Friday, June 24, 2011

Enough about me

“Writing, at its best, is a lonely life. Organizations for writers palliate the writer’s loneliness, but I doubt if they improve his writing. He grows in public stature as he sheds his loneliness and often his work deteriorates. For he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day. 
Ernest Hemingway

I had a conversation with a woman at a wonderful gathering held recently at a historic stone mill in our village. She asked me about writing. Was it a huge undertaking to write a book and how did one start? I blinked back tears. How did one write a book. I wish I had asked myself this question back in 1995. Is it a huge undertaking? No, unless you consider your life an undertaking.

Books are sneak attacks. They take an unsuspecting soul by stealth. How does one write a book? By ceasing to care about anything or anyone until the story is out. At which point you throw it at an agent who will try to midwife it into the world.

Sounds glamorous. It's not. It's not showering. Teethbrushing is forgotten. Writing means you stop doing the things normal people do. When you do find yourself out somewhere where you're expected to enjoy yourself, all you can think about is the work in progress. It's putting on a smile for family and friends when the rejections are rolling in. It's finding peace only with other writers who are suffering or musicians who are always suffering. It's a blinding obsession that in our current culture you're pretty sure you need to be medicated for.

But the book demands to get out. Is it a Great Novel? Hell no. Stephenie Meyer didn't wonder if her fledgling unknown was the Great Novel either as it pulled her out of sleep and drove her to write where ever and whenever she could,  with little kids and a husband in tow. She wrote. Obsessed. That is what it is. And it is lonely.

I haven't read the Twilight saga. The success of the final product isn't the point. Because you have no idea what that success might be. Meyers didn't know. Anymore than I do. That's the point. To be a writer, you have to surrender to the unknown and write anyway.

So to the lady who asked: How does one start? One doesn't. One is taken by force.


  1. Wow. So well said. Your writing says it all, Nadine. And this friend knows that you're there, plugging away, working hard for something the world can't wait to read.

    By the way, great website!!


  2. Do musicians always suffer? Composers, maybe...The few musicians I've known seem to be enjoying their lives a lot more than the average writer. Much less angst. More (collective) fun.

  3. Hmmm....maybe it's just the musicians I know that suffer....

    But you have a point, Lisa, they suffer in a collective fun way. Maybe it's the booze?

    Hi Erin and thanks!!

  4. Hi Nadine... I saw your post in today's Lowdown email where you mentioned writing an article about Lindsay Ferguson's new CD... well, I'm her mum and I keep a scrapbook for her and would love to print the article for the book! On reading your website, I immediately ordered your book from our Belleville library... can't wait to read it... you can email me at with the article or where I can find it. Thanks, Jennifer Grant