About the kiss and the hug

About the kiss and the hug
Gastbeitrag von Beatrix Mannel

(aus: The Reason to Write von Tahir Shah)

Long before I wrote my first novel, I was crazy about self-help books on writing. Back then though, it was very difficult to find any. Amazon didn’t exist. In Germany, where I live, there wasn’t much of a culture on writing as something you can teach or learn. The general idea was that an author was a genius, living in the perfect solitude of an ivory tower, waiting for their muse to arrive. So I begged friends in the United States to send me books about writing. 

All those books on writing with their strict rules tended to contradict one another: start with the weather… forget the weather… you must plot… don’t plot… but that didn’t keep me from reading them. It was as though I was addicted. While learning about writing from them, I yearned for a eureka moment, enabling me to write the story by myself.

Having written forty or so novels in German, with translations in other languages, I have come to realize that there’s not one perfect tip for writers. Although I still do pick up useful ideas from books about writing, I’ve come to see that it’s important to pay attention to how writing tips resonate with your body and soul. Every writer is different and has to find his or her own special tools.

First: Always remember the kiss.

What does that mean? I’m a tremendous perfectionist and therefore also a huge procrastinator. That’s why I tend to improve beginnings endlessly. I polish my sentences, want them to be extraordinarily intelligent, to shine like stars and sound like symphonies. And yes, you can keep doing it until the end of time. It’s absolutely nuts!

It took me several novels to grasp that it’s much better for me to sit down and clench my teeth until I’ve completed even the most faulty first draft. Once I have

it, no matter how weak I might imagine it to be, I know exactly what the end’s going to be like. At that point it makes sense to rewrite and interweave, adding material you’d left out of the first draft. Until your beginning kisses the end, you don’t have what you need. Even if you’re very meticulous with plots and structures, you have to write the whole story. You’ve got to know in detail what happens to your characters and how the end will link to the start. Now you can polish the beginning, and now the beginning will achieve the underlying sparkle of the kiss. 

My second tip has to do with your life as a writer:

Hugs help you to survive.

From reading all those self-help books on the craft of writing, I came to the conclusion that if I give my very best, the universe will support me. Like Julia Cameron says in one of my favourite books, The Artist’s Way: Jump, and the universe will catch you.’ The truth is, that this is not the truth. Even if you write like hell, that doesn’t mean anything to the universe. There are so many books out there, wellwritten, interesting books. Even if your book was to be a work of unsurpassed genius, there’s no guarantee of success.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write. But there’s something schizophrenic about writing. Nobody in all these books was talking about it – and that is true even if your book hits the New York Times bestseller lists: On one hand your novel must be the most important thing in the whole world to you. Your heart must bleed for the sake of your story. Nothing in the universe should rival its place in your affections.

On the other hand, you must be able to see your novel only as the game it really is. You’ve got to grasp that it’s the most unimportant thing in the world. There are plenty of things way more pivotal and essential – like your family, friends, and your health. Thirdly, you’ve got to recognize that you’re much more than your novel. Your self-respect  and self-worth should not depend on the book you’re writing. It sounds crazy, and in many ways it is. But you have to remember this: you have to live in the real world to have something to write about. You have to hug the world, not only with your words, but with your heart. And you need someone who ‘hugs’ you and your writing. During all those dry periods while you’re working hard through your first draft (just because of this important kiss), it will make your writing life much easier if you have someone, who’s interested in your writing, who’s asking how the story is coming along, and who gives honest helpful feedback. That can be a friend, a writing colleague or a writers’ group. In  order not to go utterly nuts while writing, you need and deserve that support.

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