My husband looks at the stack of “free reading” books by my bed’s night stand: Afterwar, The Things They Cannot Say, The Untold War, etc.
They look like the stuff of nightmares, not sweet dreams.
He asks, “Aren’t you sick of it?”
“What? Reading about veterans and their trauma? No. I’m writing a book. I have to do this.”
He should know better. He does the same thing with the large carvings that he’s working on, the ones that are complex and never before carved. He analyzes the carving’s anatomy when he’s walking with me, while sitting in the tub, as a passenger in the car. He thinks about the movement of the piece, potential problems, and how to actually execute it. These obsessions only last days for him before the carving challenge is solved, the piece is finished and as always, it results in a beautiful work of art.
Creating a book takes much longer- a sizeable chunk of your life actually. You miss a lot of other kinds of living while in the process, which takes a year or two or ten. I’m obsessed with the book’s subject matter and I’d better be, or the book won’t end up getting done nor being any good.
Right now, I don’t sleep very much. My thoughts, and hence my conversation is mostly one track (or I don’t talk). I might listen to my husband, but not with the fine-tuned ear and level of interest that a good wife should. But Todd right now, barely answers me the first time when I ask him a question. He is currently so wrapped up in his carvings that I have to repeat myself at least two times, often even three, before I get him to reply. We’re a pair.
I figure my life right now is reduced to only a few things: daily exercising- a walk or a bike ride or yoga, cooking dinner, engaging with friends and family, and working on my newest book. That’s it. Unless we go away-away to Portugal (coming up) or a strenuous, long distance backpacking trip (last August) when we leave behind all matters of this life. But while I am home, it’s “Walking Towards Peace- The Healing Journeys of 20+ Veterans.” Besides wanting to do a stellar job relating these veterans’ important stories, I must do research and get smart. When the idea is to help others, through a book, you’d better be producing top notch content and writing.
After I identified my 20+ veterans whose stories about healing in nature via walking (mostly) I would profile, I went about interviewing them. Sometimes, I had to fly to where they lived, and on one occasion, even hike in miles to a remote ranch and live there for a few days to get to know this particular veteran. At this point in the book’s creation, I am almost done roughing out all the profiles. Next, I have to conduct my research and find the vet whose particular life and story best illustrates the ways that being in nature heals: physiological as well as psychological impacts. I am also identifying particular challenges that many veterans face- such as dealing with moral injury, substance abuse, childhood trauma, etc. and attaching them to individual veterans, which makes healing from their trauma even more difficult. Then there are round after round of editing, after I seek out the folks who are interested in reading versions, commenting, and helping edit. This is all before my hand-in date. Throughout the entire process, I am learning a lot. It has been a fascinating journey, for me personally, and has increased my capacity for empathy for a group of human beings- veterans, whom I had little to zero contact with.
There was a time, in the not-so-distant past, that I was writing about 50 magazine articles a year, for over a dozen different periodicals. Now, I really only care about one, Pennsylvania Magazine. And I will occasionally travel to places like above the Arctic Circle in Norway for a dog sledding expedition for my editor at a travel marketing magazine, even if I do earn a pathetic $75 for a story. But I don’t even care to travel on press trips like I used to. I’d rather travel where I want, when I want, with who I want and be able to give birth to good books.
It also doesn’t seem that long ago that I was whining about the empty nest syndrome. I missed my kids something fierce for years after they left home. But the sting of loss lessens over time and we learn to make a new life, however seemingly shallow or less fun it first appears. I am finding, however, that it might not look like it to others, but I am having a ball working on this book. How else do you explain that I want to do little else, especially for a natural “play baby” as myself. However, my impending due date of when the manuscript must be handed in (Feb 15) might have a lot to do with my impressive level of dedication, which I guess I will admit, is a little unusual. Regardless, I am loving working on it and feel gratitude that I am able to write books that a publisher finds important and good and financially feasible enough to offer me contracts. This is one of my greatest joys in life, to actually make a living (albeit measly- thank God for talented chainsaw carving husbands) as an author.
I periodically check my sales info for may last book, The World is Our Classroom on my Amazon author page. I was horrified to discover that sales have all but flatlined in these last months that I have taken a break on promoting it and have ramped up my work and education on this next book, Walking Towards Peace. After all, we do not have time for everything and must pick and choose where we put our energy.
Working to bring a good book into reality is somewhat similar to giving birth to children, but with children, they continue to bring you joy your whole life. A book begins to not matter so much shortly after its first year of life and the appearances slow down. After all, an author worth their salt, should be on to their next one by then.
James Michner said, (paraphrased) “It is none of our business how well a book sells. Your job is write the best book possible and once published, go on to write the next best book possible.”
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