Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Seven Steps on the Writers' Path Book Review

Seven Steps on the Writer's Path: The Journey from Frustration to Fulfillment Seven Steps on the Writer's Path: The Journey from Frustration to Fulfillment by Nancy Pickard


My rating: 4 of 5 stars
You know you're going to get inspired with any book having lucky number "seven" in the title (seven days of the week, seven wonders of the world and even seven deadly sins!). An inspiring and candid read, "Seven Steps On the Writer's Path: The Journey from Frustration to Fulfillment" by Nancy Pickard and Lynn Lott delivers wisdom, tips and support for writers at all levels and at all experiences. This book is detailed, funny and unconventional. Right away Pickard and Lott let us know that, "Writing is a path as full of darkness as it is of light, and so the way ahead is hard to see."

The authors not only interviewed successfully published authors and got their insights into creating and publishing, but the authors themseleves shared a great deal of their writing frustrations, their regrets and their successes. This book is not for the faint-of-heart writer who is not sure she wants to put in the time and energy to make the writing happen and that's what I loved about this book. They tell us often, "We warned you -- writing is hard." Nancy and Lynn spared no punches about what the writing life is like. Their bottom line: write because you love it and you find joy in it, not because you want to get published. They offer up seven steps (listed below) but the authors emphasize that one size doesn't fit all: all writers have different styles and different methods of getting their writing done. Writers also have different meanings for success. Success for one writer could be a three-book deal of a mystery series, while for another it could mean privately journaling every night.

There were many memorable quotes along the margins from such greats as Henry David Thoreau, Julia Child, Ophrah, Sophocles and Anne Lamott, as well as from the authors and from John Wesley Powell. Powell successfully navigated the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon in 1869. He had to have faith because he couldn't see up ahead -- just like the writer's journey. Here's a good example of a Powell quote: "We know not where we are going...at first this causes us great alarm, but we soon find there is little danger, and that there is a general movement of progression down the river...and it is the merry mood of the river to dance through this deep, dark gorge; and right gaily do we join the sport."

The Seven Steps on the Writers Path compiled by Nancy Pickard and Lynn Lott:
Step 1 Unhappiness -- we're not happy and know we need to write!
Step 2 Wanting -- we really want to write!
Step 3 Commitment -- we're willing to put other things aside
Step 4 Wavering -- we feel paralysis as well as compulsion
Step 5 Letting Go -- it's all about having faith
Step 6 Immersion -- only the writing matters
Step 7 Fulfillment -- you did it!

The Wavering chapter was hard to read because we've all wavered. Wavering is described as being very compulsive as well as experiencing paralysis. Intermediate writers are most susceptible to wavering because they know they can write but they lack a lot of confidence and experience. The authors described one scenario where a woman got into to debt to pay for this conference and her manuscript was harshly critiqued by a prominent author who's workshop she had signed up for. The woman stopped writing for six months, but then got back on the saddle and found great success. The woman didn't have enough experience at the writing game to tell that egotistical fellow to go *&#@ himself.

This book is wonderful for writers who have been on the writing journey for at least a few years. I feel that novice writers might find it intimidating and may quit their writing careers as soon as they read the first few pages. But if you're not a newbie writer read this book if you want fresh insights into why you write and why you're not crazy to have chosen this career.


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2 comments:

KV said...

I'm loving this book and looking for others to continue the conversation about it. Perhaps a virtual writer's group would work. Wish the authors would hold workshops on it. Thanks for your review!

Alice Osborn said...

Thank you, KV! My updated blog is at http://aliceosborn.com/blog -- come by sometime! Alice