One Novel Thought

Even though a pretty lot of people read my blog, it still feels super personal to me: I feel like I’m writing directly to the seven or eight people whom I know read it—those who tend to comment a lot, and so on.

So in that personal, intimate, basically-a-letter-to-my-friends mode, I’d like to share that the novel I’m currently writing is so awesomely rewarding to write, and is so much fun, and is so liberating that … that, well, that for one, it makes my entire professional life of writing for other people completely worth it.

Writing’s a weird way to make a living, right? Because you have to write what other people will pay you to write. And even though I’ve always been exceptionally lucky, in that I pretty much always got to choose what to write about, and how, you still always end up naturally tailor-making whatever you’re doing to … well, if nothing else, fit the sensibilities of the audience you’re addressing.

Plus, it’s always non-fiction. Which I dig. And which, actually, I’ve mostly written in a style informed by the aesthetics of fiction. But still.

Anyway, this novel! It’s killing me!

Verily, have I been waiting for literally my entire stupid life to write this book.

I spent the first thirty-five years of my life desperately trying to figure out/capture/master the art of writing, and largely failed (or succeeded, depending on how you look at it). Then, fifteen years ago, I decided to simply make a living writing, and basically did so well so quickly that I haven’t really had a chance yet to sort of stop and collect myself. (Plus, I loved editing and writing for magazines, which for years on end wholly held my attention, until I finally realized that A. It’s just too temporal, and B: I don’t want to spend my whole life making magazine publishers rich.)

Now I have just enough money to spend 2010 writing whatever I want (except, you know, for the two or three books I still have to this year write for others).

And somehow the art part of writing, plus the fact that I now so definitely know my own voice, plus this whole universe of personal stuff I’ve been carrying around with me all my life, has combined with the unbelievably perfect form—by which I mean the structure of the novel itself—to create a writing experience for me that is the very, most concentrated essence of creative joy. About two months ago, I just sort of … got it all, at once. The tone. The characters. The structure. The style. Everything, right there, was rather suddenly just waiting for me to basically step on in, and revel in it.

It’s like I’ve been … freed, or something.

Anyway, I’m sure having fun, and just wanted to share that. Thanks for listening.

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  • John, That is so wonderful! I know how important it is to find your voice and enjoy your writing. I am so glad you are writing fiction and basing it on things you have been carrying around in your heart. I can't wait to read it. You encourage me to write, brother! 🙂

  • I have been a creative type writer for my entire writing life but go through spurts where I am blocked. Often for years at a time.

    I know what you mean about being "freed' I have been bound by this last bout of blockage for nearly 4 years. I have people challenging me, one in particular to GET "that" BOOK WRITTEN. With a weekly check in. It felt so strange to say yes. As If I would be showing up to his place naked or something.

    I am so glad you shared this and hope to follow more of your journey.

  • Thanks, you guys, very much. Actually, I've got a tab on the top of my blog here, called "My Novel." If you click it, you'll see that, if you'd like, you can send me your (ever-private, for-my-eyes only) email address, and I'll keep it to send you whatever few updates on the novel seem to me to be interesting/relevant–like when it's done, or whatever. Anyway, check it out if you're interested. Thanks.

  • I'm happy for you John and I can't wait to read it.

    I promise I won't criticize your grammar…. or you grammpa

  • Hah! Thanks, Brian. And it's cool about the grammar. Besides always making me feel a little bit sorry for them, I never mind it when anyone tries to correct my grammar.

    Oh yes I did!

  • Casey

    Congrats John, and good luck writing. Can't wait to read this awesomeness!

  • C.

    One day, hopefully, I will be able to also make a living off writing and can be as stressed, emotionally wrung, and eventually freed as you. Hope springs eternal.

  • Very cool. I hope I like it. I probably will. But even if I don't…very cool.

  • textjunkie

    Awesome. I'm glad it's come together like this for you!!!

  • Tim

    YoSho! You do so inspire my desire to write. Unfortunately I spend so much time writing in response to other people's blogs, I never get around to my own blog. I downloaded your guide to making a living writing…but I haven't made time to read it. Actually, I forgot where I left the hard copy I printed. Crapsticks!

