Saturday, January 02, 2010

Pregnant with words

Okay, here's the thing - I really need to write a book. Well, more to the point - I need to write ANOTHER book. I've been down this road before.

I've carried this dream with me for almost as long as I've been able to string together words. After my first publishing success in high school (a poem in the high school yearbook), I had a taste of what it's like to see my words in print and I've been a little like a drug addict, craving it ever since.

I've seen my words in print fairly regularly since then. I've had probably about 20 things published in various publications (poems, articles, essays), and hundreds more in publications related to the various places I've worked. I've even seen my words on stage, with three of my plays produced on either a University or Fringe Festival stage.

But the book is the golden prize that still alludes me. I want it. Badly.

My first book was a novel I wrote when I was on maternity leave with Julie, my second child. It was called "In My Mother's Words" and was about a young woman who returns to her childhood home to clean it out after her mom dies and she discovers some surprises about herself when she finds her mom's journals. I know it sounds rather incredible (it still freaks me out a bit), but with a new baby and a toddler just 16 months older, I managed to write a 300 page book in less than 6 months. For about 2 hours every afternoon, they both took a nap, and I wrote like a mad woman.

I came close to getting that book published. I sent out close to 20 proposals and had about 4 or 5 requests to see the full manuscript. One publishing company said they were pretty sure they'd publish it but they just had to get their board to put the final rubber stamp on it. Sadly though, that never happened.

I still think the book was good, even though I know there are some flaws that need some fairly serious re-writes, but with a few too many rejections under my belt, and real life (diapers, a career, etc.) getting in the way, I put that book up on a shelf and left it there.

It was when I was in the hospital for three weeks waiting for our third child (Matthew, our stillborn son) to be born that I began to dream of writing a different kind of book - a memoir. The problem is, since then, I've been cursed with the debilitating disease of "too many ideas".

First there was the "Journey of a Woman" idea that came to me in the hospital.(See how that word keeps popping up?) That was a general memoir that would focus primarily on some of the tough spots I'd been through in my life - rape, a stillborn son, etc.

Then there was "The Mango Principles", a book about leadership and community building that had at its core the story of an amazing mango a friend gave me when I was in the hospital. I sent that proposal out a few times but never even got a single response. Since then, I've had too many rocky points in my leadership career to truly believe I have a right to give out leadership advice, so I didn't pursue it too much further. (I might revisit it though, because I still think it has potential)

More recently, there was "Fumbling for Faith", a memoir about how my stumbling faith has changed over the years and how it has changed me.  I sent out a proposal for that one too, but again - no response. I lost interest in that one too because I'm really not sure I have a solid enough faith or any real expertise to write about it.

There have been other ideas - like "Matthew's story" about how my stillborn son continues to impact me nine years after he died. And another honest leadership book about how hard it is to be an effective leader when you're surrounded by flawed human beings (a bit of an antidote to all of the leadership books out there that just make you feel like you're failing because you can't attain their standards that are based on hypothetical teams and not real, human, flawed teams). And something about the connection between beauty and justice - an idea that I keep wanting to explore after a couple of amazing experiences in India and Africa.

And now... well, now I have another idea cooking in my brain that's about art and life and personal growth and how shadows play an important role in deepening the beauty of all of them. It kind of brings together some of the ideas from the past. 

But the fact of the matter is, I feel a little deflated right now because even though I think it's a good idea, it sort of feels like "just another idea" that will eventually land on that pile of unattained dreams.  And all of those little gremlins - fear, self-doubt, not enough time, not a good enough writer - they're all getting me down in one way or another these days. (Not enought time/energy is a big one right now, since my career has been draining so much from me lately.)

Why am I telling you all of this?  Well, I kind of feel like I need to figure out how to get this thing done (or finally give it up for good), and this blog has been an important place for me to process stuff in my life in the last 5 years. Maybe if I share it, it will have a better chance of being realized. Maybe if I'm honest about it, I'll feel like I need to be accountable to this dream and put some serious energy into it.

