From its intriguing title to the last page, Rumors of Water: Thoughts on Creativity and Writing by L.L. Barkat is a welcome addition to the why-to-write, how-to-write genre of self-help books. It reminded me of Writing Down the Bones in the way Barkat opens the door of her life to us like Natalie Goldberg did in 1986. And Barkat’s life is ever so relatable, with its demands of home- educating her daughters (11 and 14 years) and keeping up with household responsibilities, while nourishing her own life as a writer.
Using everyday incidents like a trip to the market, a long climb up a lighthouse, making a potluck dish from the beans on hand, and washing dishes in the yard because the kitchen plumbing is clogged, Barkat addresses a range of challenges writers face. She does this in 32 short chapters under the headings of Momentum, Voice, Habits, Structure, Publishing, Glitches, and Time.
Two things made me like this book a lot. The first is Barkat’s tone. The way she approaches instruction is never head-on, but subtly as in taking advantage of the teachable moment — mimicking the way she home-educates her daughters. For example in the chapter on learning to care for our writing, she advises daughter Sara it’s time she set some goals for herself. It turns out one of Sara’s goals is to learn Tai Chi. They find a friend who knows something about Tai Chi and discover that part of the process includes caring for one’s inner chi or energy.
Barkat writes: “The concept of chi is not a part of my culture and religion. I get the idea though. we have an inner life. We need to cultivate and protect it. In my world, this is called ‘caring for the soul.’” Here Barkat slips, almost imperceptibly from storyteller to writing instructor as she goes on: “Writers have a kind of soul too — a creative center that can be cultivated and protected, wasted or destroyed…” (page 82). Then she lists and elaborates on five soul-care principles for writers.