Reading Assignment

I read the wrong chapter, but it was exactly what I needed.

This week’s reading assignment was William Kenower’s Fearless Writing, chapters 3 and 4. I flagged the pages last week.

Today, I grabbed the book, opened it to the flag, and started reading. Two pages from the end of chapter 5, I had to set the book down to deal with something in the real world, and when I came back to it, I noticed a flag earlier in the book. I had started where I was supposed to end.

So, I guess I’ve spoiled myself for next month’s reading assignment. Oops.

I’m not going to write out my response to chapter 5 today because I need to go back and read chapters 3 and 4, but if you are stuck, or dealing with imposter syndrome, or worried about your readers… here are few of the lines that spoke to me.

Ok, I’ve gone back and read the chapters I intended to read. I have to say, they are informative and inspiring, but I did not have the connection to these chapters that I did to chapter 5 today.

At the beginning of the book, the author says that after you read the first two chapters, the rest can be read in any order. Based on today’s experience, he is 100% correct. If you’re reading it for yourself, I recommend letting your intuition guide you. The chapters are short and direct, and read more like standalone essays or speeches than progressive ideas.

Chapter 3 is called “Feel First.” The gist is that writers should be guided by their feelings, both in how emotions read in their writing, and how their feelings can guide them. “No one cares what happens in your story. Readers only care what it feels like when something happens” (27). The plot is inconsequential, it seems, or at least secondary to the character’s experience of it. This is how we are able to have so many books about the same subjects, and retell the same stories over and over. Kenower rephrases the idea: “We don’t actually care about facts– only about how a human being feels when in the presence of a fact” (29).

The second half of the chapter moves from writing about feelings, to your feelings about writing. “My feelings while writing are a compass that tells me whether I am headed in the right direction,” he says (31). “When I choose the right word, it feels effortless, it feels good. When I choose the wrong one, it feels forced and not so good” (33). In general, he’s looking for “the difference between the feeling of effort and the feeling of ease” (33). It’s about using your discomfort as a guide, rather than letting it spiral into self-doubt. It’s growth mindset (again) without ever saying that it’s growth mindset. You use the feelings of failure and frustration as a tool to move forward, rather than an excuse to quit.

Some of the writing advice starts to sound a little like therapy (and what writer couldn’t use some of that?), especially when he gets into dealing with that negative mindset. When discomfort tells you that something isn’t working, you may be tempted to succumb to self-doubt. Kenower suggests that instead, you make a choice to believe “that you are meant to feel good, and any despair, doubt, or self-loathing is a product not of recognizing reality but of forgetting the truth” (37). He acknowledges the feeling, but doesn’t let it take over: “I feel this now, but I know it is not true” (37).

In Chapter 4, “Write What You Love,” he makes an argument for writing the story that you are most passionate about, regardless of whether or not you think it can sell. Write for the pleasure of it, and worry about selling it later. A fairly direct attack on the write-to-market technique, his claims are mostly that you are more likely to finish a project that you love, and that the immediate happiness in writing something you feel passionate about is it’s own reward. “Fear promises happiness at some unnamed point in the future… if I choose to write a story I love… my happiness is immediate” (49).

And that’s great, and maybe writing something that you are passionate about will result in a better book, and that book will then sell better than something you forced yourself to write (readers can always tell when the author’s heart isn’t in it), and there truly is a market for everything, but…

Actually, no. You know what? He’s right. Write what you love. If there’s an easy overlap between what you love and what’s marketable, use that, for sure. But marketing is a whole separate job from writing. Indie authors will have to do both, but I imagine marketing a book you love has got to be easier than trying to push something you think the market wants.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: