Sunday, May 10, 2015

Review: A Writer's Guide to Persistence, by Jordan Rosenfeld


Do you ever feel like giving up on your writing? Maybe after a rejection from an agent or magazine you thought was a perfect match for your work? Or after you spent eight hours revising a two-page scene only to realize the next day that your original version is better? Or when you’re staring at a blank screen and the voices in your head are whispering to you that you’re crap? Maybe when you read a masterful piece by another writer and feel like you’ll never be able to achieve that sort of beauty?

Nah, me neither. 

Hahahahaha, YEAH RIGHT. If I had a dollar for every self-doubt I’ve had, I’d be driving a Ferrari down to my weekend yachting excursions. 

It’s not a novel observation that the ability to persist is a key skill in a writer’s bag o’ goodies. But how? How do you keep persisting as you're being pelted relentlessly by the rejections and voices in your head? 




A Writer's Guide to Persistence
Jordan Rosenfeld’s A Writer’s Guide To Persistence tackles this question from the roots on up. It has three parts: ‘Practice’, ‘Polish’, and ‘Persist’. Each of these main divides have several smaller sections, like ‘Push through perfectionism’; in each of these Rosenfeld discusses the issues that hold writers back, and gives concrete suggestions for overcoming them. She also has a ‘Work it’ exercise in each section designed to jump-start you on the topic, and a ‘Move it’ exercise designed to get you physically moving, since breathing and physical activity can help fight off our negativity and boost our production. In some of the sections she also has guest writers share some relevant personal experiences on the topic at hand, in sidebars titled ‘Persistence is personal’. 



In the ‘Practice’ third of the book, Rosenfeld breaks down the fears and the excuses that keep us from an effective writing practice. We’ve all said things like: ‘I would write if only X’,‘I can’t write unless I have Y’, ‘Maybe I just don’t have anything interesting to say’, ‘What if nobody ever reads what I write?’ and so on. She shines the light on all of these and many more, and then helps you build defenses against them. She gives advice for building your own ‘creative support team’, finding the time and space to write, and constructing a plan to reach your goals. 


In ‘Polish’, Rosenfeld helps you defeat the demons that keep your writing from flowing, and your craft from deepening. She helps silence the voices that stop you from writing things that scare you, and encourages you to push your abilities and develop your skills. And she explains why revision isn’t an indication of failure or bad writing, but a necessary part of creating good art.  


With that brave foundation in place, ‘Persistence’ helps with the roadblocks that you will encounter when you’re trying to put your work out into the world. Just got your twentieth rejection on the same piece? She explains how rejection can help you. Did you just spend several weeks volunteering at a conference, but didn’t manage to get even one agent to look at your manuscript in the process? She explains why all that effort was not wasted, even if it seems like it was right now. She helps you tell quality feedback (critique) from harmful feedback (criticism), and know what to act on and what to leave behind. She helps you recognize sabotage, both from yourself and from others, and defend against it. She discusses when and how to submit, how to deal with those inevitable rejections and how to know when to self-publish.   


What makes the book work for me is the insight Rosenfeld has into writers’ fears and self-destructive reactions; for almost every topic in the book, Rosenfeld gave voice to a fear or concern that I’ve had, or that one of my writing friends has had. Every time Rosenfeld mentioned one of my fears, my brain cried ‘Yes! That’s it exactly!’. That insight alone is powerful: so many of us think we’re the only ones to ever have such-and-such fear, and because of that we’re not worthy of membership in the writing club; to see that others share our struggles gives hope and encouragement.  Maybe we’re not so strange after all, and if they can overcome it, so can we. And to that end, she uses her insight to break down the relationship between our fears and our self-destructive behaviors, and provides solutions.  


If you’ve never had the voices of doubt whisper to you, never had internet trolls slam your deeply personal work ‘til you want to crawl into a hole, and never had a stack of rejections make you question whether your dog can write better than you, you probably don’t need this book. But for the rest of us, it’s an excellent source of strength and guidance for the days when we want to put all our writing through the shredder and gorge ourselves on chocolate. 


BTW, Jordan Rosenfeld is having a virtual launch party for the book on Facebook, on May 13. She'll be joined by other authors who will be sharing their best writing tips, and she will be giving away copies of the book! You can check out the event page here


Happy persisting!

M. 


(Disclosure: this website may be compensated for linking to other sites.) 

2 comments:

  1. Okay. Now I NEED this book. This blog alone is giving me hope. Can I borrow your copy ;)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Sure, if I can bear to be away from it! :)

    ReplyDelete

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