I joined a writing group to help me stay focused as I attempt to write a book. It’s a small club: five people who are all writing books of one sort of another, and we get together once per week. We don’t actually discuss the content of our writing, but rather we focus on the process of writing: How do you get started on a particular chapter? What variables, whether psychological or practical, get in the way of your writing? What objectives for writing should you set for this week to help you complete your larger goal? Everyone is very supportive and bring out great ideas for staying on task. In addition, the group leader, C, will ask us to complete interesting homework assignments to help keep motivation high.
This week, C asked us to imagine our books on the bookshelf. She asked us to consider what we would like the brief reviews – the ones on the back of the jacket – to say about our book. The reviews could be from whomever we choose and should say exactly what we are hoping to achieve. This is a great exercise in behavior modification and is often used in therapy. For example, if you have a client who is working on smoking cessation, you get them to imagine what life will be like after they’ve achieved their goal. Picture it. What will it feel like when you’re able to run that 5K without coughing up black death? See yourself crossing the finish line with bright and shiny white teeth instead of yellow and plaid-tinted incisors and breath that could kill Freddy Krueger. Imagine your hair being simply sweaty instead of encrusted in smoke and cancer.
Stuff like that.
Like many things I had trouble taking this exercise seriously. This is what I pictured on the back of my book:
Dr. Rob writes with an insight heretofore seen in only Chaucer, Shakespeare, Dickinson and Moliere. Brimming with love, humor, terse wit and highly charged sexuality, Dobrenski will soon be receiving a new, previously unknown award from the United Nations: The World’s Most Incredible Human Person Ever Award. – New York Times Book Review.
When Dobrenski speaks or, in this case, writes, you damn well better listen, because what he says will change not only your life, but three other people of your choosing. – Entertainment Weekly.
In his very first book, Dr. Rob Dobrenski took a bat made out of Zoloft, a Valium-filled baseball and the steroid-clogged soul of Freud to hit a mental health home run! – Journal of the American Medical Association.
I have a new wingman, and his name is Dr. Rob. – Tucker Max.
All that would be well and good, but I guess that’s not what’s really important. It’s only been a little over a month, but the writing consumes me. Even when I’m not at the computer generating words, I think about it. Will it be any good? Does it convey what I want to say? Will I be a laughing stock after people read it?
Clearly I’m making more out of this book than is necessary (although one could argue that since I’m old, alone and childless, it’s pretty much all I’ve got going on at this point in life). The reality is that the book may suck and never see a Borders or a Barnes and Noble and I have to be okay with that. If it does though, the back of it just has to say one thing:
Say what you will about the writing, the stories, the humor (or lack thereof), but the guy loves mental health. He definitely has demonstrated that whether you’re a shrink, a patient or someone in between, it’s okay to be neurotic. We all are. That’s part of being a person. – Any critic, any publication.
That will be enough for me.