Body Work by Melissa Febos

Body Work: The Radical Power of Personal Narrative by Melissa Febos

This book can easily be gobbled up in a day, but the digestion would take several. Excellent. When I finished it I had so many papers stuck in the pages marking parts I wanted to return to that I essentially wanted to re-read the entire thing. Narrowing it down to these, some of my favorite quotes and what they mean to me below.

“I have found that a fulfilling writing life is one in which the creative process merges with the other necessary processes of good living, which only the individual can define.”

Every writing book I’ve ever read has tried to put into a single sentence what it means to be a writer. This is perfection though. It is going to be different for everyone. I believe it was Ann Patchett that got into an argument with another prominent writer over what it is to be a writer, because the other writer had some very exact proofs and Ann basically said, yeah but I don’t do that and I’m a writer. This sentence is the perfect yeah but. I have my ideal writing day (which has never happened), my usual writing day (most days of the month), and my uncommon writing days (kids get sick, it’s a perfect storm of deadlines and family visiting and the chickens have been attacked by a bear, or whatever). The bottom line is that my writing process isn’t the same from one day to another as much as I try to make it so. I’m no less a writer. And neither are you.

“I became a writer because the process helped me survive and it still does.”

I think I’ve mentioned before that I had a professor in college who essentially said, you write because you’re a writer, because you have to. I love the idea of writing for survival, although it all seems to very dramatic. Yet it’s true. I’ve never not written, which is a very double negative way of saying that if I’m not writing letters to friends and family then I’m writing in my journal, or posting on my blog, or working on a story or a novel or or or… We write because we must.

“The story that comes calling might be your own and it might not go away if you don’t open the door. I don’t believe in writer’s block. I only believe in fear.”

The most terrifyingly accurate thing I’ve ever heard about writer’s block. I absolutely believe we get to a point in our writing where we don’t know how to move forward, and it’s almost never because we genuinely don’t know what comes next. For me, I’ll become afraid that the thing I’m about to say is too unique to me to be understood by anyone else or that’s it’s too off-putting or that if I say this thing people might think it’s the autobiographical part of the fiction piece I’m working on or or or. But the bottom line is that I don’t stop writing because I have writer’s block. I have fear. I have fear around this thing I need to say and until I work through the fear, it’s not going to get written. That’s on me. I can’t blame the not-writing on writer’s block, only on my own fear.

“Empowerment often begins more subtly, with only a narrow ledge inside ourselves wide enough to hold a crumb of resistance.”

There are several paragraphs in this sentence. Stop resisting your own empowerment and write yourself off the ledge. (I say this to myself as much as to anyone else).

“Tenacity is often cited as the most common characteristic of successful authors.”

Once again, said in a different way and in a different voice, the bottom line is to keep going. Keep writing. Keep painting. Keep dancing. Whatever it is you do, keep doing it. The only way to fail is to stop trying.

“I cannot imagine nurturing a devotion to any practice more consistently than one which yields the reward of transformation, the assurance of lovability, and the eradication of regret.”

I hadn’t thought I wrote towards the “eradication of regret” but one of my stories proved to be so very autobiographical and soothing that I realized how lovely that would be. To be a memoirist whose words become the balm of their memory. I have always believed in writing (and reading) as yielding “the reward of transformation,” however, very much so. If you’re not being transformed by what you’re doing, what’s the point?

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? What are some of your favorite quotes? Have any book suggestions for me? I’d love to hear from you.

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