how did I write a book?

I was thinking the other day, how did I write a book?

That’s what I was doing exactly one year ago.

{Do you want to do the same? 81% of us do. So I’ve got a proposition for you. Read on.}

And, within a few days, I’d be moving back to Rhode Island to finish the job I started in June. My time in Boston was done, I didn’t know where I’d go next or what I’d do.

All I knew was that finishing my first book was my only priority.

It was the priority over figuring out where I would live. Who I’d live with. What I’d start doing next. If I’d have any money or any options. If the book would be good or suck.

I knew I had to finish it.

But in the weeks prior, it wasn’t about finishing. It was about showing up. This is how I wrote my first book, one year ago:

 

I felt like I had no choice; I felt like it was calling. But, of course, what I did do is choose to write it. Decisively.

And once I did, I committed.

I told the world. I told my friends, family, blog readers, strangers and people whom I met on the weekends and at the bar.

Every weekday morning from late June 2011 through mid-August, I woke up between 6am and 7am — hearing my two roommates march to the shower outside my 10ft-by-10ft bedroom’s thin doors.

I swung out of bed around then, although I just wanted to sleep. “I don’t want to run today,” I’d often say, “I’ll just walk or enjoy the view for a bit.” I put on my running gear, laced up my sneakers. I walked out of my apartment onto the warm Boston street and got into my car, parked in between D Street and West 3rd Street in Southie.

I put the windows down and turned on Eddie Vedder’s Into the Wild Soundtrack and drove a short mile or two to Castle Island.

I parked my car overlooking the harbor. The sun was usually still low enough, facing east, to make you squint hard. While my car’s windows were down, I stretched in the parking lot, joggers and dog walkers passing by.

I plugged into my earbuds and queued up Explosions in the Sky‘s album, Take Care, Take Care, Take Care.

“I’m here,” I’d tell myself, “So I might as well run.”

I started to run.

Those runs gave me clarity; they brought me into the present moment and connected me with nature. They drained my anxiety, fear and worry. As I ran, ideas crept in. When I took off on those morning jogs — some were strong, 4 miles; others were weak, just a crawling couple — I felt that I was engaging in prayer with the world.

Each step like a drum beat, “I’m here. Join me,” calling upon the angels and muses.

I got stung under the eye by a bee one time. It didn’t stop me from running.

Because I was committed to writing that book.

I’d finish my run and end it by stretching overlooking the harbor from above — from a masterful, historic vantage point. An old, Revolutionary War-era fort on Castle Island. It’s huge tan bricks shined so brightly off of the rising sun that you could feel the heat. Grassy knolls sprawled around it, dotted with vibrant yellow dandelions. The hills poured out into the splashing blue harbor.

I’d sit there for 10 minutes or so.

I’d think.

I’d think about my book. I’d worry. I’d worry about what I was writing, if it was the right stuff to write. I’d fear. I’d fear that it wasn’t good enough — how could it be? I’d think about the chapter I was working on, the order of them, the stories in them, and how I might be able to possibly muster another few hundred or few thousand words that day.

Beyond all else, though, I’d think about how beautiful the view was; how that view is all I ever really want in my life.

Why was I doing this, playing this writer’s game? Blogging? Endeavoring? Risking? Trying?

If I could just hole up somewhere on a hill with a view, that just seemed like it could be enough. Maybe I was just lying to myself. Maybe those nice little thoughts were just an easy way for my mind to escape from the work that was due in the day ahead.

With a final prayer and maybe a bit of rock’n’roll in my ears, I told myself and the Universe, Here we go again. Let’s do this.

I got up and marched down the hills through the grass. I got in my car, and drove home jamming to Hard Sun, windows down and music up.

After a shower, it was time for coffee. I set up my standing desk: a makeshift plastic drawer turned upside down on our kitchen table.

The view overlooked a glistening birchwood tree — the only tree in eye-shot, one that made me cherish all other trees and never take another for granted. One that brought a handful of finches every once in a while; because of them, I’ll never take birds’ songs for granted. One that filled out the entire windows with green, giving our windows a bit of shade and privacy.

I plugged in my noise-canceling headphones. Neighbors’ radios, arguments and petty banterings bombarded that clustered corner of houses, amplifying everything like a megaphone.

I opened up my documents.

I began to write.

Rinse. Repeat.

P.S. — On the morning I wrote this, the words come slowly. Agonizingly. Stress seeps into my neck and upper back, as it always does. And so, again, I decide to just write. I start thinking back to how religious my practice was one year ago. About 900 words later, the stress is gone. There is only release. This the feel of my purpose. And I know I’m back on track for one more day.

P.P.S. – I mentioned a proposition for you above: I’m starting a premium writing group that will be something very special, and starting to quietly enlist the debut class of members. You can go to LiteratiWriters.com to join the “Wait List” which will help me get in touch with you personally to explain the fine details, like format, goals, why I’m doing this and the cost ($50/quarter, ie for a three-month membership). Don’t wait, enrollment is extremely limited.

Flickr photo by BostonPhotoSphere

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