“Aaarg, this is grueling,” I growl to myself as I pick up the next book I need to read. I’m feeling frustrated. I want to work on my book. Analyze ideas and tie them together with other ideas. Find flaws in imperfect sentences and paragraphs. Mold them into clearer, more precise ones. Feel the pleasurable high that writing always brings.
Mentally gritting my teeth, I remind myself this is something I have to do. Comparing the manuscript I’m working on with similar books on the market is an important part of the proposal I will submit to potential publishers, but I’ve been dragging my heels to get it done. Recording and analyzing the dream I had last night was so much more meaningful and fun.
I read for a while, underline passages, take notes, decide to take a break. I’ve been neglecting social media for a while so I go to Facebook. The first thing I see is a note from a friend who’s just finishing her first book. She writes, “I trust your new book is coming along well, Jean. I will be working closely with Jill myself when I get home from Mexico. I’m both a little nervous and excited! I guess those emotions are close enough to be compatible…”
Jill Swenson is a book developer my friend and sister author Elaine Mansfield introduced me to. Elaine thought so highly of her that I decided to consult her about my new venture. This book is a real bear and I need help.
I smile at Jenna’s words. I can relate. Big time. I pause. Think. Then write:
“You’re right, Jenna. The two emotions are compatible, as are many other conflicting ones. And I think this is inevitable and necessary. My project of updating, revising, and cutting 535 pages I wrote over 20 years ago down to less than 200 and doing a ton of annoying research to create a thorough proposal is a real challenge.
“This book is the hardest one yet. I’ve been bouncing back and forth between the frustration and self-criticism of “I can’t do this,” and the excitement and elation of “Oh, wait, I can do this,” for about 6 months now, and making pretty good progress anyway. Then just when I think I’m getting over this ping-pong process I have a dream like the one last night.
I’m at a travel stop and keep going back and forth between a dingy, disorganized and frustrating inn where I can’t even get something to eat and and the delightful landscape just outside the door: a vast beautiful plain carpeted in lush green grass harboring two big friendly and furry bizarre animals — one of whom speaks in a melodious voice and offers me a piece of candy — all of it ringed by distant misty mountains.
“This picture of my current emotions shows me I’m still conflicted but not fighting the process. Just feeling what I feel, comfortable and uncomfortable, and accepting it. I think that’s at least partly because I have Jill to steer me through it. She’s been a real treasure. You’ll love working with her. Having just described this dream here I’m reminded that it’s been a while since I’ve published a new blog post and this would be a good subject for it! I think that would be a nice break for me at the moment. Thanks for the prod!”
It’s amazing how refreshed I feel after writing this post just now. I needed this. Thank goodness for Facebook friends. And thank you also for my Twitter and WordPress friends. It’s been too long since I’ve communicated with you and I’ve missed you. Thank you most of all to Jill, who will understand better than anyone how badly I needed this break and how restorative it’s been. Sending love to all of you.
Okay. Back to work.
Lovely to see you here Jean! May the comfortable and uncomfortable-ness continue to reside side by side as Jill steers you through it all. Sending love, Susan.
Thank you, Susan. I appreciate the encouragement.
Susan, I’ve just read your Amazon review of Healing the Sacred Divide. Thank you. The above dream suggested I was in need of some nurturing sweetness and spiritual ‘greening’ but I hadn’t realized how much until my eyes welled up as I was savoring your most affirming words. You’ve given me just the boost I needed today to shore up my belief in myself and hope for my work. Again, a heartfelt thank you, not just for your review, but for your kindness and friendship. Love, Jeanie
Nice to see you again xxx
Thanks. It’s good to see you too, Viv!
Jean, we can always count on you to be real. I remember well the drudgery of putting the pieces of a book together (over 16 years). Stay with it; we need your honest insights. Keep going!
You’ve got me chuckling! And feeling grateful for your understanding. Thank you, Diane.
Love this! I’m ready to take on those book development challenges, Jeanie. And I’m glad you decided to take a much needed break…
Dear Jeanie, What joy to read of your ongoing labour pains and the birthing of original creativity! Forgive me for smiling widely at your day-to-day frustrations, because I know as your reader, I will soon be in for the most extraordinary treat! Births as we know, are messy, unpredictable and arduous! How can it be any other way when we wrestle with the angels?!
Re: Your dream. I imagine you writing in the inn, that spiritual home where riches, time and again, are intuitively downloaded … then coming outside for a breath of fresh air. To me each dwelling feels necessary. Each offers its own comfort and its own uncomfortableness. Hmm, so you’re comfortably uncomfortable! As it should be for “confinements” are never easy.
Thank you so much for drawing your heart back into this world and saying hello! A huge wave with warm greetings back to you. Why not think of your dirty, dingy, dream inn with many a snug room and many a writer, scribbling away in each. Even though we can feel so desperately alone when writing, in truth that is just not possible. Blessings always, Deborah.
