by Heather Sellers
Writer’s Digest, Books, 2005

I am recommending this book a lot lately. The subtitle reads: “Discover the confidence & passion you need to start writing & keep writing (no matter what)” and that just about sums it up.

Heather Sellers likes to say she has had a “conversion” by which she means she has discovered how to break through writer’s block. Now who couldn’t stand some advice on that one!

What she needed, says Sellers, was a “good mother”, one who enabled her to play for an appropriate length of time, and then dutifully and gently reminded her when it was time to come in for dinner.

Play is Sellers’ image for the way we write when we are unencumbered by internal critics, or our own weighty expectations. And her good mother is not a positive thought or an imagined presence. She’s a $4.99 digital alarm clock from Walgreens! Heather Sellers’ good mother times her when she writes.

Start out writing ten minutes a day she says. Just ten minutes at first. But it must be done every day. (“If you take one day off from writing your muse will take the next three.”) Then, as you are able, set the timer for another ten minutes, then another ten. Sellers says that she is now, often, doing up to two hours of focused writing/play — and the words are flowing.

Yet not overflowing. That’s the other benefit of the ten minute timed writing. You stick to the basics. Not so many flowery, unnecessary words. If you have to get something out in ten minutes, you have to stick to the bone, stick to the point, get it out.

Sellers doesn’t send you off with just a good mother/alarm clock. Her book is also a wealth of writing prompts for those timed writes, as well as chats about the writing life.

I found especially helpful the way she reframes rejections. Sellers says she is glad to see her prodigal piece of writing return in the mail! It gives her a chance to look at it again, fuss with it (lovingly) a bit more before sending it off into the wide blue publishing yonder. How is that for cocking the lens on our perception?

Suggestion: Do the exercise on page 82 early on, making a list of your writing fears. We did this in our writing group and were hysterically relieved to find we all had variations on the same fears. Point being — naming the fears and sharing them with others goes a long way toward freeing us from their paralyzing power!

And freeing us is what Heather Sellers’ Page after Page is all about.

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