When a Writer Quits . . .

Novelist Nancy Peacock on quitting…

“I’m writing again,” I told Ben.

“I thought so,” he said.

Ben has the good sense to never say, “I told you so,” no matter how many times we go through this. And we’ve gone through it a lot, because I am a serial quitter. Like an alcoholic, I need to put this statement in the present tense. I don’t think I’m cured. I could quit again when the going gets tough. I know I’ll feel the urge. 

But quitting exacts a price, not just on my writing but also on my soul. When I can’t give my soul what it needs through writing, I go off in search of some other bright ball of yarn. And what I need to learn is that I don’t have to be so extreme. When my soul yearns for the tactile, it’s okay to weave. In fact it’s a good thing for a writer to be nonverbal for a while. It’s a big lesson for me to learn that being a writer shouldn’t mean that I’m chained to my desk twenty-four-seven.

Another big lesson is to finally understand that once I am a published writer I will always be a published writer, but that I will also always be an unpublished writer. I will get rejection slips, no matter what the New York Times said about my first novel. And hopefully I will always have material in need of some work, because if I don’t have the pages I hate I will never have the pages I love.

***

Nancy Peacock, A Broom of One’s Own: Words on Writing, Housecleaning and Life
Harper Perennial (2008)
ISBN: 987-0-06-135787-9

Other books by Nancy Peacock

Life Without Water

Home Across the Road

Dirt: The Quirks, Habits and Passions of Keeping House

The Life and Times of Persimmon Wilson

How Much Money Do Writers Make?

Question: I’ve written a novel. Should I quit my day job now or wait till I’m published?

In A Broom of One’s Own: Words on Writing, Housecleaning and Life, author Nancy Peacock answers that question with a story:

*

Two women are walking down the road and pass a frog sitting in the grass. “Hey,” says the frog.

“Wow. It’s a talking frog,” says one of the women. She picks the frog up and holds it in her hand.

The frog says, “Listen, I’m not really a frog. Actually, I’m a critically acclaimed writer. A spell was cast on me and I was turned into a frog. But if you kiss me I’ll turn back into a critically acclaimed writer.”

“Well, I’ll be damned,” says the woman, and puts the frog in her pocket.

Her friend asks, “Aren’t you going to kiss it?”

And she answers, “Hell, no. I’ll make a lot more money with a talking frog.”

*

Read my review of A Broom of One’s Own here. You may have already read the review–it’s been around for a while–but the book is so good, I can’t help mentioning it again. After you’ve read the review, read the book.

[P. S. Did you know that when you buy a used book, the author doesn’t receive any money from the sale?]

Nancy Peacock, A Broom of One’s Own: Words on Writing, Housecleaning and Life
Harper Perennial (2008)
ISBN-10: 0061357871
ISBN-13: 978-0061357879

The Biggest Myth

“I think the biggest myth that writers might have about themselves is that we’re somehow more important than we really are. I always cringe a little when I hear a writer say it’s our duty to make social commentary, expose social injustice, etc. I don’t think it’s my duty at all. My duty as a writer is to tell a good story, and to tell it well. If I’m faithful to my characters first and foremost, then it often happens that some sort of social commentary occurs. But honestly, if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. It’s not my job to be lofty, or to somehow ‘have my finger on the pulse of the nation.’ I’m just a writer, a modern-day storyteller. If I thought I was anything more, I’d get frightened and completely shut down.”

~ Nancy Peacock, A Broom of One’s Own: Words on Writing, Housecleaning & Life

Review (again): A Broom of One’s Own

I wrote the following post two years ago to answer a “challenge.” I intended to post it at the end of September 2009. I got all tangled up in words and couldn’t write a thing. I intended to post it at the end of October. I still couldn’t write it. I think I managed to write it after the October deadline.

In the middle of the “process,” I considered posting the following review: “I like Nancy Peacock’s A Broom of One’s Own very very very very very much.”

But the challenge specified a four-sentence review, and I had hardly one, and I didn’t want to repeat it three times.

So there’s the background.

I must also add this disclaimer: I bought my copy of A Broom of One’s Own myself, with my own money. No one told, asked, or paid me to write this review. No one told, asked, or paid me to say I like the book. No one told, asked, or paid me to like it. No one offered me tickets to Rio or a week’s lodging in Venice, more’s the pity. I decided to read the book, to like it, and to write this review all by myself, at the invitation of Story Circle Book Review Challenge. Nobody paid them either. Amen.

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I like Nancy Peacock’s A Broom of One’s Own: Words About Writing, Housecleaning & Life so much that it’s taken me over two months and two missed deadlines to untangle my thoughts and write this four-sentence review, an irony Peacock, author of two critically acclaimed novels, would no doubt address were I in one of her writing classes.

She would probably tell me that there is no perfect writing life; that her job as a part-time house cleaner, begun when full-time writing wouldn’t pay the bills, afforded time, solitude, and the “foundation of regular work” she needed;  that engaging in physical labor allowed her unconscious mind to “kick into gear,” so she became not the writer but the “receiver” of her stories.

She’d probably say that writing is hard; that sitting at a desk doesn’t automatically bring brilliance; that writers have to work with what they have; that “if I don’t have the pages I hate I will never have the pages I love”; that there are a million “saner” things to do and a “million good reasons to quit” and that the only good reason to continue is, “This is what I want.”

So, having composed at least two dozen subordinated, coordinated, appositived, participial-phrase-stuffed first sentences and discarded them before completion; having practically memorized the text searching for the perfect quotation to end with; and having once again stayed awake into the night, racing another deadline well past the due date, I am completing this review—because I value Nancy Peacock’s advice; and because I love A Broom of One’s Own; and because I consider it the equal of Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird; and because I want other readers to know about it; and because this is what I want.

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