I Could Write a Book. Maybe. But Not Now.

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I’ve felt a little out of place since I learned that I’m the only member of my writers’ workshop who isn’t working on Writing A Book, and it’s made me re-examine just why I signed up for it. I know I was fueled by my enthusiasm over Beth Kephart’s writing instruction, as conveyed through Handling the Truth, at the time (and that I wanted some sort of proxy for a class with her), but my main motivation was that it felt like a necessary next step in my development as a writer. On further reflection–which was actually required by our second-week workshop assignment–I’m not sure that I had any other motivations:

“I signed up for this because I’ve never really been part of a writing group, and I hope to learn just as much, if not more, from reading and responding to everyone else’s work than I do from writing my own.

“My primary goal for my writing is to Do It Better. Along those lines, some of my sub-goals pertaining to this workshop in particular are somewhat technical in nature. I want to be more expressive, sometimes in fewer words. I want to be more concise when it’s appropriate. I’d like to learn more effective ways of writing objectively without falling into the passive voice. I’d like to work on making my writing sound like me without necessarily making it about me. And when it IS about me, I’d like to be able to say it in a way that fosters better connection with the reader.”

We’re halfway through our fall session now, and we’ve progressively narrowed our focus from broad consideration of the Writing Process to the elements of crafting a piece–drafting, revising and structuring, trying not to lose sight of what our our leader/coach Jane calls “The Big Four” of writing:

  • First and most important, there must be some purpose to what you’re writing.
  • Second, that there is an audience for your writing.  Not some amorphous They Out There, but real people (even if they exist only in your imagination) that you are writing to. 
  • Third, there is a message that you are looking to get across to that audience.  
  • Finally, there is your persona as a writer, the you that comes across on the page, your Voice for that particular piece of prose.

“Purpose, audience, message, persona: they are woven together, are often interdependent, and the successful realization of them usually determines the success of the particular piece of writing. You may not think of The Big Four every, or any, time that you’re writing, but if you get stuck, I guarantee you that one of them needs attention.”

I have lots of short-term writing end-products (blog posts, book reviews, that sort of thing), but no large-scale grandly ambitious end-product. Perhaps the small ones will build toward a big one–a Book!?–someday, but right now I’m not seeing it, and the Big Four have helped me understand why I don’t:


  • Right now, I don’t have a purpose/mission that requires a book to convey it
  • Without a purpose, I can’t get a sense of whether there’s an audience at all, let alone whom it might be
  • My message depends on why I want to put it out there and who I want to read it
  • I need to know what my message is in order to find the appropriate persona to deliver it


I’m not yet in a place, as a writer, where I’m ready to apply those considerations to anything more than several hundred words at a time. I’m not sure I ever will be, and I’m not sure I ever have to be.

My purpose in writing that here is to help myself accept that this is OK, and to share that with you, my readers. I consider many of you my friends, and as my friends, I thought you might be interested to know how this project is going. It is feeding my development as a writer, which is what I hoped it would do–but right now, it’s not going toward Writing A Book.

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