I love my book.

It is essential for a writer to read. And that is something that I’ve struggled with for many years. It’s not the “How-to” part that I have a probably with, it’s the “Sit-down-and-do-it” part of it. Every once in a while I read something that renews my faith that I am able to do it. And for the length of that book, the constant guilt that I’m not interested in reading, or the worrisome feelings about how behind my writing is because I’m not doing it more, is gone.

Lately, I’ve been savoring the chapters in Big Deal: One Year As A Professional Poker Player by Anthony Holden. In fact, I’ll put money down that this is the first book that I read cover to cover, more than once.

Why am I telling you this today? Because I connected with these words. Pow!

“ ‘Heart’ is what you need to take your life in your hands, to back your own instincts against the whims of fate, in the toughest, coldest, most fearless company.”

Holden is talking about Jack Straus, “One of my oldest friends among the top pros, and a popular world champion in 1982.”

Read Holden’s whole paragraph on ‘heart.”

”The word ‘heart’ carries a particular meaning in the poker player’s vocabulary. Fiendishly hard to define, but a lot more than mere grace under pressure, it has to do with courage and ingenuity, nerve and self-possession. ‘Heart’ is what you need to take your life in your hands, to back your own instincts against the whims of fate, in the toughest, coldest, most fearless company. Jack Straus himself defined it as ‘intestinal fortitude’. Heart, to me, was what defined Jack, both as a man and a player. After so many years displaying such vast quantities of the stuff, and putting such pressure on his own, it was really no surprise that it finally registered the ultimate protest.

‘I have only a limited amount of time on this earth,’ Jack would say, ‘and I want to live every second of it.’”

Holden told us that Jack Straus died of a heart attack at the early age of 58. Upon reading that, I decided that’s the way I want to go. Morbid, but I’ve never had “a way” I’ve wanted to go before. I like the symbolism with this one.

What he said about Jack is a true compliment. I think of heart, the way Holden describes it here, as a virtue. I value it and I admire it. Though often it falters, I strive to live with this kind of strength and faith in life. Faith in myself.

Even though they are talking about poker in the book, the quote I put in bold resonates with the writer’s life as well. Don’t you think?

Aren’t writers faced with the toughest, coldest company?

Rejection. Bad editors. Financial survival. Social acceptance.

Any one of these is difficult on its own, let alone on top of each other. So, who perseveres? It is not necessarily the strongest writers that become the most successful, nor the most talented. Who then? Is it the luckiest or the craftiest writers that survive? The most dedicated or the most connected? Is it the most flexible writers who are willing to play the publishing games? Or is it the writers that stand defiantly next to their dark art and wait for a visionary to accept them?

Maybe it is those that have heart.

Stay the course.

Thank you, London Tony.

PS–As I was uploading this to the blog, I got Brad Newsham’s newsletter. He is thinking about something similar. Brad, thanks for sharing an image of a man with heart.


  1. Jen,

    I read a good book once…
    it inspired me a lot…
    shall I send you a copy or do you want to ask Laurie yourself…?


  2. Philip, I’m going to ask Saskia to take away your book. And yes, I need to send an email to Laurie. Still composing it. Have to send it to several people. First, I’m trying to build relations with new editors. So, settle down. 🙂

  3. Re your struggle with reading, I would venture to say that you cannot be a great writer if you don’t read. It isn’t impossible, but nearly so–just about everything you need to absorb as a writer comes with reading. The only things that supercede it are writing itself, and of course life experience, observation, and interiority. And the last three are turbo-charged by reading. Maybe you just haven’t found enough stuff you like!

  4. WFTR-Jen

    guess who I had an email from yesterday bemoaning the fact that TT pay only $100 – need a clue – it doesnt buy much ham…..!


  5. Sorry Philip. There’s nothing I can do about it. And it seems to be the way of anthologies with small publishers. You’d be just as shocked if you found out how much I’m getting. But I’d like to leave that out of it. There are plenty of non-monetary benefits in being part of the Travelers’ Tales family.

  6. Jen

    you know I would let them publish me for free – just so I could brag that I have been between the covers with you and LG……now, wouldnt that be a story worth telling…

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