The mental and emotional athleticism of writing a novel.


Have you watched Arrival, yet? The film is adapted from Story of Your Life, a novella by Ted Chiang. Without giving too much away, I can say this: it’s all about language, story, and time.

I can’t stop thinking about it. The way the protagonist’s whole life changes as a result of learning a new way of communicating.

It also made me think about how it feels when you are writing a novel — the confounding wholeness that is knowing pieces of the beginning, middle, and end of your story all at once.

You write to put these images in an order that makes sense for the story. You organize by point of view, character, time, and structure.

This is incredibly complex mental and emotional work.

And you do all of this in real time! Once you close your notebook, all of the relationships and experiences and challenges that create your real life are right there, expecting you to make sense of them.

You do all of this simultaneously.

The next time you find yourself grinding about not writing your book fast enough, or clearly enough, or whatever enough, remind yourself of this: what you’re doing is mind-spinning, mental and emotional athleticism.

You might need extra time to stare at a blank wall, or go for a long walk, just to equalize yourself.

You may also benefit from some time away with other writers. Not just because taking time away can peaceful, but also because tuning in to that state of mind with other writers makes it easier.

On a retreat, writing your book can feel more possible. More reasonable.

And that brings freedom.

I’m leading a writing retreat in Italy next spring. The deadline for discounted early registration is October 31st. 

You can save $300 and confirm your 2020 writing plan before the winter.

Oh, and: watch Arrival, if you haven’t already seen it.

How to write a book.
To the aspiring writer.


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