It took twenty two months of part-time writing to complete my first book, The Joy of Cancer. After the initial six month research phase, I was so ripe and ready to put some meat on the bones and so enthused that I imagined with such strong enthusiasm the writing would just flow and pour out of me and I’d be done already. It had taken me all of six months to digest the ampler of the task at hand – become so intimate with someone’s psyche that I could write their story and write through my own voice, weaving my own personal experiences into the story, and make a compelling and purposeful book out of it. I imagined after all this tinkering and drafting that the entire book would come gushing out at once as if the water dam had just been released.
You can imagine my disappointment when writing session after session, this wasn’t the case. For the next six months I came away from writing sessions with my tail between my legs feeling disappointed, sometimes almost discouraged. I wasn’t making any major leeway. Things weren’t progressing quickly enough. I was never going to finish. These were challenging times considering I had an outcome to deliver. I was living and breathing this thing day and night, it was always in the back of my mind. I commuted to work earphones in ears, I ran and trained while listening to our audio interviews. I read articles, perused other memoirs; my ears were always open for anything that would related to what I was doing. My social life was skimpy, my workouts were condensed and every minute I had was scheduled. I didn’t dare date until we were in the last stage of editing. My previous years of discipline in diet and training were paying off, I was well versed in the art of staying on track and keeping my eye on the prize. My whole life, and routine were now shaped around the makings of this project and yet with all this commitment and dedication, I felt like I was crawling, on my hands and knees, in the mud to my destination: a completed manuscript.
Until one day I realized I had two thirds of a completed draft manuscript. I remember sitting in a cafe in Montreal’s Little Italy scratching my head thinking when did this happen?
It happened day after day, paragraph by paragraph, line by line, word by word. There wasn’t one magic moment, one Genie nose wiggle that did it. It was the act of being committed, of showing up, day in day out, working with wherever I was in the process that got me there. Even the days that resulted in several hours or work and only a handful of lines in print had contributed to where I now realized I was.
Among all the lessons I learned over the course of those twenty two months, probably the single most powerful one was that things take time. During the editing process, time and time again, my second editor (and fairy Godmother), Virlane Torbit, reminded me of this, because of course, I expected editing to be done in a flash as well. When it came time for the final rounds of editing with our publishing house, I was (almost) at ease with how long the final stages of editing were going to take.
And because writing is such a great metaphor for life, this wisdom applies to every area of our lives. It applies in the gym when you’re starting from scratch and it applies in the business you’re growing and the legacy you’re building. It especially applies in relationships (more to come on this) – where it’s probably the hardest to digest. In the debt you’re paying off, the career you’re aiming towards, the race you’re preparing for and the houses you’re selling. Everyday builds on itself until one day you find yourself with a thriving business, a corner office, a hefty nest egg, or a strong, even unbreakable intimate bond and a butt you could bounce quarters off of.
I watch people, (and still notice myself) getting caught up in where they’re/we’re supposed to be. As with all living creatures, our natural inclination is always towards progression. The progress though, isn’t happening somewhere out there, it doesn’t manifest when you close your eyes and re-open them; the progress is happening right now in each choice made or action posed.
Looking back, I miss those magical writing sessions and the creative fulfillment. It wasn’t in the publishing of the book that I felt fulfilled, it was in the actual process of writing it. When I catch myself getting frustrated about where I’m not that I think I’m supposed to be, I remind myself that I may look back and remember that the best part is actually where I am.