One of the things that marks my writing experience are periods of existential loneliness, times when I think I’m fooling myself about this whole author thing. Then a friend, an article, or a Tweet will come at me from left field saying “I got you. You *are* a writer. Feeling weird is normal. I believe in you.” Those moments help me go on, and they’re one of the three reasons you’ll love “Never Say You Can’t Survive” by Charlie Jane Anders. This book is full of those moments.
I’m not a professional book reviewer, I’m just a guy trying to be a professional writer. So when Anders put the offer out to let me review her new book on Netgalley, I jumped at it. It was important for me to know what she could teach me about my own journey. Never Say You Can’t Survive is chock-full of stoic wit, and there are three reasons you’ll love it as soon as you start reading.
Make no mistake, however. This might be be a book by and for writers, but everyone else should read it, too. Anders captures the discomfort, weirdness, and rollercoasters of emotion you travel on your journey to feel comfortable in your own skin. ‘Weirdness gives me the strength to keep going,’ she says as a chapter title, and peppers the book with great music references that I thought only I knew. It’s her way of saying ‘you are seen.’ That was very comforting to me, and it’ll make you feel good, too. Are you othered? Different? Just to the left of normal? Never Say You Can’t Survive is a party and you’re invited. That’s the first reason you’ll love this book.
The second reason is that along the way to Whoville, Anders offers helpful tidbits about the process of writing that I found insightful. I’m always on the lookout for ways to hack the work, but as Anders brings out in ‘Find Your Voice and Make It Loud,’ writing style is not an austere matter. As you develop your writing style, don’t be afraid to experiment, be expressive, write about what makes you feel good no matter what anyone else says. Your writing style should be a snuggly blanket that keeps you safe and warm from the inhospitable outside world. After all, it is painful to have to pretend that the world makes sense. We all know it doesn’t, but Anders isn’t afraid to say that quiet part out loud.
A third and perhaps the largest reason you’ll love Never Say You Can’t Survive is the idea that you must be you, in order to be you. You cannot write the book that feels close to your heart if you aren’t in touch with your heart. Writing is an act that forces you to peer into the abyss, and let the abyss peer into you. Writing is an act that forces you to uncover what you’re really trying to say, and what that says about you. That can be a scary, difficult, and yes, a liberating process. Don’t run from it, Anders says.
As Robert Mailer says in his novel ‘Boonville,’ it’s never easy to be yourself. Never Say You Can’t Survive acknowledges this hardship, while refusing to be shackled to it. Yes, it’s hard, Anders wants you to know. But that is what makes it good. The struggle is real. You’re getting closer to who you’re supposed to be. Welcome the struggle. There are many reasons you’ll love Never Say You Can’t Survive, but these three will help you get started.