How to write a book - Kristen Kalp

How to write a book

I believe in the sanctity of the kitchen table.

I believe in writing as often as possible, for as long as possible, until you’ve wrung your brain dry of its contents and you’ve got nothing but the capacity for physical tasks left within you.

I believe in circling back to the table each morning, wearing pants or not, showered or not, ready to write or not, and scrawling your whole fucking heart down the length of the whole fucking page.

Whether your writing is interesting isn’t your concern.

The kitchen table is about telling the truth. All of it, even when you’re complaining about being a female and how that means you’re expected to cook meals of dinosaur chicken nuggets over and over without complaint because the kids are picky, and how men send up stunned and panicked alert flares when they are forced to cook perfect grilled cheese sandwiches on demand, slowly realizing the extent to which their children do not in any way appreciate the act of being fed at their leisure. (A stranger will overhear this conversation and call the show you should be writing, ‘Welcome to Having a Vagina.’ This will strike you as accurate and perfect.)

Your writing doesn’t have to be breathtaking.

You don’t have to scale Everest or defeat stage four cancer or earn a billion dollars in order to string words into sentences; glory is easy.

It’s much harder to capture the nuance of the everyday: all the burdens we cannot name. The strain of being constantly plugged in, tuned in, and generally aware of the events going on across the room, the state, the country, the planet. The pain of comparing ourselves to strangers on the internet. The strange sorrow that comes of knowing we can’t possibly have it all, consume it all, or even read it all in this lifetime.

The constant, curious knowledge that every passing minute narrows our life choices by 60 tiny clicks — and sometimes in those clicks, we can only hear, “This isn’t what I want” chanted over and over again.

Your writing doesn’t have to be original.

Sentences follow rules for damn good reasons. You don’t have to improvise a new sentence structure like some kind of crazy-ass letter jazz. You only have to get closer and closer to saying what you mean to say.

Your writing doesn’t have to mean a damn thing to anyone else.

Coming to the kitchen table doesn’t mean other people care about what you’re saying; it means you care about what you’re saying. Writing means you’re willing to set a place for yourself at the table, to feed your deepest and darkest and most interesting bits the steady diet of a listening ear and a few minutes of your time.

Publishing your work doesn’t mean a damn thing except that you have internet access.

The kitchen table is a sacred pact between you and your own life: your ability to show up, to get the pieces down, to lay the foundation for a life of listening to your voice and then fashioning the scraps into something you find interesting.

Something you.

Find interesting.

Other people’s interest is a bonus, but by no means required.

Your poems do not have to be shown to another soul.

Same goes for your essays, stories, novels, tales: entirely yours.

Your kitchen table time, your writing time, is a respite from the constant demands of consumerism.

Each word is a tiny banner flapping “I make, I make, I make” in the face of the prevailing societal winds busy screaming “Consume, consume, consume.”

Writing affords you the surety of knowing you’ve turned up on your own behalf; acted as your own counsel; listened to your own voice long enough to discern your thoughts from the general rumpus; and found a way to express those thoughts when it would be easier to do anything else.

The kitchen table is there, waiting, inviting you not to plan a better or different or more acclaimed writing life.

The table is there, waiting for you to write.

Writing a book (whether short story collection or memoir or novel or poetry collection or epic or how-to) is the act of showing up to the kitchen table, over and over again, until the work is done.

May you choose the completely common miracle of the kitchen table, over and over again.

May you someday bear witness to all those words flapping their banners in the wind, proclaiming the steady truth of your work as you enter the castle you’ve been building, all this time, letter by letter and line by line.