Write Now, Here’s How by Linda M. Hasselstrom belongs on your shelf right next to books by Anne Lamott and Julia Cameron. The opportunity to review it was one of those life coincidences. It found me. I needed to read it. I had stopped writing. Since you’re reading this, maybe you need to read it too.
I read a few chapters a day, savoring the book that had called me to read it. I began to apply Hasselstrom’s suggestions. Pay attention to life and activity around you. Write now. Scribble a note. Don’t worry about how important it is. Common sense woven into and from the wisdom of decades of writing.
As I write this, we’re still in the midst of a pandemic with all of its constraints. Hasselstrom’s book invited me to her Windbreak House for a retreat. Can’t travel? Declare yourself on a writing retreat. Decide and prepare. Create your own. The first chapter addressed exactly what I needed: permission to embrace “thinking as writing and writing as thinking,” allowing ideas from the unconscious to emerge in the silence. Hasselstrom asks: What images come to mind with the scent of lavender, the squeal of a newborn fawn? She advises: Start writing. Add an image, add a sound, smell, feelings. As I read, I could imagine a hike in the hills of South Dakota “inhaling scents of the prairie, listening to birdsong, and thinking about what to make for lunch.”
Each chapter is essentially an essay, some written for another purpose. The chapter on blog writing is short as a blog would be. Another essay takes the reader along as the author “prowls her city neighborhood,” gleaning found objects and dozens of writing ideas. The discipline of observing and harvesting writing ideas leaves a writer with no excuse for not writing. There’s a chapter on that too. But you might find the answer in the guilty pleasure of soaking in a hot bath in a claw foot tub. Just have paper and pen nearby.
Hasselstrom gives some strong advice about the realities of necessary solitude and endless revisions. Writing is hard. Don’t be discouraged. Learn from a writer who didn’t give up. Between the advice about editors, agents, types of publishing and marketing, Hasselstrom inserts humor, encouragement, and honesty. After not writing anything significant in weeks, she went on a long hike with her partner. The delight she found in walking and taking notes reminded her of why she writes. The next day she followed her own advice and wrote a draft of Chapter 28. The reader joins her and learns the benefits of the discipline of writing every day.
In the introduction, Hasselstrom tells us: “Readers will also spot repetition, as I worked with an idea, mixing and kneading it into several different forms.” So be prepared for some restatement and reworking. And I suggest an addition to the resources found on p. 263. What she writes about publishers is true of vanity presses. But a new model, hybrid publishers, which vet their books, has emerged. The intent here is to draw a line between “partner publishing” and vanity publishing.
Linda Hasselstrom suggests that you treat this book like a conversation with her. That’s what it is. As one of her writing retreat attendees says, “all blessings on Linda…she recognizes who we are and calls us forth.”