Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Where Do You Hang Your Hammock?

 By Bella Mahaya Carter

She Writes Press     2021

352 pages     Self-Help

The subtitle of the book is “Finding peace of mind while you write, publish, and promote your book.” It speaks to the anxiety writers experience as they attempt to get noticed in the cut-throat publishing world. In the last two novels I read, Strange Love by Fred Waitzkin and The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz, the protagonists were both authors who were suffering severe anxiety over stalled careers and unpublished writings. I approached Where Do You Hang Your Hammock? with those two books in mind.

Here is the publisher’s description. “In Where Do You Hang Your Hammock? seasoned coach and author Bella Mahaya Carter shows writers how to use their present circumstances as stepping-stones to a successful and meaningful writing life, navigated from the inside out. It encourages writers and authors to rethink their ambitions (which may be fueled by the tyrannical demands of the ego) and trust in their heartfelt purpose and values in the journey to becoming, or continuing on, as authors.

Many writers believe their self-sabotaging thoughts are trustworthy and true. They take rejection personally. They surmise that if they don’t achieve their goals they have failed, and lose sight of who they are and what matters most.

This book is for writers looking for inspiration and for authors daunted by the publishing process, who might lack the requisite author platform to get published the way they dreamed, or whose careers may not be unfolding as expected. It aims to be the friend and trusted expert writers turn to when hijacked by their own thinking. Ultimately, it reminds authors that they are infinite creators.

First, and most clearly, this is not a “how-to” with researched steps on getting a book published. It is more about how to get your mind and spirit focused on your writing first before focusing on getting published. Carter says, “My hope is that Where Do You Hang Your Hammock? will encourage readers to lean in to their work and their lives with greater freedom, curiosity, and celebration.” In other words, Carter’s book is spiritual in focus. She is a creative writing teacher, author, and empowerment coach, and this work reflects her own life’s search and achievements as well as her career empowering other writers.

The book is divided into five parts: dream, nourish, write, publish, and promote. Within each section are short, numbered chapters followed by  journal-writing prompts. For example, following a chapter entitled, A Ritual to Solidify Your Intentions, the journal prompt is “What do I have to give to my writing? What do I hope to receive from my writing? What are my writing intentions.” I really appreciated the journal prompts, and I also valued the way in which she included spiritual growth suggestions in the part entitled “Nourish.” I got a kick out of the journal prompt in the section on “Promote” which asks, How can I bring joy to my book launch?

The intended audience may be a bit of a question. I think both the protagonists of Strange Love and The Plot could have read Where Do You Hang Your Hammock? as they worked toward the next steps in their careers. I might suggest this book to a student planning a writing career or a person plotting a retirement plan for something she always wanted to do. Perhaps my sister as she writes the stories of her life.

Bella Mahaya Carter’s website. She sponsors online writing circles that would be valuable for people with stories to tell. You can find information on her website.

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