There’s a Book in Everyone. Isn’t There?


There’s a Book in Everyone. Isn’t There?

Is there a book in you?

Absolutely. I think that everybody’s life has the thrilling components of a book. Think of the timeworn stories you drag up when you’re with family and old friends. Aren’t they funny, poignant, inspiring, exciting, nostalgic, etc.? Otherwise, why do you tell them? The possibility that you are a repetitive bore I will ignore since I know none of you are.

And, in the quiet moments of life, on a long car journey or just before you fall asleep, don’t reflections on life lived or should be lived come to you? Wishes, aspirations, wisdom, regrets and longings—all the stuff of novel or memoir.

So why does Carol Shields believe that it is a myth that there’s novel in everyone[1]?

Because she knows about people like Amanda.


This is an honest-to-god conversation I had with a would-be author (given artistic license, of course).

“So, you’re interested in writing?” I asked. “Fiction or non-fiction?”

Amanda passed a hand through the recently revamped blackness of her hair. “Oh, either one.”

“Oh, well…articles or a long piece?”

She shrugged. “Novel, articles, whatever.”

“What are you working on now?”

Her eyebrows went up high. “I’ve got a full-time job. I couldn’t do anything now.”

Of course. “Have you ever taken a writing course?”

“Do you think I should?”

I made a deprecating little noise. “Writing takes a lot of craft.”

“Oh, really? Well, maybe I’ll do that.” She smiled. “So, should I get an agent first or go directly to publishers?”

“Ah…I think you need to write something first.”

She waved that away. “Of course. That’s not a problem.” She tapped the side of her head in a significant way. “It’s all up here.

Great. When wordless novels are the new wave, she’ll be ahead of the curve.

She continued. “Should I publish through a regular publisher or on-line?”

“Actually, I think you need to write it first.”

“Can you deduct research trips?”

“I suppose, although the tax department needs proof that you’ve written—”

“What about car expenses? Mileage, gas, repairs, car washes?”

“Well, writers aren’t in cars a whole lot. They’re usually at a computer.”

“But you must have to meet with your agent and publisher—”

“It’s mostly done on-line—

“On-line…” she seemed disappointed but took it well.

I make one last effort. “Amanda, I think you can deal with all of this once you’ve written something.”

She waved it and me away. “But I need to be prepared. Because it’s all up here.”

Do you know how to bring it out?

So that’s why Carol Shields calls the book-in-everyone thing a myth. We all have the stories but sadly, that’s not enough. As it turns out, the skill of writing things down in an interesting way is completely different from those of a good raconteur.

You need the ideas and stories, yes, but you also need to master the craft of writing enough (ADV for this blog) to shape them into compelling reading. You also need the perseverance to stick with a lengthy and sometimes frustrating process. And, unlike our friend Amanda, you need the courage to begin.

If you need a bit of encouragement or nudging, you might want to read my posts, Do I Start the Story at the Beginning? Or How to Start an Autobiography or Memoir. To address the stick-with-it-ness that you will need, read The Muse and the Piano Tuner.

And for daring and audacity, don’t take my word for it but Winston Churchill’s

Courage is the first of human qualities, because it is the quality which guarantees all the others.

[1] Shields, Carol, Startle and Illuminate: Carol Shields on Writing Random House, Canada, 2006