I've been thinking about this a lot lately--the book of my heart. A few years ago, a dear friend sent me the link to Beth Revis's blog post on the same subject. We discussed it at length--do all of us have a book that we were meant to write? The one. The writing equivalent of a soulmate. And if I don't, is there something wrong with me? Does it make me soul-less? Because at the time, I didn't have a book of my heart.
I believe that all of my books contain a bit of my heart. Gilt is full of my own concerns about inaction, and how not doing anything can be as bad as doing the wrong thing. Tarnish is a hymn to my own adolescent feminism. And Brazen is testament to heartbreak and loss. I love them all, and each held its own kind of magic while I wrote. They are each, in essence, a book of my heart.
Recently, though, I've been digging deeper in my writing. Because I have no contracts to fulfill, and no publisher asking for anything specific from me, I've had the freedom to choose and play around with and take the time to write stories that come from somewhere else. Not from history, but from somewhere deeper. With no guidelines and no restrictions, I can do anything I want.
It's not easy. In fact, there are times that I wonder what the hell I was thinking. Why don't I just write that YA about Jane Grey? Or Joan of Arc? Or Queen Elizabeth? Why don't I stick to what I know and do well?
Because as an artist--and we are all artists, my friends--I want to stretch and grow and try new things. Because if I wanted to do the same thing day after day, I would put on a green apron and a big smile and be your Starbucks barista. I'm good at that. I've had lots of practice.
But I want to be a writer, so I dive into deep water. And I've loved it. Not every minute (do any of us? If you do, tell me your secret!) But I've learned to love writing again. And I'm learning that writing from the heart takes time and effort and tears, but it is so soul-satisfying.
I've also learned that rejection hurts more if you have more invested. That when the book of your heart gets picked apart or worse, dispassionately, indifferently put down and abandoned, it feels more personal. One year on (and yes, it's been a year since I sent that book out, the one that came from some magical place and went nowhere in publishing), I've learned that I'm glad I wrote it, anyway. More than glad--I'm a different person. A better person. That book made me see more and hear more and find a creative place in myself that I wouldn't have otherwise. Of course, it would have been great if it had sold and I was here telling you a release date or revealing a cover. But I wrote it. And I'm proud of it. And I'll do it again. Because that's what writing is--digging deep down into your artistic well and bringing up something fresh and life-sustaining. I try to come to the well every day, with every project, but the Book of My Heart taught me to drink.