Writing and community–the power and necessity of community for writers–is top of my mind this morning.
Yesterday, preparing my manuscript for the final edit, I felt consumed by self-doubt. Why had I only asked for beta readers? Why hadn’t I hired a developmental editor? Does it provide enough guidance to beginners? Too much? Too little?
Consumed by The Censor, The Ego, Self Doubt, Saboteur
More specifically, surely this book was too simple, too meager, not enough.
The other book, the one I’ve been working on for three years. That’s a real book. But this one. How could I even deign to think the world needs yet another journal with prompts? Prompts, something you can get all over the internet for free?
Stupid stuff. Yet, maybe you’ve heard that voice in your head, too.
At my lowest moment, I received a call from my final beta reader, one of the most direct, uncensored people I know. She would tell me if it fell short in any way. What hit me most was how surprised she felt at how much she loved this book. She hadn’t expected that. The journal inspired her, put a smile on her face, felt fun. “Genius,” she said.
And she loved the special features that make this book more than a prompts book but a true vehicle for writing community (more on that when I get to the great unveil in a few months!).
My reader provided very specific feedback on a couple of prompts that didn’t sit right with her. They’d been niggling me, too. I needed the precision of her feedback to address it. But overall, I just heard this love and enthusiasm, this big YES!
Reaching Out In Productivity Mode
Last night I worked into the wee hours, adding some quotations to the journal I’m writing. I’m sending my final draft to my editor, Lynne Heinzmann today (so, I’ll just pop in for a few minutes but felt the need to write and share this with you in my writing community).
Last night, I sought (and found) quotes from my clients’ (and colleagues’) books (and author interviews) that felt inspiring (and fitting) for the journal pages after each prompt. As I wrote to each writer, I felt aware of our connection; bringing them into this project felt juicy and exciting–a way of honoring them and sharing their work, and a nod to how we don’t create in isolation; there are always others who’ve inspired us.
In truth, though, a frenetic state also leaked into my emailing frenzy. Rushing. Trying to get all the emails out, all the quotes identified. The pressure of a deadline. Making things happen. Making up my own quotes, here and there, wondering whether I was trying too hard to be profound or writing some garbagy quote just to have something to say at the top of the page. Judgment is never pretty.
And the Love Flows in from My Writing Community
And then, the gifts flowed in last night and early this morning. Wave after wave as each author responded by email with generosity, ” Of course.” “Thank you for thinking of me.” “I’d love to be part of this.” I could feel their love enfolding me. Some had read the journal; most hadn’t. Yet, each author embraced my request with heart.
I had thought of asking a whole bunch of bestselling authors for permission to quote them. I’m so glad that, with a couple of exceptions (and even those exceptions are authors I know personally), I stuck with clients, colleagues, friends, because their enthusiastic love meant so much more to me and to the project. Their quotations were beautiful, exquisite, perfect. There’s the integrity of quoting people who are part of my life, my journey as a teacher, coach, writer, friend, colleague, fellow seeker, entrepreneur, woman).
Yes, I threw in a couple of quotations by dead white men, two dead female novelists, and a couple of ancient religious texts. These did not require permission, and I felt a bit of relief at writing and sending fewer emails. Good quotations, I promise. There’s room for variety here. And no offense to white men or dead people. But I digress.
As I come to the end of this ramble, my takeaway is just how critical community is to the creative process, and how blessed I am for this writing and publishing community I find myself a part of–the big wide world of publishing and the small pockets–the friends I occasionally write with (Paula, Tracy), the spontaneous writing community in workshops I’ve attended (Eric Maisel, Kripalu, Nancy Aronie, Dani Shapiro), the Get Your Writing Done workshops I teach but also write in, my Bring Your Book to Life(R) students, my colleagues and participants at Harvard Medical School’s CME publishing course, and women in healthcare leadership course, the Facebook group of writers in Write and Create with Lisa Tener.