Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The next book

Now what?

That is the question I've been asking for the past two weeks since I set down my pen and said: Done.

Now what?

I have several projects printed up; half-written manuscripts for books that I never got around to finishing. I've been carrying ALL of them around with me, waiting for one to light up and signal, 'Me!'

That's not working.

In fact, as I read through them - hundreds of typewritten pages - each has some fatal flaw - a premise too trite, overworked, ambitious; a question that (I now realize) is outside the realm of my experience or, frankly, my interest. Two of the unborn books feel half-hearted; two feel too big for me; two feel, oh, I don't know... weird.

I keep looking through them, hoping that I will catch fire the way I did with Sea of Miracles, but instead, I get only a few pages through before setting them aside with a full-body SIGH.

Maybe I am asking too much of myself.
Maybe I have only one real book in me.
Maybe a writer needs a resting period, a pause between mountain climbs.

Maybe it's time to return to the memoir I set aside 'for a little while' when Sea of Miracles came charging through me.

The thing is. . .

that first book didn't just move through me, it moved me. shifting my whole life ever so slightly, but ever so profoundly, onto my true course. I have never been so solidly myself; never been so certain of what I want to do, to teach, to say.

And from this new place, those other books feel kinda stale.

So, today, in the time when I 'should be' writing, I am going to go through each one - one more time - and decide: Are we complete here? Have you brought me all you were meant to bring?

If so, I will let it go and move on to and into the new work that waits, just inside my awareness, to be born.

I can feel it there

the way one senses the presence of an important encounter just before engagement; the way that I sensed the arrival of each of my children just before conception; the way that I feel my angels' standing behind me now, reminding me: You have crossed a threshold of the self; from now on, you will always be an author. And the books that you are meant to write will come.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

See if you can stop watching!

Today, I stumbled across the most amazing link.


I am speechless.


Thursday, May 6, 2010

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


All of my life, I have almost finished almost everything. I almost finished college (more than once); almost finished a novel (twice); almost finished six non-fiction books. In fact, I can't think of a project that I carried through all the way from beginning to end - ever.

From the quilt that I made for Katie - square patches, appliqued with hearts and then, almost completely quilted by hand to the living room that I almost finished painting, my life has been a series of enthusiasms that have carried me along, almost long enough to have just the kind of life I knew was waiting for me, just around a corner of myself.

I could almost touch it.


Now, after three years of daily writing practice - three years of showing up at the page from early morning (often 5 a.m.) to midday, usually 2 p.m., no matter what, every single day - I have finished a book.

I had no idea that it would take this kind of commitment. I had no idea what commitment was. If you had asked me, five years ago, if I was capable of doing it, I'd have waved you away with a dreamy, sure... some day.

That woman had no idea what writing a book was: That I would write when I didn't feel well, when I had nothing to say, when some entertainment lured me away - that I would write, even when my mother was in the hospital recovering from open-heart surgery; and that writing no matter what would make all of that bearable, would make all of it begin to fall into a kind of personal order, a deep pattern of "sense."

Writing every day changed my life.

No workshop or self-help book could have done this - though the wisest, most effective teachers have always suggested daily practice - and stressed the importance of setting intention.

Now I understand what they meant.

I also understand, now, what it means to be called by a purpose larger than myself. I understand that what called to me was not God - nor the angels - for no outside force can or will compel us to this kind of commitment. What called to me was me: A vision of myself that floated down one day, me as a writer; me as a person who finishes things, me as a person who walks her talk. You know, me - the one that all that not-finishing was almost letting out of the box.

I understand, also, why I didn't finish - a combination of self-doubt; laziness and misunderstanding - and why I did finish, this time.

I see the way an idea that began as a glimmer developed into a shimmer that shifted as I wrote, into a liquid and poured into a pattern that was forming as I lay it down, word by careful word. I see how it became, as I opened to it - a book.

I understand now what athletes must feel as they work the same muscles, the same way, week after week; I understand the need for practice - the musical scales the piano student must repeat; the intense commitment of the law student, memorizing precedent; the medical student, studying bones and organ systems.

I feel more grounded, more centered, more true to who I am than I have ever felt in my life. But it isn't the book that gave this gift to me. It was me - and the process - the weaving and refining, the whittling and re-imagining, the willingness to keep at it, to keep working.

Simply put: What changed my life was showing up.

I printed out a copy of a manuscript that I was proud of, that felt drenched with truth, with light and with "ME". Two days later, as the book arrives by Fed Ex Ground on my editor's desk, I've already started finishing the next project: One of those six non-fiction projects.

Today, I am an athlete, a musician, a medical student, too. I am a scholar of my own work; I am a person who finishes things.