The creation of a book can be a years-long process. Even my handmade books were never as deep a dive as the writing of a whole book has been. When is a manuscript a book? Is it when I am done with its creation? Is it when it is published? I am still discovering the answers to this and many other quandaries about book writing. But I have finished writing a book and now it is in another kind of process, finding its labyrinthian way into the world.
The photo above is of a page from my journal on January 2, 2017. It’s as good a marker as any of when I got serious about writing a book. I often choose a word to guide me for the new year, and that year I was claiming my authority, my author self. It was a long time coming, so I am fond of this photo. The fact that I wrote it using rinse water from my calligraphy work shows me how tentative I felt about embarking on a new/old creative path. The word was a talisman during the rocky early days when I wondered if I could really write a whole book. And now I have.
Elizabeth Strout has written in her recent book Oh William!:
About authority: When I taught writing—which I did for many years—I talked about authority. I told the students that what was most important was the authority they went to the page with.
This is not as easy as it sounds. Last year when I was preparing a draft of my manuscript to send to an editor, I decided to try the Word Frequency function in Scrivener and was shocked to discover how often I used words like “maybe” and “perhaps.” In almost every case, the sentence was better without it. It was just me equivocating. It’s a lifelong habit I am still trying to break.
I will put news about this book and its path into the world in this section, when I have it to share. Making a page like this is like a talisman too. I’m kind of a magical thinker, as anyone who knows me will tell you.