I miss writing my book. Oh, how I miss writing my book! Because while I was writing Devotion I woke up every morning with a very clear purpose, which was to delve as deeply into spiritual questions as my own personal, intellectual and emotional limits would allow. Each day, after sending Michael off to the office and Jacob off to school, I would settle into the quiet of my house. I would hear the ticking of the clocks, the rustling and thumping of the dogs. I would unroll my yoga mat, or spend an hour reading Thoreau, or Heschel, or Merton, or B.K.S. Iyengar. I was highly sensitized to my environment, and each thought, each action, like beads on a string, led from one to the next, all of them useful–purposeful. I had a job to do, and that job was to think and read and write, and think some more.
Now, I have another job to do, and that is the job of having written the book–rather than writing it. The job of connecting with readers, with the incredible people I’ve met in the least couple of months, who come to my readings and events, who write to me daily, who tell me their stories. My job is to nurture my book, out there in the world, not simply to turn my back on it and hope that it finds its own way–which feels about as responsible as the mother who leaves her toddler in the car as she races into the supermarket. No. I need to hold my book gently by the hand and walk it down the road. In the next few months I have dozens of events to do — the public part of a writing life — though opposite and often in conflict with the private part, the place where the work actually comes from. The other day, I wrote on my Moments of Being blog about my least favorite question these days being what are you working on? One of the reasons this question rankles right now is that the answer is nothing. I’m working on nothing, if you mean setting pen to paper. I’m on planes, trains and automobiles, I’m speaking publicly, which is not my natural habitat, even though I quite enjoy it. I know, I know, it’s work too–but not what I think of when I think of being a writer.
Sylvia Boorstein recently said the following to me, regarding having written Devotion: This is what you know now. Meaning, what I know now is (hopefully) less than I will know tomorrow, and more than I knew last week, month, year. All we know is what we know now. And so, what I know now, about a writing life, is that it is made up of parts. The silence, the movement. The days the words flow, the frustration when they don’t. The elation, the disappointment. The absorption, the distraction. Come to think of it, this is much like Buddhism’s eight vicissitudes: pleasure/pain, gain/loss, praise/blame, fame/disrepute. Why should we–why should I–expect otherwise?