We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Because You Have To

A Writing Life

Joan Frank

Publication Year: 2012

Part memoir, part handbook, part survey of the contemporary literary scene, Joan Frank’s Because You Have To: A Writing Life is a collection of essays that, taken together, provide a walking tour of the writing life. Frank’s aim is to form a coherent vision, one that may provide some communion about realities of the writer's vocation that have struck her as rarely revealed. Frank offers what she has learned as a writer not only to other writers, but to those to whom good writing matters. Her insights about "thinking on paper" are never dogmatic or pontifical; rather, they are cordial and intellectually welcoming. Original, witty, and practical, Frank ably steers us through the journey of her own life as a writer, as well as through the careers and work of other writers. Her subjects range widely, from the “boot camp” conditioning of marketing work to squaring off with rejection and envy; from sustaining belief in art’s necessity to the baffling subjectivity of literary perception and the magical books that nourish writers. Frank’s personal journey is wonderfully told, so that what in these essays is particular becomes useful and universal.

Published by: University of Notre Dame Press

read more

Preface: Against All Odds

pdf iconDownload PDF (663.6 KB)
p. ix-ix

We live in a fast-forward world.
Media’s avalanched our eyes and ears and, too often, our hearts. Speed and glitter, serving big profit, reshape our perception of the . . .

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (663.0 KB)
pp. xi-xii

Sincere thanks to Robert Bly, Baron Wormser, and Thaisa Frank (no relation) for permission to quote from their writings and . . .

Madness in Method

read more

Getting It Down

pdf iconDownload PDF (680.0 KB)
pp. 1-9

Few things have become harder to do at our moment of the new century, I think, than to think.
By thinking, I mean to sink, at a deliberate and comfortable . . .

read more

Writing from the Body

pdf iconDownload PDF (684.9 KB)
pp. 10-11

Presuming here shares the stage with making presumptions about sex. Unless one’s a doctor or has just had a heart attack, one doesn’t tell other people what to do with their own bodies . . .


read more

Spit and Band-Aids: The Business of Art

pdf iconDownload PDF (506.5 KB)
pp. 15-20

Recently mulling over the boxes and files of correspondence I’ve kept over the years, printed faxes or e-mails with my late best friend—a body of work that far outstrips that of any encyclopedia . . .

read more

The Stillness of Sleeping Birds

pdf iconDownload PDF (677.2 KB)
pp. 21-28

In her enchanting book of meditations on the act of reading, Ruined by Reading, author Lynne Sharon Schwartz describes, among reading’s many mysterious pleasures, the option of sitting . . .

read more

Be Careful Whom You Tell

pdf iconDownload PDF (698.6 KB)
pp. 29-36

It is very tempting—and for one or two seconds, deeply satisfying— to tell people you are a writer.
In the next beat, you may be very sorry you uttered a word. . . .

read more

Never Enough

pdf iconDownload PDF (712.9 KB)
pp. 36-57

1. There is never enough. There is always just barely enough. . . .

read more

When It Is Good

pdf iconDownload PDF (674.0 KB)
pp. 58-61

A thoughtful friend has suggested I cite some of the ways in which the calling of writing makes one happy—so as to ward off suppositions (logical enough) that the work brings constant . . .

Psychic Inroads, Scenic Routes, Culs-de-Sac

read more

Writers' Networks, Writers' Lives

pdf iconDownload PDF (707.7 KB)
pp. 65-76

A friend embarking on a first novel and, in her words, “trying to be professional” was peppering me with questions.
How did I view the work of my writing friends and they mine? . . .

read more

For My Brothers and Sisters in the Rejection Business

pdf iconDownload PDF (703.7 KB)
pp. 77-86

Rejection is democratic, and protean. It snarls straight out of the gate at the most innocent, and when we are young (at least, developmentally young), it can devastate us. I remember being told by . . .

read more

The Impenetrable Phenomenon

pdf iconDownload PDF (680.4 KB)
pp. 87-95

When I was a little girl, my father would occasionally go on long trips whose purposes and particulars felt mysterious. They seemed to occur just beyond my view in a dimension yet . . .

