I started to write a book in my mind several years ago. The material came from various retreats I’ve led on spiritual practices. I wanted to get this material into a format that would be accessible to others. I decided 2015 was the year to start writing.
My life coach helped me through the beginning hurdles of starting this daunting project. I wanted to keep all my options open and didn’t know where to start. At her suggestion, I made mind maps and graphs so that I could visually see how the chapters fit together. Those visual images became the outline I needed to start rough drafts of the chapters. I started writing the easiest chapters first, to gain confidence and momentum. I quickly had seven of the twelve chapters started and began fleshing three of those out in more detail.
I shared a few of the chapters with my women’s writing group for feedback. Asking for feedback is a great exercise in vulnerability. Vulnerability is hard work but it pays off in the end. Their honest feedback has been invaluable as I figure out the format and voice I want to use in my writing. Through this writing process, I’m discovering my voice.
Another friend who is an editor gave detailed feedback that helped clarify how to share the material. I spent several days reworking two chapters. It was exciting to see the material emerge in this new format.
I was careful to put my working files in Dropbox, so they could be accessed from multiple computers. This allowed me to work from several settings. I hit the “save” button frequently when writing, to make sure I didn’t lose anything. I also made a “backup” copy of the files on my desktop, just in case something happened.
Imagine my disappointment this week when my desktop crashed a few days before leaving for a writer’s retreat. It had been very slow all week and was not connecting easily to the internet. The computer guy gave us the bad news, that we would need a new computer. He would try his best to recover the files sometime the following week.
I figured I still had the files saved somewhere out there in cyberspace, so took my laptop with me on retreat, prepared to write for three days. Surprise! The versions of files in Dropbox were not up to date. Somehow my desktop computer had not updated the two working files to the cyberspace files. I lost several days’ worth of work and had no way to access the files from my desktop until the computer guy was free to help next week. I still don’t know if I will be able to salvage them.
Plan Backup didn’t work. Plan Cry helped release some of the disappointment and tension for the moment. Moving on to Plan Delay, I wrote this blog post instead. In a few days, I’ll be ready to tackle the material again. I think I’ll skip forward to Plan I-can-do-this.
Here is a poem I thankfully saved, and will not have to re-write. It is a sample of a nested meditation. Kevin Anderson describes this practice in his book Divinity in Disguise: Nested Meditations to Delight the Mind and Awaken the Soul (Center for Life Balance, 2003.) Each stanza adds a new phrase to the previous sentence. Changes in punctuation create new sentences with surprising meanings and themes that loop and nest around each other.
I yearn to write beautiful words.
I yearn to write. Beautiful words, flowing freely on the page, are jumbled.
I yearn to write beautiful words, flowing freely on the page. Are jumbled inner thoughts the beginning?
I yearn to write beautiful words. Flowing freely on the page are jumbled inner thoughts, the beginning of my heart’s song.
I yearn to write beautiful words. Flowing freely on the page are jumbled inner thoughts. The beginning of my heart’s song emerges like a phoenix from the ashes.
I yearn to write. Beautiful words flowing freely on the page are jumbled inner thoughts. The beginning of my heart’s song emerges. Like a phoenix from the ashes, the words sing a new song.
This nested meditation was a big encouragement for me today. Like a phoenix from the ashes, my book chapters will emerge again to sing a new song. I’m ready to write again. This time I’m saving my work on a flash drive.
When life throws you surprises, how do you move forward? Where do you find encouragement? Have you had a “phoenix rising from the ashes” story in your life?