Those who came before…

Chevelle, Lowell, MA, Digital photography

Again and again when I’m coaching novelists, I notice that new writers are unwilling or unable to draw from the great writers of the past. Oh sure, they read a book here and there and like it, but they don’t really turn and honor this long line of tradition that stands behind them, that supports them. They are intent upon the way THEY write, and refuse to acknowledge, read, study and honor all the writers who have come before them.

I don’t understand this, but as a coach, I’m trying to. Do we feel that if we acknowledge we’re one in a long line of writers that we’re not special anymore? Do we think we’ll start writing like Doris Lessing or Kazuo Ishiguro and not find our own voice? Were we disempowered in school by all the teachers who pointed to the classics and said these were REAL writers and then proceeded to dis our attempts at creative writing?

Whatever it is, if you’re a writer, it’s important to know the only way forward is to honor those writers who came before you. If you’re a woman, honor especially the women who, despite greater odds than you face, put their souls on the page, who spoke their truth. Find three authors you admire; read their biographies. Get to know them as people. Thank them!

There is immense energy in the archetype of writer — when you cut yourself off from your literary forebears, you cut yourself off from this energy. I see it as an immense energy field, a great ball of light, that I willingly step into. My God, the energy that becomes available to you. You can write the novel, work to make cash money, raise a family, move, travel the world, start a new business. Truly, it’s an immense field of energy to tap into. I have noticed again and again, that those who are successful willingly join their ancestors. Think of the people in the future you’re affecting by having the courage to be a novelist. Don’t cut yourself off from this vital universal core.

Is there a fear there that we will lose ourselves in this great field of energy? That we’ll dissolve, and we won’t be able to sharpen our own distinct voices? Maybe this is a valid fear? Maybe new writers need to work on finding their voice, solidifying it, building up their self esteem. Whatever it is, when you’re ready, don’t hesitate. Come on in, the water’s warm.


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