Maybe the true purpose of my life is for my body, my sensations and my thoughts to become writing, in other words, something intelligible and universal, causing my existence to merge into the lives and heads of other people.
-from "Happening," by Annie Ernaux, 2022 Nobel Laureate
I've had a lot of congratulations and some interesting responses to my new book, Becoming a Writer; A Memoir and Workbook. "Your book has arrived and I am reading it," a colleague wrote. I wonder if reading it from beginning to end was my intention. Books are usually read cover to cover, of course, but this book has slipped out of my psyche not from beginning to end, but incrementally over the years; it's a distillation, a compendium, a philosophy.
Forgive me, if I continue to ruminate about my effort to convey what I hold dear: staying present in the world through writing, whether it is my immediate surroundings, or the world beyond the circumscribed borders of my life. If I have not expressed this intention well, I must continue to write about it …intentionally. Indeed, I am reminded every day that the discipline of daily writing, as well as its satisfactions and joys, keeps the pen in my hand and that "procrastination" a self-flagellating word I abhor, does not exist for me. If I hear a student voice that word, I stop him/her/they immediately. I also do not entertain the words "writers block." If we are not writing, we are mulching, and when the compost pail is full-up, we only have to sit down and start writing, even if what we are writing feels like nonsense, at first, or we fear that it is not good enough.
In a Sam Fragoso, "Talk Easy" podcast interview with David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker, the German word Sitzfleisch, was mentioned amidst laughter as a characteristic most successful writers possess or, I'd prefer to say, cultivate. In short: keep your bottom in the chair, do not move, as I am doing right now so that I can lay down a draft of this blog post before I get onto a Zoom call. I did not mention Sitzfleisch in my book, but Becoming a Writer is not a finite entity, so I will mention it now. Becoming a writer is a fluid state, an evolution, ever expanding, like the universe. Or, is that to grand a concept?
Lastly, some gratitude: I wrote back to everyone who sent me congratulations or annotations about their own work. Recording our stories, either for pleasure, or for the historical record, is a worthy vocation or avocation for everyone. And a special thanks to those who took the time to read the book in PDF and write endorsements, as follows:
An engaging tour d'horizon, employing Bergman's varied experiences to render a compelling guide to writing as art and calling. Practical recommendations for thriving as a writer—both creatively and professionally—are rendered with clear examples from the author's long career; the book will appeal especially to those whose creative writing strengths are always open to change.
MacKay Wolff is an international humanitarian aid worker.
Carol Bergman offers a rich pathway into the writing world. She shares a lifetime's cache of personal experiences spanning all aspects of the writing experience, as well as concrete steps for the aspiring writer. This is a book that will encourage as well guide all who are seeking a way in to writing.
Co-founder, The Northwest School
Carol Bergman provides helpful guidance to those wishing to become writers, or to enhance their writing skills. Based on her personal experiences as a writer and mentor, she covers many topics critical in developing writing skills. She includes specific exercises and suggestions for incorporating her advice into one's own work, a particularly practical and helpful feature of this book.
Author of Not Done Yet: The Humor of Aging
Carol's writing advice, in a creative nonfiction workshop and now in Becoming a Writer, has been invaluable to me as I tackle a difficult memoir. Through a combination of group critiques, written comments, astute questions, and reading discussions, Carol shared her wisdom with our intimate group, helping us to refine our perspectives as well as our sentences. Her book offers insights into many writing genres and the challenges they bring, extended through personal examples of her journey to become a writer. I need only open this generous book to regain my sense of direction when out of balance.
Betty Leigh Hutcheson, Grant Writer and Literary Enthusiast
In Becoming a Writer writing Carol Bergman shares a treasure trove of memories and a lifetime of experience as a writing mentor.This is a generous welcome to writing, a beckoning.
Nancy Caputi, retired ESL teacher
As a professional writer and an educator of many decades, I thought I knew all the tricks. Happily, Bergman's book has proven me wrong. A deceptively chatty tone belies the formidable skills required of the craft, imparting a lifetime's worth of knowledge and experience. Old pros will learn new approaches and young writers will especially benefit from Bergman's emphasis on the psychological challenges of the trade. I will surely use entire sections from this book in the next writing course I teach.
Dr. William L Gibson is a writer, researcher and educator based in Southeast Asia
Carol Bergman has been all kinds of writer. She has produced texts sometimes elegant, sometimes necessary. She knows how to address many a reading audience and her new guide, Becoming a Writer, distills her knowledge, her wisdom and her cleverness for any who want to learn the many facets of this frustrating, satisfying business.
George Szanto, author of Bog Tender and Whatever Lola Wants
Becoming a Writer reminds me of an elegant set of Matryoshka nesting dolls—in tightly fitting sequences, Bergman shows (never tells) us how to both craft a meaningful life as a writer and how to shape the "armature" of that life into art. This book is a treasure, one doll opening our imaginations to the next, with generosity and kinship to those who follow.
—Martha Greenwald, Writer, Educator, Founder/Curator of The WhoWeLost Project, and editor of Who We Lost: A Portable COVID Memorial.