Book Writing Saturday

Today was rough. I mean, whose idea was it to write four hours in a row anyway? What could I possibly have to write about for four hours straight? At first, I told myself I didn’t have to at all. I have every reason not to—Dexter might be dying of cancer, and I’m teaching again this semester, and I have that sample essay for my class I should write, and I’m sad about Eric’s parents leaving, I should email my mom and my brother, and I have so much that has to get done this weekend, the garage needs cleared out and my car needs a deep cleaning and there’s laundry and the checkbook needs balanced and I really just want to stay on the couch and watch tv or read a book all day, and it’s so nice outside, and I could really use a nap, and so what if I write this book anyway, who cares.

But my meditation this morning was preceded by reading the Open Heart Project’s latest email, about Manjushri, the Bodhisattva of wisdom. As Susan Piver explained, we connect with the energy of this deity any time we attempt to understand, to connect with truth, to see reality with compassion and clarity, and that “the attempt to understand and to know, is an act of generosity toward ourself and others.” In this light, the writing of this book, the story of how one woman learned to be present, to show up with an open heart, remembered that she was fundamentally good, wise and kind and powerful, seemed more important, more than just my own exercise, about more than just me.

Then even when I start, there’s all sorts of moodling that happens, what Brenda Ueland said imagination needs, “long, inefficient, happy idling, dawdling and puttering.” I check on the Shambhala Mountain Center website to see how much it would cost to stay and do a weekend retreat. And of course, I have to check my Facebook, email and blog stats before I can begin. Then I try to convince myself that I should make some art before I begin, “prime the pump,” and there’s this picture of Dexter in my head, an art journal page of sorts that would be that one picture of him, the one that’s Eric’s laptop background right now, with the words “May he be well. May he be happy. He is loved. He is precious,” but instead I open my notebook and write a list.

Things that have elicited panic in me this morning:

  • All the work that needs done
  • Eric taking the dogs hiking
  • A mouse in the compost pile
  • A spot of maybe blood on the quilt covering the couch where Dexter sleeps most nights
  • A rattle in Dexter’s breath
  • Sam licking at his butt, again
  • The dark
  • Being alone
  • Thinking about bills and debt and balancing the checkbook
  • How dirty my car is, how the ABS light keeps coming on but there never seems to be time to take it in to the shop and get it checked
  • Not knowing what I’ll write about or if I’ll be able to write for a full four hours
  • The pain in my chest when I was meditating, which is probably cancer (okay, probably not, but my mind goes there)
  • That “something” might happen to Eric

Fear is a liar.

A little after two hours of writing that went surprisingly well, I had to take a break and eat lunch. That was about 10:30 am. You see, when you get up at 4:30 am, you get hungry for lunch at about the time most people are starting to think about breakfast. And the only reason I’m even calling it lunch, rather than “second breakfast” like a good little hobbit, is what I ate wasn’t very breakfast-like. I have been on a kick lately where I eat tons of salad and my favorite sandwich is a Gardenburger with hummus, cucumber, and spinach on round, thin multigrain bread. I’m like that, get stuck on eating the same things for at least six months at a time, without getting bored. In fact, even though I’ve eaten the same thing for lunch at least four times a week for the past four months, it was exactly what I was craving today.

I am bound by routine, happy in repetition. Maybe it’s because I’m an introvert and highly sensitive, easily overwhelmed by external stimuli, preferring quiet and calm. I don’t desire to travel, eat exotic foods, or try new things. I want to walk the same trail every morning, noticing how the seasons change the landscape, cataloging all the different colors and shapes of cloud in the same patch of sky, wearing a deep groove into the earth with my steps, knowing a place “like the back of my hand.”

After lunch, after two episodes of “How I Met Your Mother” (please don’t judge me), after picking up poop and playing fetch with the dogs but stopping after two throws because Dexter seemed to be breathing too hard, I go back to try and write for two more hours. I wonder if I should revise my plan, only write for two hours each Saturday. I mean come on, I got 2000 words written in the first two hours, and the final two will probably be crap anyway, me writing to be able to say I wrote for a full four, but I tell myself to keep writing, even if it is crap.