So here I am, telling you my biggest dream, hoping that you will hold it gently in your hands. 

No, I'm not going to make a New Year's resolution or big goal about this, since this is the year I'm determined to enjoy the "journey". But... here's the thing... a few years ago, I started a file on my computer called "The Journey toward the Book" and I filled it with little snippets of stories and ideas that I thought might eventually find their way into a book.  So - when the word "journey" came to me on that plane ride and became my word for the year, I couldn't help but think a book might be part of that journey.


Barbara said...

I just realized (from your Tweet) what an odd expression "hoping against hope" is. I may be pondering that all day.

andrea said...

I hope to hear updates of the "it's happening" variety. Maybe if you just start the kind of book it wants to be will follow. Of all your ideas, is there one that most consistently comes back to you?

leel said...

wow! this was a great post. my mind was popping when i read it.

you know im a bit of a new fan of yours. to me, you have already accompished so much of what i hope to somehow achieve in my own lifetime. i mean that. each Thing you take the time to write down in permanent form is a wonderful achievement, in my book. (bad pun so not intended, hehe!)

after reading this i could not stop thinking about the difference between Achievement and Success. One is permanent, one is fleeting.
One is personal, one is public.
One is a thing, one is a state.

I will take the permanent, personal thing over a fleeting public state anytime! Am i making ANY sense at all here?

Do it for the long term satisfaction of writing it down, and not for the end result, and i think you will have the Journey of your life. Somehow i can see your own girls reaping the rewards of one day finding your own, UNpublished journals, reading them and learning from them like the character in your own book. life imitating art, like.

sorry to ramble: BUT i just wanted to say that I think this book has been in the making for a long time but like everything else, timing is the key! 2010 can so be that year. i know you know that wherever you point your compass, you go, just keep going! so just dont stop writing so it can happen!

The Bodhi Chicklet said...

You can never have too many ideas. I love it when I'm cooking like that. But it can feel overwhelming. Is there any way you can combine some of these wonderful characters you have already described here and written about and make them different parts or aspects of this next story? Just a thought. happy New Year.

Sandy said...

I think you have the potential to write all of those books, one at a time, one right after the other. Maybe a book just to get started could be a compilation of your top 50-100 blog posts (you have a 1000+, right?) and you can self publish it on Lulu.com and sell it to us. :) See how easy? Just kidding. I can see you writing these books.
Sandy xxoo
PS Love your word for the year - journey

Anvilcloud said...

Okay, be warned, you've hit a bit of a nerve. Just a bit of one. Here goes.

When you paint a picture, don't you just enjoy the process? Do you not bother to paint if you don't think it will sell? Do you not bother to paint if some unknown person doesn't accept a proposal about it first? I say, write the book that you want when you want and how you want. Write it because you are into creativity and because the writing means something to you. If nobody publishes it or nobody much reads it, you will still have written it and grown through the process. It will still be a book.

While we're on it, do you not think your blog is real writing, or do you think it doesn't count because nobody pays for it? IMO this blog is worth several books.

So there's my two cents, which probably is now worth less than a cent due to inflation. :)

Dovelily said...

I like what Anvilcloud said about writing the book just because it means something to you. I think the rest will take care of itself. Publication would be sweet, but your growth through the process will be every bit as sweet and put you in a more confident place for the next book you write. You have a lot of neat ideas and I think you should pursue them and see where you are led. Ya never know!

darrah said...

I'm in agreement with many of the people have commented so far. Write because you HAVE to write. Write because it makes you happy. Write because the words are filling your brain and need a place to live. Enjoy the process and the destination will become clearer. After all, your word of the year is "journey." This could be a journey of a lifetime.


P.S. Everything I said is easier said than done and I laugh now that I have reviewed what I've written so far. I could listen to my own advice once in a while!

Bethany said...

I Love love love your journal page about this. I love that you ALREADY wrote a book. I love your ideas and your file and your honesty. Holding this gently, like you asked.

Karla said...

I'd love to read your faith story.