This is My Heart

Katherine Longshore 7 Tuesday, February 26, 2013
It's "the one".  You know.  The boy who walks into your life and you suddenly know you can't live without him.  The girl--your best friend--who one day you realize is your soul mate.  The happily-ever-after, Nora Ephron/Jane Austen/Four Weddings and a Funeral perfect "one."

The book you were always meant to write.  Your magnum opus.  The book of your heart.

Quite a tall order.

I had an idea for a book several years ago.  I remember the exact time and place when the thought struck me.  I was in my ratty old Subaru (though it wasn't quite as ratty back then), driving the curves of northern California's Highway 101 through the groves of trees just on the edge of the redwoods.  I got shivers.  The first time I mentioned this nugget of an idea to an agent--along with the idea for GILT--he said, "Do you want to win an award or do you want to sell books?"  The second time I mentioned it to an agent (who had just read GILT), she offered representation right there on the spot.

So I know there's something there.

But I haven't written this book.  I don't know if I ever will.  There's not enough story in the history and the historical event is ridiculously obscure.  It gives me wonderful opportunities to be preachy and self-righteous, and I wouldn't wish that on anyone.  I can't quite get a handle on the characters.

I'm afraid.

I honestly don't know if I can write this book.  All the reasons I have for not writing it are very good reasons--it may not sell, it doesn't have a plot, I'm not sure where it's going.  The book of my heart cannot be just an idea.  It has to be a book.  And right now, this one isn't.

So instead, I put my heart into every book I write.  I wrote some of the things I fear most into GILT.  I included emotional events (and even conversations) from my own life in TARNISH.  And I just wrote one of the most difficult things I've ever experienced into Book 3.  Writing real emotion and real characters into fiction takes courage.  It takes strength.  It takes heart.  And we all do it.

Every day.

The book of your heart doesn't have to be your magnum opus.  It doesn't have to be the one all the editors and agents want to see.  It doesn't have to sell.  It is the book (or the passage from the book) that is just for you.  It is the book you slay dragons for.  It is the hill you're willing to die on.

It is what you are working on right now.

"You simply sit down at your typewriter, open your veins, and bleed." Walter Wellesley “Red” Smith*

*I know this has been attributed to Ernest Hemingway, Thomas Wolfe and others, but Quote Investigator makes a good case for Smith.


Lovely...I'm a big bleeder...but then i think you know that about me after our weekend in Santa Rosa... ;) ;)

I have a book like that. I remember the moment it came too. I had pneumonia and a fever of 103 and you'd think that would have been a warning sign. (For or against I'm still not sure). But I couldn't find the plot. Maybe there was/is no plot. I struggled with it for years before taking the main character and putting her on my shoulder and telling her "Thou shalt henceforth be known as MUSE." Then I started a new book which I love, and which I will probably finish. But which isn't the book of my heart.

Craig--Your bleeding helped me out in Santa Rosa, and I am thankful for it!

Kimmie--Love you back. I know you're a bleeder, too.

Brigitte--I had an eye-poppingly brilliant idea to add to TARNISH while on super-powerful migraine meds. I woke up after a 5-hour nap and realized I'd just been loopy. But a kernel of that idea did end up in the book. As Donna says, nothing is ever wasted.

And Birgitte--Hooray for having a MUSE on your shoulder, and a book to love (and finish!)

And my apologies for spelling your name wrong in my previous comment. :)

True, true and beautiful post, Katy! When are you coming back to Seattle? :)

Thank you, Stasia! And I am coming back to Seattle as soon as possible. :)

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