    Anyhow, looking forword.

  • Karen

    I would very much enjoy reading said novel upon completion! I can't write to save my life…however, I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to read…and frankly my dear you had me at the first article I read of yours. You are the first "christian" I have taken seriously in a LONG TIME (except my personal family)! And trust me on this one….I didn't think that would EVER happen! Keep it up please…I'm a huge fan, and would read whatever you write. 1. You are very funny, 2. you make sense, 3. and most importantly you have a "belief system" (or so it appears by your writing) that I can actually relate to and believe in myself. —if that makes any sense!!

  • You will.

  • Thank you, very much.

  • Thanks, text!

  • You've been responding (besides here) to my stuff on HuffPo to, haven't you? Amazing. You ARE busy like that. Thanks for it, Tim.

  • Yes, it makes wonderful sense. Thank you, Karen.

  • Claudia S

    The way you talk about your writing is exactly the way I feel about my writing. The passion and the commitment and the simple joy of it is what keeps me sane and happy and motivated. It goes without saying that I can't wait to read it John, you are definitly one of my favourite authors of all time, and my absolute favourite Christian author. I call my self an atheist but religion fascinates me, and your writing is always clear and open and beautiful. I enjoy it, and it fuels my fascination. Thank you for sharing with all of us.

  • Eva

    I can't wait to read (buy) it!

  • Thanks, Eva. You've been a good friend to my blog for quite a while now.

  • onemansbeliefs

    John: On your "My Novel" tab you wrote this "I’ve been waiting literally my whole life to write this book."

    My question to you is this… Does this book mean your first book or does it mean you have had this story in your head for years and now it's coming to light?

    My apologies if you have already answered this elsewhere…

  • Kind of you to ask this question. I'm not sure what you mean by "Does this book mean your first book," but I think you're basically just asking me what exactly I meant by "I've been waiting literally my whole life to write this book," right?

    Well, in case that's not what you meant, I'll be brief. I don't write lightly cliche, pretentious and hyperbolic sounding phrases such as "I've been waiting…." You've been reading me long enough to know I basically never say stuff like that. But this is one of those very rare instances where the cliche so exactly matches my truth no other words will do.

    All my life, I've understood that I would never be happy until I had written the thing that … has been pulling me toward itself all of my life. In that regard I've always been driven toward something I couldn't see. I could hear it; I could sense it, always; I could certainly feel it, but I couldn't … see it, grab it, know it. So it was always just … a sort of burning… burden, a weight. Other people talk about being "born" a writer, or whatever, as if it's a pleasure, something to be proud of. I've never felt that way at all about being a writer. I've always wanted—or certainly spent a huge part of my life wanting–to NOT be a writer. I couldn't stand the … whole thing of it. I didn't know what it MEANT. I didn't know how to DO it–or why, or toward what end. It's kind of an absurd art form–especially today.

    Anyway, I guess this is a longer … thing than I can wrap up in any tight way.

    All my life I've been storing things up in my head and heart, knowing that I NEEDED them—that they were real, and of vital importance to me. From infanthood on, I've just been … watching, and …. watching, mainly. And listening until I hear the silence between people's words. I listen HARD to people. Anyway, from childhood, I was just … an Absorbo Machine. Because I knew one day I'd have to WRITE it somehow, in some language, in some style, in some cadence, in some freakin STYLE I knew I'd never see until I did it.

    God, this is getting absurd. Sorry. Anyway, the great miracle in my life has happened; the one I've been waiting for for literally my whole life. The ship I've been waiting to catch ever since I first saw water has finally come in.

  • onemansbeliefs

    Thanks for the insight… I believe this answers my question even if my question was not what I wished it to be… I should have written first novel instead of first book.

  • My goodness; how kind of you. Thank you.

  • But … I'm sorry, but I still wouldn't have known what you meant by "Does this book mean your first novel?" It's not the first novel I've written, if that's what you mean.