Callie Bowld On Writing: “Get Off the Couch!” by Callie Bowld
I wrote a book. While some say that is an applaudable task in and of itself—and I believe it is—I am also a perfectionist, an over-achiever if you will. I don’t settle for applaudable; I crave the ovation. I wanted my books to actually reach people. A challenge, for sure, but I love those, too.
When my first book—a fictional, but way-too-personal, love drama—flowed fairly quickly out of me, I knew writing had hooked me. But, when I completed my sixth and most recent book—non-fiction, a perfectly-personal piece about my recovery from a two-decade, a debilitating eating disorder—I knew I was in trouble because that book actually touched people. My goal, in telling my story, was to humanize (and humorize) problems many others deal with but don’t talk about. But, when my story began to help people, heal people even, I knew I could no longer half-ass it. I love writing. I’m fairly good at it, which means (in my world) I have to push myself to be great at it.
This meant I could not continue to just pour words onto the screen—a task that is fairly easy for me, particularly when writing an autobiographical piece about an insanely crippling disorder that I recovered from. In all honesty, the novel and graphic nature of that condition made the writing of What Goes Down fairly easy. But … for my next trick, I want to take another stab at a fictional piece (minus the way-too-personal stuff) that deserves the ovation.
In striving for this, I found something I read recently infectiously motivating: Stephen King’s On Writing. In it, he talked about the hundreds of rejections he received—so many he had to graduate from the nail he initially punched them on to a railroad spike he hammered into the wall. A railroad spike. Hammered. Can you hear that? Yet, King kept writing. Why? He offered a piece of advice that I believe will never leave me (and I’m grateful for it). As you have probably guessed, it involves the couch.
Imagine this: You’ve noticed you’re getting a little pudgy around the midsection and you want to do something about it. You and your best friend are kicked back in the living room talking about it. What does he say? “Then get off the couch.”
You probably knew this, deep down; you just didn’t want to hear it. Writing is hard. It demands the mountains of work. You have to read voraciously. Recognize and appreciate other styles and techniques—good and bad. You need to write three times more than you read, trying many styles and techniques until you finally chisel and shape your own. You have to edit infinitely more times than you write to truly polish every solitary sentence. While writing well can be one of the most deliciously-rewarding pursuits, it demands time, patience, and a hundred rewrites. There is no shortcut. But, ovation awaits. If you’re not up for that, sit back down on the couch.
If you are, grab a hammer and get to work.
Author, Eating Disorder Survivor
About the Author:
Callie is bold. She is also healed and inspired to help others kick the shit out of this disease, just as she did. She is you and she is also me. Callie is the name I published under as she was brave and bold enough to tell this story, to put it out there to reach and impact others. While I was not ready to become—to the rest of my professional and public world—the new face of bulimia, Callie was. And I will be forever grateful. She truly feels like a person of my past. Someone I abused and tormented for years, but she, being me, is also strong and resilient and has forgiven me.
I hope her story will empower you. If so, please share it. And please let Callie know.