read more

The Vastness of Geologic Time

pdf iconDownload PDF (675.2 KB)
pp. 96-102

Here’s a non-secret: almost all writers of literary fiction feel hard done by at some point. Almost no one speaks of it publicly. It’s understood to be bad form, bad energy. It stamps the complainer . . .

read more

The More We Typed, the Better We Felt

pdf iconDownload PDF (668.6 KB)
pp. 103-106

Damn, damn, damn, damn.
I wrote a letter to the New York Times. And then, Lord help me, I sent it.
In the past I’ve managed enough self-control to write the . . .

read more

Revisiting Envy

pdf iconDownload PDF (700.3 KB)
pp. 107-115

How happy I am to be able to say it: I loved Frank McCourt.
(Hand placed over heart.) May his work endure and remain beloved.
I never knew him personally—wish I’d been so lucky. But I

read more

Gumby, Frankenstein, Jakob, Rosamund

pdf iconDownload PDF (690.3 KB)
pp. 116-119

The word character abrades me, though there’s never been a good alternative to it. For me the word’s sound, read or spoken, reduces its image to something flat and cartoonish, Gumby-like . . .

A Booth in the Marketplace

read more

Striking a Bargain: Marketing

pdf iconDownload PDF (522.7 KB)
pp. 123-135

Once you’ve made your work, however long that may take, the moment arrives when you have to offer it up to the world. It’s the completion of the original gesture, the logical parturition. Like any passage, . . .


read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (668.3 KB)
pp. 139-142

I am seated on the living room carpet with a beer beside my best friend, who is also an author, trading news of writerly struggles. Odds are long; the fiction . . .

read more

Underwhelmed and Eccentric

pdf iconDownload PDF (675.6 KB)
pp. 143-149

Though the love of earnest literature and all it stands for appears to shrink daily, giving way instead to a kind of homogenized sludge of recipes, travelogues, horror serialists and the like, all . . .

read more

A Hand in the Game: Reviewing

pdf iconDownload PDF (503.9 KB)
pp. 150-154

Plenty of writers make a point of exempting themselves (perhaps recusing is the better word) from reviewing other writers’ work.
I understand this.

read more

Enough with the Change and Growth

pdf iconDownload PDF (672.8 KB)
pp. 155-160

So pronounced a famous reviewer, in a famous American newspaper’s book review section a few years ago, assessing a new novel by a respected . . .

read more

Imposed Yet Familiar

pdf iconDownload PDF (515.5 KB)
pp. 161-170

Syndicated columnist Ellen Goodman bemoaned, years ago, what was then seen as a sort of national literary rash: the Invasion of the . . .

read more

If You Really Want to Hear About It

pdf iconDownload PDF (666.0 KB)
pp. 171-173

In my alternate life as a book reviewer, I come across a practice that’s more and more pervasive, and it happens like this:
A first novel by a very bright, up-and-coming young author

read more

In Search of Heated Agreement

pdf iconDownload PDF (691.8 KB)
pp. 174-182

We were wolfing Greek olives and crackers, preludes to the good dinner she and her husband were preparing, when a friend announced to . . .

Making Art

read more

Love of Three Oranges

pdf iconDownload PDF (676.3 KB)
pp. 185-192

What does it mean to declare oneself a member of the shapeshifting, embattled fraternity of artists?
What does being an artist truly mean or require?
To some, the definition’s clear-cut. You do your art . . .

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (730.6 KB)
pp. 193-200

This section includes source information for quotes and paraphrases that did not have the source information included with the quote or paraphrase in the text. Thaisa Frank’s quotes are . . .

E-ISBN-13: 9780268079765
E-ISBN-10: 0268079765
Print-ISBN-13: 9780268028930
Print-ISBN-10: 0268028931

Page Count: 184
Illustrations: NA
Publication Year: 2012

Research Areas


UPCC logo

Subject Headings

  • Frank, Joan, 1949-.
  • Authors, American -- 20th century -- Biography.
  • You have access to this content
  • Free sample
  • Open Access
  • Restricted Access