It feels okay, so I write about what I’ve been doing so far today, what this experience is like. One thing I’ve noticed is that it isn’t so much writing a book as learning to write a book. And yet, I am using the one strategy I’ve always applied: just start writing, keep writing and hope that something happens, pray that something will make sense.

Here’s one thing I wrote that made sense:

And yet, the week before she started this new drug, the new treatment, we were doing a forward bend in yoga, our legs straddled, stretched out as close as we could get to splits and still remain off the floor, heads down, bodies bent in half at the waist, the goal to eventually touch the floor with the top of our head, and I looked over to see her place her head and forearms on the mat, lean forward and raise her legs in the air into a full, unsupported headstand. In the moment just before, I was feeling proud that my head was closer to the floor than it had ever been, and there she was, defying gravity.

3.5 hours
3814 words
Topics written about:
change, cancer, loss, death, grief, fear, basic badness, basic goodness, writing, getting another dog, identity, and authenticity.

9 thoughts on “Book Writing Saturday

  1. MJ

    Fear, is, a liar!
    Wow, all those words. You are a writer, but you didn’t need me to say that.

    I have eaten peanut butter toast for breakfast for nearly 5 decades…perfectly happy with it. Apparently the Queen of England likes to eat the same things as well, (something about toast , marmalade, and Earl Grey tea), perhaps it means we are royalty 🙂

    1. jillsalahub Post author

      I did my own phase with peanut butter toast!
      And I might not need you to say I’m a writer, but I also like hearing other people confirm it, especially my kind and gentle readers.

  2. tinakomi

    You are DEFINITELY a writer my friend. (4 o’clock in the morning??? Really????? OMG!) And I really, REALLY love “fear is a liar.” I, too, get bogged down constantly with all the “shoulds” that need doing and it always becomes so overwhelming that I; 1) watch a couple of episodes of “Big Bang Theory,” (please don’t judge me either!), 2) watch a couple of episodes of “Law and Order,” 3) take a nap. So I’m taking a break and tomorrow I’m going to the coast (Lincoln City) for a couple of days for a solo retreat. My honey offered to gift me the cost of the room! I think he figured it was either that or my head would explode!! Anyway, off I go tomorrow with books, a journal, another journal for doing the lessons in Susanna’s Blogging from the Heart class (LOVE IT!), and another for assignments from Patti Digh’s 137 Days project, in which I’m woefully behind. I’m not going to let myself feel bad if I don’t completely catch up, but everything about it is a learning process. I’m also taking a couple of CDs and, of course, my camera. No computer and even though my phone will work, I’m not plannikng on talking to anyone. Just me in a mostly unrenovated old cottage and the ocean. Sometimes I feel like I need the ocean like I need to breathe and it’s been too long. BTW, there times I eat the same thing over and over for months! Poor Stephen can’t understand but I guess that’s just me (and you and MJ!) Oh, and when your book comes out, I hope I’ll be one of the first people who get an autographed copy!!!! xoxo

    1. jillsalahub Post author

      Yes, 4:30 am, every morning. It’s easy, you just have to go to bed at 8 pm 🙂

      I can’t wait to hear how your retreat goes. I think every one should take one from time to time. I feel the need for one now, but don’t feel like I can leave Dexter for that many days.

      I might even hand deliver your autographed copy, Tina!

  3. Stephanie at Visible and Real

    This is so full of truth… this is my own experience, every single time I sit down to do writing practice. Which is, really, a twenty minute practice. Your commitment to practice and acknowledging what is is incredible and an inspiration to me.

    And for the record? We’ve been having the exact same dinner at least 4-5 days a week for the past month. We can’t seem to get enough of it! YUM!

    1. jillsalahub Post author

      I write every day, have a half hour in the morning regular practice and write blog posts almost every day (sometimes more than one), but this FOUR hours in a day is so much harder!

  4. cogdogtrainer

    You are one of my favorite writers 🙂 I can’t wait till I hold your first book in my hand. I am going to show it to everyone, tell them I know you, tell them I know your dogs, and generally be obnoxious about it.

  5. Pingback: Weekend Reads « Visible and Real

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