I love your associations to my dream—the inn, that spiritual home, the place withIN where riches are intuitively downloaded! And then enjoying the fresh air and beauty withOUT. Then going back INN. I hadn’t quite thought of it that way. It most definitely is an IN and OUT back and forth process: hibernate/emerge, hibernate/emerge. I was thinking more about the emotions in the dream: frustration/joy, worry/wonder. Either way, it makes sense. Writing a book and trying to get it published is most definitely a process of holding the tension between the opposites. As is all of life for that matter. And yes, each dwelling feels necessary: both are part of the process.
A huge wave and warm greetings back to you, Deborah. It’s always good to hear from you and know you and your beautiful poems are blessing the world.
Lovely to hear from you, not in spite of your struggle but because you share that struggle with us, which I greatly appreciate. These words by Deborah are also insightful: “Why not think of your dirty, dingy, dream inn with many a snug room and many a writer, scribbling away in each.” Count me INN one of those rooms, scribbling away. It’s nice to know we are not alone, even when our projects are diverse. I found your sharing inspirational — thank you!
You’ve got it! I’ve reserved a room for you in my inn. It may be dark and dingy but the rooms are snug, warm and comfy. Scribble away for as long as you like. And let me know when you want to come out to play and we’ll track down and befriend those candy-toting critters. 🙂 I love your sweet affirming note. Thank you Generous Heart!
I’m blown away! Wow, Jeannie, this is one heck of an endorsement! I’m humbled and imagine myself as midwife bumbling bear coming through the woods across the prairie fields with candy to point you to the path to follow and give birth to this seminal work of yours. Fascinating to read how these deep insights during your process of writing emerge after a rest from all the noise of our digital obsessions and facing the fear of MBMO (might be missing out). Can’t wait to read more!
So that was you! I didn’t recognize you with that fluffy fur coat. So that’s what you wear in winter up north. It felt and looked like summer to me. Thanks for the offer of candy. In the immortal words of Mary Poppins, a little bit of sweetness “helps the medicine go down.” 🙂
Hello again, It is good to hear that you are still doing what you are doing. I have great admiration for books and the precious people who toil with their creation: and put that wisdom out for us to fuel our own explorations. Thanks.
Hello gardenergary. Welcome back. And how does your garden grow these days? Apparently mine is sprouting lush green grass at the moment! 🙂
Hello Jean, There seems to be a seasonal difference, here in the North of England it has been raining for weeks, and now the nights are drawing in. A time for catching up with thoughts and ideas and planning for what will grow next year. I’ve taken early retirement and am now catching up with the things I need to do at this time of life. Creating a meditation garden in my allotments ( Allotments are probably not something that is known about in the USA, you would need to google it). It’s a good word “allotment”. It is a time of interesting “coincidences” which occur when we step out of the hamster wheel. I hope you are well and allowing yourself the time to notice the miracle of the lush green grass around you Best wishes , Gary
Hi Gary, I am well, thank you. I’ve heard of allotments from English novels. I understand their size can vary. So you have several? Are they all together? I’d be interested in knowing how much ground they cover. As much as a hundred meters? More? I haven’t spent much time outdoors lately but will be doing so soon during our Thanksgiving holiday in the Smoky Mountains. There’ll be lots of time for observing nature’s miracles on rambling walks then. It will be a much-needed energy restorer. My best, Jeanie
Hi Jean, I love the idea that you’ve heard about allotments in English novels . They are basically public owned plots of land, which are rented out. They were were originally used by working class people to subsidize their meagre wages . Most small terraced house don’t have gardens so they were in the past highly prized . The site where my plots are have become neglected over the years and I have taken over 2 very overgrown plots which have slowly developed into gardens. My wife has a similar plot which she uses for growing veg. There used to be very strict rules about growing vegetable but these days people are more able to use them in more flexible ways . If you are interested there is a newly set up facebook page with a couple of photos from my plot and a picture of it when I took it over. Have a look at ” Dorrington Road allotment association” . You are the second person who has asked me how big the plots are recently and in all honesty I have never thought about this before. I shall pace it out and let you know next time I get down there. Make sure you get connected to your beautiful place before too long.
Thank you for sending the name of your allotment association. I checked it out and found it most interesting. Near the city, yet set against a lush backdrop of trees with very ‘country’ feel. A wonderful solution for city dwellers who like to be close to the land and enjoy growing things. It makes me more appreciative of our abundance of uninhabited land here across the pond, and grateful for the farsighted people responsible for preserving unique ecological systems and water resources.
