“So often in a creative career, the magic that is required is quite simply the courage to go on.”
– Julia Cameron
I have a confession to make…I don’t have an extensive fiction keeper shelf. Years ago, I kept so many books, I was forced to store them in plastic tubs in the garage. They were filled with novels from authors like Jayne Ann Krentz, Nora Roberts, JD Robb, Suzanne Brockmann, Rachel Gibson, Christie Ridgway, Susan Andersen, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Karen Marie Moning, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Diana Gabaldon and more.
So what happened? I moved halfway around the world and had to leave 95% of my “keeper shelf” back in the States.
By the time we returned to the US several years later, I had adopted an e-book habit (yes, I was a trendsetter :-)). That was the only way I could get the books I loved (try buying hot romances in a Muslim country). And because I traveled so much, storing books on my iPAQ was more convenient than schlepping paperbacks everywhere.
But when I began writing seriously, I gathered more non-fiction resources. These now take up the majority of my keeper shelf. One of the first books I bought was The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. At the time, I bought it because I heard it was a must-have for a creative professional. But I kinda scoffed—me, need anything to help heal my creativity? Pu-leeze. I had more thoughts in my head than I could get down on paper. I would never run out of creative steam.
I was so, so wrong.
In 2009, my mom underwent major surgery and subsequently remained in ICU and rehab for much longer than we’d anticipated. That meant I lived in Texas for several months while my son and husband remained overseas. I continued to write during her illness, but once she was recovering at home, I was a creative wasteland. That’s when I picked up Cameron’s The Artist’s Way for the first time.
One of the most powerful parts of The Artist’s Way is Cameron’s morning pages, which requires you to write three longhand pages each morning. I wrote, but reluctantly. I went through TAW’s entire 12-week program and began climbing a very slippery slope toward healing. But about the time I was regaining traction, my son and I moved back to the US while my husband finished up his commitment overseas. So I was reacclimatizing to life in the US, single-parenting, and once again trying to get my writing life back on track.
So I began reading The Artist’s Way. Again. I remember the first day of those twelve weeks—I sat out on my deck in California overlooking the foothills of the Santa Monica Mountains, the early morning weather cool even though it was August. I read Cameron’s words again. And I wrote those three, often painful pages. And day by day, I healed.
Another book on my keeper shelf (okay, honesty moment, this book stays in my bathroom – LOL) is Daily Affirmations for Forgiving and Moving On by Tian Dayton. Not long after Tech Guy and I married, my parents separated permanently after 35 years of marriage. I bought my mom a copy of this little devotional-style book to help her get through that difficult time. Years later, it sat on her microwave oven, completely spine-snapped, underlined, and highlighted. She read a passage—Every. Single. Day. She said it was her bible. One Christmas, she gave my sister and me copies of the book along with small jewelry boxes that played the song “Wind Beneath My Wings.”
Okay, stepping back to take a deep breath because I have tears in my eyes as I’m writing this post.
My mom passed away a year and a half ago. Some days, I can’t open this powerful little book because it reminds me too much of her. And some days, I open this powerful little book because it’s such a direct link to her.
And somehow, it always seems to hold the message I need for that particular day. Today’s entry is titled “Being Easy on Myself” and says “Today I refuse to beat myself up because I have in some way made an error.” Perfect for the day after I returned developmental edits to my editor with the fear that I still hadn’t hit the mark.
I absolutely believe in the healing power of fiction, but sometimes it takes self-help and self-reflection to heal a wound.
What powerful non-fiction or self-help books do you keep on your shelf?