I bought Page After Page, read the first chapter or two, got scared and left it on my nightstand untouched for nearly a year. The cover freaked me out, the writing style had an odd air to it that didn’t sit well with my sense of composition, and, I told my self, the first two chapters were all too familiar…sounding, on the surface, like a repeat of “You can do it!” rah-rah. The truth was, I was terrified…terrified because I could feel the truth in the vibrations of Heather Seller’s words as they plucked at the strings of my writing subconscious. I believed I sensed that I was about to be challenged with truth, and, for whatever reason, maturity, age, experience, circumstances, forced to confront it and make a life-change decision about whether or not I was a Writer (note the capitol ‘W’) or someone who simply writes about wanting to be a Writer.
When I finally got over my fright and more than a year later blew the dust off the cover and cracked the tiny tome open, yellow highlighter and mechanical pencil in hand, I discovered, as I suspected I would, not a book of ‘how-to exercises,’ though there are writing exercises throughout, but a book of seeing, a book of truth, a book of mirrors. With each chapter, “Lover on the Side, Lover in the Center,” “Butt in Chair,” “Being Away From the Work,” “How to be Unpopular and Why,” and “When Do You Say It?” to name a few, I was forced to confront my assumptions, my delusions and my purity-of-intention in terms of my ‘writing life’ and by the time I ended the book, I can honestly say my entire attitude and vision had been changed. If it sounds like I had a spiritual experience…at the risk of sounding dramatic, I’m going to say, yes…yes, I did—especially in terms of a deep inner adjustment and outward life-style change.
70 days after reading this book, and others that came a long including Heather’s Chapter by Chapter (Hail Oh, “Six Wise Guides”), I began and finished the first draft of a novel length manuscript. Do I lay this heretofore un-accomplished ambition on Heather’s altar, pouring out libations to my new found Writing Goddess? Of course not, I’ve been writing for most my life and have been Jones-ing to write a novel length manuscript for some time. It was inevitable I would eventually succeed on some level. I would be less than honest, however, if I didn’t say that her philosophy of what a Writer is, how our sometimes faulty perceptions influence that belief, her thought provoking essays on the process and craft of writing were vitally critical in helping me to that long cherished yet unfulfilled goal. It would not be too much to say that without her thoughts, I would still be dreaming about writing a manuscript and not actually writing it. Nor would I refuse a drink with the lady and, in the spirit of present honesty, I will admit to a certain crush on the lushishly long haired writing guru.
This does not mean I agreed with everything she had to say or am now the prophet of some ultimate “Way of Heather.” Some of what she had to say simply did not apply to me…yet. My present experience and place in life left some of her chapters a bit less applicable than others. “The Rents” for example, and its references to the, at times, negative influences our parents have on our writing did not jive with my experience (though that chapter’s exercise about “Adding new parents…” and exploring the influences of our favorite authors was well worth doing and gave me a lot to think about…and yes, I added Heather to my writing family tree…lol). Other’s however, like “Lover on the Side, Lover in the Middle,” “Butt in Chair,” and “When Do You Say It?” rang like dinner bells in my inner ear and forced me to confront my own writing practice and perceptions.
This is not a self-help book however, and I hope I have not made it sound like such. That being said, it is a book that helped me toward a greater awareness, confidence and belief in my persona as a Writer and the only such book to speak to me on a level and in such a way that I could understand that indeed, I am a Writer…despite the fact that the cover creeped me out.
Originally posted in The Salamander’s Quill 1.0 now deleted.