Browsing through a selection of books at a local bookstore, I found Bill O’Hanlon’s Write is a Verb: Sit Down. Start Writing. No Excuses. Large letters on the back cover asked, “Do you need a kick in the pants?” I needed something to get me writing again. Perhaps this book would help.
Most days I got up every morning, grabbed a cup of coffee, and wrote for four or five hours. In 2007, a series of stressful events consumed my energy, and I just couldn’t seem to get back into my routine. Our daughter was in a serious wreck while my father was in the hospital. Two days after my father was released, he died unexpectedly. I settled his estate. My husband was taken to the emergency room and was hospitalized during a trip to Russia, and I was in the hospital a few months later. Our son-in-law was arrested for molesting two young girls. One of them was our granddaughter.
During 2008 I helped our daughter with her three children while she started working full-time. I walked with her through her now ex-husband’s trial, made weekly trips taking our granddaughter to a counselor, and stood by helplessly as our daughter lost her house. Although I wanted to resume my writing practice, I couldn’t get around the trauma and grief to be productive. Of the thirty-nine books in my library on the craft of writing, not one of them got me writing again. I didn’t need rules, guide-lines or how-tos. I needed motivation. I needed healing.
When I read through O’Hanlon’s book, I was surprised how transparent the author was—and how practical. Here was a man I could identify with. He, too, had experienced difficult circumstances and had overcome them. He, too, felt called to write. He understood the value of perseverance and editing. He rewrote the first of his more than thirty published books thirty-five times.
Bill O’Hanlon, a psychotherapist, conference leader, and motivational speaker was in private practice for thirty years before publishing his first book. Maybe his expertise as a psychotherapist and experience as a writer could help me. He knew how to help people wade through difficult times.
After telling the story of a woman who wrote him to say she was able to wean herself off prescription drugs by reading one of his books, he said this on page 100:
I don’t know about you, but books have changed my life at times. Reading them has given me a lifeline during rough patches, taken me away from painful life experiences, or given me hope. . . Maybe somewhere, someone is waiting to read your words and it will be the very thing she needs to read at the moment.
That paragraph was the very thing I needed. Maybe somewhere, someone is waiting to read my words. How can I not write? O’Hanlon reconnected me to my purpose. I grabbed hold of that hope and eventually started writing again.
Write is a Verb isn’t for everyone—only for those who want to write a book and don’t know how, only for those who need motivation to keep writing through the rewriting process, for those stuck along the way to their second or third or tenth book and don’t know what to do to get back on track. O’Hanlon pulled me out of a slump. His book is a session with a writing coach and, if needed, a trip to the psychotherapist. For me, Write is a Verb is the home of a single paragraph that reminded me of my purpose and changed my life.
Looking back, what I wish I had done—woulda, coulda, shoulda done—during those trying months of 2007 and 2008, was write anyway by keeping a journal. If I had documented events and feelings, I would have a wealth of recorded real and raw emotion to write from.
I picked up O’Hanlon’s book again this morning and began to reread it. Ah, yes. He really knows how to land a well-placed kick. The purpose of his book, he said, is to move writers beyond writing practice to publication. “Okay, Jean,” I can hear him say. “Enough of your silliness. Sit down. Finish those projects you’ve started. Get them published.” Or as he says on page 4: “Okay, enough hooptedoodle . . . Let’s get cracking.” O’Hanlon to the rescue again.
Jean Davis has published devotions in The Upper Room, Devo’zine, Cup of Comfort Devotional for Women, and Love is a Verb Devotional. Her humorous and inspirational stories have appeared in Vista, Live, FellowScript, The Heart of a Mother, and Whispering in God’s Ear. She lives in Delaware with her husband Vergil.