Sunday, July 12, 2015

Coming Clean

Today I’m coming clean with you, dear readers, and with myself. I’m not going to complete My Mexico Book by the end of the summer, or even by the end of this year.
This writing process is taking its own damn time. 
It reminds me of a hiking trip I took, years ago, along the Na Pali Coast, on the island of Kauai. It was hours of climbing before I reached the summit where the overlook was presumably one of the most spectacular in the world. But a bank of fog had rolled in and sat heavy. All I could see was an expanse of white nothingness, not the slightest sign of life below, no matter how hard I squinted. It was a huge disappointment.
After some food and a short rest, I turned to hike home and, just then, in my periphery, caught a tiny glimpse of green. I fixed my gaze; and second by second, the curtain of fog gradually drew, revealing a dizzying scene, not just a valley, but a valley of valleys, lush accordion folds of land stretching horizontally beyond my vision and cascading down into an endless indigo sea. With more illumination came the definition of individual palm trees, then the fronds themselves, village huts, farm animals and rows of crops, a fine horizon line separating earth and sky, tiny whitecaps gleaming like diamonds and bursting fluffs of cloud above.
This expansive and intricate world was always there; but it took time to reveal itself. (30 years later, incidentally, that image has never left my mind.)
That’s what it feels like writing this book. There’s this bank of fog. The further I get from the action of my Peace Corps Mexico experience, high above it looking down, and the more time I spend in the chair patiently writing through the haze, the more I begin to see what my book is really about. And then the writing flows.
Anne Dillard, in The Writing Life, puts it this way:
"It takes years to write a book – between two and ten years. Less is so rare as to be statistically insignificant…Falkner wrote As I Lay Dying in six weeks. He claimed he wrote it in his spare time from a 12-hour-a-day manual labor job. Some people lift cars too. Others go over Niagara Falls in barrels or fly planes through the Arc de Triumph…Out of a human population on earth of four and a half billion, only about 20 can write a serious book in a year. There is no call to take human extremes as norms.”
This does not mean I’m letting myself off the hook with my Mexico book, just relieving some pressure, allowing the process to do its thing. Here’s what I am doing to encourage it along:
  • Cut-back my SeeChange consulting work in March, taking-on only a few select coaching and facilitation clients through the end of the year in order to maintain focus on the book.
  • Following a schedule of writing 6 days a week, 3 to 5 hours a day, employing the butt-in-chair approach, regardless of the weather or barometric pressure.
  • Completed a writing class at The Writers Center in Bethesda and came away with some helpful and lots of challenging feedback on the manuscript. (More on this excruciating experience in my next post.)
  • Admitted to myself (with the help of a good writing friend): I’m still in the DRAFT stage. Being more realistic softens the voice of the critic, allowing space for the ideas to flow.
  • Partnering with this aforementioned writing friend to keep ourselves accountable with weekly goal-setting and progress-reporting Skype sessions. (Still don’t need to get out of my PJs for those.)
  • Researching editors to work with me on my first and subsequent drafts. A big chunk of the Kickstarter campaign funding has been set aside for just this purpose.
Still, dear backers, I did commit during my November 2013 campaign to have the book completed and published LAST summer. 6 months, totally unrealistic! (I should have read Dillard first.) Yet it was a promise.
Therefore, I’m going to let you off the hook by offering to refund your pledge. Please let me know, and I will happily send you your money.
Otherwise, if you're in for the long-haul, and I sure hope you are, I can promise you this: I will have the first two chapters (or up to 100 pages) of the book available to you in PDF format by this Christmas, 2015. And I'll welcome your feedback.
For those whose rewards included social gathering/sustainability events, stay tuned for save-the-date announcements for the fall.
I’m learning a lot through this process about integrity and commitment – it’s not just about the creativity. Huh, it's my Peace Corps sustainability lessons all over again.
Many thanks for your continued support.  More to come!
What's your reaction to my 'coming clean' proposal? What do you think about time and the creative process? 
What experiences have you had with your own creative projects?
 Your questions and comments are encouraged.