I have been writing a book for three years now, and it may take a few more to get it finished and published. It’s a memoir, and I think it’s a good story. At first, I thought I was just writing a fun and breezy rock-n-roll adventure, but then it turned into something much more important. I lived the story and the history, and I’m honoring it by taking the time I need to tell it.
It’s taking me longer than I ever thought. I’ve blown through every deadline I set for myself, which made me feel bad at first. And then I had a big health scare this past year that has taken up a lot of my time. Life happens, you know?
So I stopped setting deadlines for this project. I’m at an age where I know some things can’t be rushed. It’s going to be born in its due time. Deadlines are great for some things, but perhaps not for this. I don’t want to create in a state of anxiousness or guilt. It’s emotional work already; it takes time.
Since the big health scare, I’ve written 50k words. I’m making progress, regardless.
I say it over and over again to myself: This book will get done. This book will be published. I am a writer. That is my dream.
Instead of deadlines, I think in seasons: by the end of summer, I’d like to have this draft ready for a good, hard edit. This past season of my life has been difficult, and I have empathy for what I’ve been through, as a human being.
I’m not letting myself off the hook, but I am giving myself the space and time I need right now. Sometimes, you have to know when to push, and when to yield. Artists feel empathy for the world, but are often too hard on themselves. Brilliant work is created in that tension, no doubt. But I don’t think that’s the kind of artist I am.
I am giving myself permission to take as long as I need to write this particular book. I need to be kind to myself. Meanwhile, I’ll write other things, too. Outline future projects. Work on ways that I can connect with people and be of service.
I’ve always been an empath and a student of energy. I learned the metaphysics, the astrology, the mystics, the old masters. I only started to understand it at a cellular level when I began working as a public librarian 15 years ago, and I could actually use and see these principles in action. The law of attraction. The power of intention. Energy dynamics.
I’ve had to put myself out there, and also protect myself from the psychic baggage. Working with the public is a full contact sport, and can take its toll if you let it. So much heartbreak, poverty, and mental illness. And yet – so much hope, so many new beginnings and bright futures. I developed a deep empathy for the people I served as a librarian. I often see what they do not see in themselves.
Inspired many years ago, I wrote about the concept of “radical empathy” in a library setting, about going beyond basic public service and embracing the magic of it. I came to view the transaction between me and my patrons as a sacred thing. Radical empathy meant that I would do whatever I could do in that moment to help the person in front of me. I would bend rules, make exceptions, and leave it all on the field for them. It doesn’t mean I didn’t say “no” to people, or hold them accountable. It means that I looked for ways to say “yes”, as often as possible. I tried to “pay it forward” every day. Small acts of kindness can go a long way towards healing the world, I believe, and it starts with each of us.
So what does radical empathy mean for myself, as a writer? I think it means talking nice to myself and having faith that the journey is just as important as the outcome. My health scare this past year has me on a lot of down time, away from people, learning, writing, healing and thinking. It’s become clear to me: the work I do comforts people, and that is where I find my joy – in their comfort. I’m a healer, and I am a writer. The nurturing, the holding and comforting and guiding people towards their truths – that feels natural to me.
But the writing is hard. Much harder. It doesn’t come natural. The feelings I feel are often difficult to put into words. But, I am compelled to write, even obligated. Maybe that is where radical empathy starts: finally acknowledging what I already know to be true and holding myself accountable. I am a healer of souls and a writer of truths, and my higher purpose is to serve people through those efforts. To deny it any longer would be the greatest failure of my life.
Aside from digging my teeth into this one book I’m writing, I’ve denied myself being a writer for years. The last thing I had published was in the 8th grade. I fear judgment, I think. I was brought up to be a worker, not an artist or creator, and overcoming that mindset is a constant battle.
But, the impulse to write keeps escaping, – through journals, through letters, through writing projects dreamed and then abandoned. I can write 50-page academic papers in my sleep, but my own stories never seemed worthy. I struggle with focus. Too many ideas. Not enough action. I struggle with believing that anyone would want to read what I have to say. Am I even doing it right?
And then it seems that I need a platform, I need a blog, I need an agent, I need a message.
It all feels overwhelming.
My friend Sam tells me that I should just start. Don’t over-think all that. Document everything and share what you know. The message will appear as you keep going, he says. The important thing is to start sharing.
I know enough about metaphysics to know that he speaks the truth. He’s actually done it, published and connected with people in the spirit of service, and he is sharing what he knows with me. As a librarian, sharing what I know is the whole point. Sharing is action, action is forward motion. Sharing is where the magic is.
So, I’ll share with you what I know about embarking on a creative life and writing a memoir, while I’m actually writing the memoir. I’ll share my process and progress in hopes that you, too, will find your truth. Maybe it’s writing, maybe it’s not. But whatever it is, you can create it.
Pay it forward. Radical empathy. Kindness. Magic. Those are my principles.
This book will get done. This book will be published. I am a writer.
That is my dream.