Coincidentally, my husband and I hiked through one called Spruce Creek Preserve just last Saturday. Here’s the link: https://www.volusia.org/services/growth-and-resource-management/environmental-management/conservation-lands/conservation-lands-map/doris-leeper-spruce-creek-preserve.stml We were told it’s the only sandy scrub habitat of its kind in the world. Our guide showed us a small coontie palm with a large, normally toxic tuberous root that was planted throughout this area by the Seminole Indians. When treated correctly it was an edible starch called arrowroot and was the mainstay of their diet for generations! People use it today as a thickening agent. What a miraculous planet we live on!
My best, Jeanie
It’s all a matter of scale. The site is tiny and is on a strip of land between the main railway route and a housing estate. As with many such sites it is under threat of being used to build new houses . My plots have the odd sensation of being in somewhere separate from everywhere, even though they are not. If you ever get the time between your research and writing , I think that you would love to read ” The Enchantment of Gardens, by Ruth Ammann. ” She’s a Jungian Analyst . This book captures the essence of a garden , as opposed to undisturbed nature . A garden is such a rich symbolic expression of so many aspects of life . Your trip to Spruce Creek sounds facinating. Yes what a miraculous planet we live on, and what a privilege it is to be a witness to it, if only we could remember this.
Hi Gary, I’m a lover of gardens and have designed a few with moderate success on our family property in the mountains. I approach them as outdoor “rooms” with personalities that evoke moods suited to their setting and use. My favorite is a yin/yang garden, a circular “foyer” walled with a low boxwood hedge that leads to my mother’s burial place beyond. There her stone marker is situated beside a chatty bold creek under a tangled canopy of native rhododendrons. One enters the foyer over a stone threshold framed by an antique balinese double door and walks a serpentine path to the opposite end. The yin side of the path contains a lush hydrangea bush with blossoms of peaches and cream; yang is represented by a tall young yellow maple. A stone bench at the end provides a place for quiet contemplation. I’ll be visiting it tomorrow. It never fails to evoke a mood of sweet nostalgia mixed with wonder and mystery that I rarely experience anywhere else. The Enchantment of Gardens sounds wonderful. With a Jungian analyst for its author, it’ll surely enchant me. I’ve just ordered it. Many thanks. I’ve enjoyed our conversation. Now it’s time to get packing! Best, Jeanie
Reblogged this on lampmagician.
Many thanks, lampmagician.
Thank You dear Jean, nice to hear from you again <3 🙂
Wonder full. Thanks
One last thing, a gift from a gardener to a gardener.
Garden 2012 1/12/12
I thought I would build a magic garden
from twigs and seed
from gifts and memories.
I sheltered in a circle of willows
beneath a canopy of leaves
perched on an up turned plant pot
drinking coffee from my trusty thermos
tilting my head this way and that
The peony is coming to flower
it’s yellow globes
Thinking no thoughts
I roll a pinch of lemon balm between my fingers
I know from other days
there is a path down the centre
of the garden,
I found it when I was digging
and traced the stone edges down the slope.
They were hidden under the weeds and spade depth of soil.
Two parallel rows of large stones marked the edges and smaller stones, filler between.
Was it you
Stopping to rest your back.
Coughing and spitting
a gob of phlegm on the fresh dug soil.
Packing your clay pipe
and sighing lungs full of smoke
contemplating whether enough had been done
for the day.
Wandering aimlessly around your patch of earth
leaning on your spade
and basking in the though of all the years
you will work this soil.
Wondering about the past and the future
and the place you stand between them.
Wondering about those who coaxed and tended in the past
and strangers like me in your future
who’s face you will never see.
I know you were here
I found the path you set .
the fragments of your clay pipe
returned to the light
as the soil opened and turned to the sky.
I snatched it like a memory, like a found treasure
And put it in my pocket.
Thank you. I enjoyed this very much. Especially the way you turned the discovery of the path and pipe remains into a reflection about how the earth we till and use and enjoy connects us to our past, present, and future, showing us a much bigger picture of life than we are normally conscious of! Beautiful.
So sweet to hear from you and know you’re making progress on a big project, Jeanie. Congratulations. I’m glad I steered you (and Jenna) in a good direction. I get expert and motivating help from Swenson Book Development, as you know. Jill’s ideas always help me take the next big or small step. You have such a strong work ethic and focused will that I thought you and Jill would be a good fit.
I know that bouncing back and forth between “I can do it” and “this is hopeless.” We’re fueled by the opposites, as usual, unless we let the tension sink our ship. After a busy fall with wonderful activities, I feel the long gray winter ahead of me. Will it be a time to dig deeper into my inner worlds and mythology/memoir project or a time to feel hopeless about the mysterious task of allowing a book to unfold from within? I’ll report back later. I send wishes for a blessed Thanksgiving with your family. Don’t forget to feed the wild animals.
“Don’t forget to feed the wild animals.” Hahaha. Apparently, the wild animals want to feed me! I’m good with that. Wishing you a blessed Thanksgiving with your family too. And a fruitful hibernation this winter. Jeanie