I am writing a book. I’m not sure if you’re aware, but you don’t get to just declare that you’re writing a book without a whole lot of, well, writing (much like you can’t “declare” bankruptcy by yelling it out). Writing a book is hard. There is the somewhat-tiresome job of physically getting the words out—sometimes I jot thoughts and then flesh them out as I go, and sometimes I dive in and it’s 2,000 words before I even look up. I have about fifteen sections in progress at any given time, because I hate being restricted by having to write a certain thing on a certain day, and I like to jump in and out as I please.
It’s a challenge for me know what’s relevant and what might even be interesting to add. I trust my writing coach for a lot of that feedback; to tell me where I could go further and what is intriguing that I’ve only hinted at. The material that I am writing has resided in my squirrel brain for a long time, and we’ve made friends, so none of it feels particularly ground-breaking for me now. I am assured that I have things to say, even if I am personally well acquainted with them and happily taking them for granted.
There’s the part that I am coaching less and taking on fewer clients and that writing doesn’t pay any of the bills. I am not a coach who raises my rates or tests clients to find money to invest in the work, so I haven’t made up the gaps in that way. I tell myself that it’s a good thing I have a fairly affordable and simple life.
After my (very public) announcement on Facebook a few weeks ago, I have had to remind myself that yes, I AM a writer, and it’s okay to immerse myself in the words. It’s also okay to put off the housework and all the other things I do to procrastinate when I’m scared the words won’t flow. I avoid writing some days. It’s the same that I found when I started to work from home; it’s easier to tackle the laundry and it’s tempting to stare at the contents of the fridge for several minutes throughout the day when I feel like I could be hungry than it is to focus.
I get into a vicious cycle of distraction where I am writing and go to look something up, then find myself mindlessly looking at Facebook, then I remember an email I need to answer, then as I do that, I realize I am not writing and need to go back to it, then I see that I completely forgot to look up the thing that started the whole debacle. I make myself crazy.
Writing a book means I find useful nuggets in nearly every interaction I have. I was at the bank this past week and as I sat with the new-to-me bank manager as one of his minions took care of some copying and depositing for me, we got to talking about the upcoming long weekend and I remarked that because I am self-employed, I take long weekends pretty much whenever I want to. He asked for more details about my work and so I launched into the usual, and then added the part about writing a book. (I still have a bit of a cottonmouth thing about saying it out loud.)
He then told me a lovely story of his uncle who passed away several years ago and the reaction his dad had when he was asked why he wasn’t more upset: “Of course I miss him, but he had a good life, and we had some fun times, and everyone has to go sometime.”
When his father passed away last year, he was able to employ the same strategy and start to work through his grief. This entire conversation felt like the most natural thing to talk about, and I think that’s part of why I’m writing an entire book on transcending and finding gifts in grief.
We talked about what he thought would be a demand for what I’m writing about, and how people always seem to be looking for answers about grief and strategies to get through a loss. I pointed out that death is just another life event and that we tend to apply all sorts of meaning to it that doesn’t really help us. He was nodding and thoughtfully considering this when his colleague returned to the room.
How interesting that we are all dying, all the time, and that we will all be touched by it in some way. It feels like it’s a totally human experience that we don’t ever talk about. Until now.
I have a favour to ask: tell me in the comments what your insights and experiences are when it comes to grief. If you were sitting having coffee with me, and I told you about some of the stuff I was writing about, what would you say if I asked:
“From your life experience, what have you observed about grief?”