In winter it’s easy to believe that there is no progress. It seems static, as if the outer world had become permanently crystallized. It’s a strange season, psychologically. A season that challenges us, that forces us to fall back on our own inner resources, such as they are. An interesting sort of perceptual/psychological inversion takes place in winter that results in one’s inner world expanding and one’s outer world diminishing to something minimal, a thin hard shell. I can’t say that I really enjoy winter all that much but I’m interested in the psychology of it, about what it might have to tell us about the nature of the mind. I have written many poems that were inspired by the psychological/spiritual challenges of this season, and I’m sure I will write more. So here I am, stuck in the middle of winter and thinking about where I am and where I am going.

So anyway, what I was going to say is that I am actually making some progress, albeit slowly, on my book project. It’s a collection of short (for the most part) autobiographical essays. I estimate, based on an projected 6 by 9 inch book size with standard margins, that I probably have about 120 pages of first draft so far. I try to write a page a day although unfortunately there are some days when I simply can’t do a page, because I just have a lot of other stuff going on in my life. But I am seeing now that this thing is do-able and that eventually, inevitably, a book will emerge from this long slow effort. The process is an interesting one, a process not only of putting words down but of exploring and rediscovering my own life, of finding connections and meanings in my own experience that I had not previously thought of. This aspect of writing, writing as a process of discovery, is something that I hadn’t anticipated when I first started working on this book. I had assumed it would be mainly a matter of crafting an object, i.e. a book, which consists of a lot of pages with words on them, but I hadn’t expected it to be such an inner experience of exploration and discovery. This has turned out to be the most important aspect of the whole project and has definitely made the effort worthwhile for me.

I don’t know exactly what will happen when I finish it but I am marching ahead anyway. My plan is to finish the first draft then rework the book a couple more times (at least). Then when I feel like it’s as good as I can make it I plan to hire an editor to go over the book. Then after whatever edits are finished, I’d like to shop it around to a few small artsy literary publishers that conceivably might have an interest in such an oddball book. If I don’t find a publisher within a certain (to be determined) amount of time I will go ahead and publish it myself. I have self-published before and I feel comfortable with the process.

A fear that dogged me for a while during my earlier work on this book was that perhaps after I finished it no one would be interested in reading it. I have finally made peace with myself over this issue and I no longer consider it to be an issue. I read an interview with Cheryl Strayed in which she talked about her memoir Wild (which I love), and she said that during the writing of it she wasn’t thinking at all about how big her readership might be for the book. She was entirely focused on just trying to write the best book she was capable of writing. And that an important thing she realized was that if the book were to be read by only three people or by three million people it would still be the same book. When I read that it was like a great light went on in my head, like a Zen monk having an experience of enlightenment. That’s it. It’s all about writing the best book you are capable of writing.

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