Of course I signed up for a Writer’s Workshop entitled Good Naked.
I saw her before I entered the room, instantly sensing an attractive alpha female, having taken a flash inventory of the participants as I opened the glass door. I had no idea she was Joni B. Cole until after I realized I had claimed the empty seat next to the teacher.
“What did you have for breakfast? What makes the perfect breakfast and why are you writing?” she asked the twelve of us as a way of breaking the ice and percolating introductions around the table.
“I made a spinach omelet this morning and it was the perfect breakfast,” I added as my introduction. “I write to expose the truth from within. I want to find authentic ways to tell my stories without falling upon clichés in thought or words.”
Joni confessed to a breakfast of 4 cups of coffee and a donut. Then, we began the work.
“The prompt is: I’m not sorry. Write for 11 minutes.”
“Go,” she commanded and I began writing…
I’m not sorry. We all have our individual paths, challenges obstacles gains, losses, surprises, disasters, blessings and curses to overcome. I am your father but I am also someone else’s kid. I have had the same kind of wins and losses that you’re experiencing. I have asked myself why, many more times than you have because I have been on this Earth for seven decades. So do not expect an apology. I have yet to get one and I do not feel unfulfilled expectation.
I have often wondered why things seem to take place as if there was or is an external Force at work. Do you believe in destiny? Is there a reason why some people seem to win without trying while others struggle hopelessly failing and failing in a downward spiral? I believe there are significant events that mark a point of decision. Some see them as turning points in retrospect. That time when you had to choose. That choice takes you forward or knocks you back. The choice is what matters. And there are those who choose to freeze, making no choice at all, the ultimate failure.
I bought Joni B. Cole’s latest book, Good Naked: Reflections on How to Write More, Write Better, and Be Happier
…and cut loose from any restraints on marking it up with a highlighter. This book deserves to be marked up, spawning a rich collection of writer memes and words to write by. I asked her to sign my book but I couldn’t read what she wrote. It did not say: Talk is cheap. Writing is deep. Taking action is even deeper – but that’s the message I got from her. I said that to myself because I promised her I would write a review and publish it in Amazon and Barnes & Noble. This is that review:
The first set of words I underlined in my copy of Good Naked say, “What book? At the moment all you have is a feral pig.” It made me laugh. She will make you laugh again and again. On page 9, the second thing I underlined is a writing prompt: “Goodbye. I’ll miss you.” She says, “Just put those words on the page and keep writing…”
I miss Joni B. Cole. I miss reading her book but I have a copy of an earlier work, her Toxic Feedback: Helping Writers Survive and Thrive to soothe my grief. That title was published in 2006 and much like Good Naked, she is neither toxic nor unclothed but she bares her heart. That’s why I love her. She takes risks, choosing to level with everyone, be they a reader or a student in one of her workshops. Rather than place herself on an imaginary pedestal, she truly believes that everyone has a story to tell. Her goal is to empower anyone she encounters with confidence and a firm kick in the ass to get started. She allocates no time to waiting around for inspiration. Stop planning your next great novel and start doing.
“All behaviors and ideas are generative, building on the ones that came before. What this more realistic view of creativity means is that you are always in the flow.” – page 21. In other words, writer’s block is just an excuse to do nothing. The British call it “work shy.” Joni wants those who follow her to have faith that out of the muck of whatever you write there will be pearls worth retrieving.
“We need to respect even our pre-drafts. We need to recognize the value of every stage of the development of our manuscripts because if we don’t, we are always going to be apologizing, and are likely to overlook the crucial role that every draft serves in the creative process.” – page 86.
My promise kept to Joni B. Cole is realized as a deep admiration for her work. She devotes her life to empowering others through her books and her writer’s workshops. If you are stuck, looking for inspiration, or in doubt regarding your value as a writer, Good Naked will light a candle in the dark spaces of your soul.
In the last words I underlined, on page 188 Joni says, “I think the best choices in life, as in writing, come down to the answer to one overarching question: What is in service to our story?”