When I wrote my first book - Life Outside the Box: The Extraordinary Journeys of 10 Unique Individuals - I found myself overwhelmed. I was telling other people's stories and desperately wanted them to feel I painted the right picture. The process to get to the finished product required a series of steps to make sure that was the case -
- transcribing the interview (boring as hell)
- writing from notes (like writing a research paper)
- taking what I had written (like bullet points of someone's life) and reworking that copy into an interesting story that people would enjoy reading.
- checking with the person interviewed to see if I got it right
- sending to my publisher for their feedback
- editing (always making sure I didn't change the voice of the person interviewed)
- proofing the typeset
- choosing cover art
When I wrote book two - The Wisdom of Listening: Pieces of Gold From a Decade of Interviewing and Life - the process was way less stressful. I sat at the computer for up to ten hours a day letting the words just flow out. It felt absolutely wonderful and joyful. As they were my thoughts and ideas, I didn't have to worry about getting them right.They came out right because the words were mine. Editing was definitely more time consuming as my first draft was a messy jumble, but it was exciting so see it come together.
After this second experience I realized something. While I feel my Life Outside the Box series is important and I still have a passion to share the stories of others, I also hope to find a way to write other books that come from inside me. Whether fiction or nonfiction, there is a joy in the flow of words when they are your own - no notes to refer to, no people to check in with to see if you are getting it right. So far, no concrete ideas have arisen to move forward on, but there is one word that continues to circle in my head and that word is LEAP.
All my life I've been a great leaper in terms of heading new directions. Maybe it's one of the gifts that comes with my ADD, maybe not, but it truthfully hasn't always been easy to deal with the outcome. I often leap without thought on how to follow through. Many times I have ended up in way over my head swimming as hard as I could while trying to accomplish whatever it was that drew me. But there are very few leaps I've taken that I've regretted. I only wish I had been more secure in my choice, that I had truly believed if my heart led me to leap I had the skills to follow through, and that I had walked the new path with purpose and confidence.
How do you know when it's right to leap and when it's a mistake? That is so hard to describe. It starts with getting out of your head and into your heart. Your mind is easily misled. One great example of this is those free seminars. They build up your excitement, then offer you a great deal you can't possibly refuse to sign up for. I'm always shocked when sometimes half the audience leaps up and dives for the sign up table. I always refuse to make instant decisions like that in a room full of people with a great closer on stage. There is a group dynamic - a herd mentality - that comes into play to help convince you it's only common sense to say yes.
Your heart - your instincts - function on a whole different level. They cut through the crap and look at things from a different angle. I remember my friend Patti - a zen chaplain - telling me to do all the research, let me head explore all the pros and cons, and then sit in a very quiet space and just listen to what my heart has to say. It's in that quiet place that what your heart has to offer quietly bubbles up. In silence, you can hear it's guidance. Be prepared to be surprised, as when you receive answers or directions you might be led in a direction you haven't even thought of.
My gift has been that sometimes the second I hear of a new direction, I instantly know I need to leap. That's what happened when I read a Craigslist ad in 2006 from a NY fashion magazine asking for written submissions. I don't think I even took a breath. I KNEW I needed to answer this ad no matter whether I received a yes or no. Other times it takes some days of quiet listening to hear the guidance - frustrating for me as I usually have a knowing so quickly. The only limit I put on my final choice is making sure whether this push comes from my head or my heart.
Will this idea of leaping become a book one day - I have no idea. For now I'll just leave it bubbling in the background like soup simmering and see where it leads.