)