Writing is a meditative act. Writing in flow focuses the attention to a single point. The next word, the next breath. It can scare away the meaning crises that might otherwise fill our days.
One of the dirty little secrets of book publishing is that it marks the end of something meaningful and comforting for the writer. The release of a book, which most people expect should feel like the euphoria at the finish line of a marathon instead marks the beginning of a period of mourning. It is done. There is nothing more to write. And it takes a long time for anyone to read books. Sometimes a bit of negative feedback early on adds extra weight and heft to the already brewing storm of depression. When the initial reviews do come in, even if they are glowing, they do not quite touch the places where the author feels alone. You long to hear other people talk about the characters in the way you want to talk about the loved one who has died. It is comforting to know that other people have experienced these individuals, whether they share your opinions of them or not. It means they lived. In the case of fictional people, it means they continue to live. They have been given life.
One way to deal with these blues is to try to throw oneself back into a state of writing flow, the solution I offered in a post I wrote a couple of years ago.
My other meditative practice is to go to the library, walk to random shelves, pull out books that catch my eye, scan them and jot down thoughts if I am so inspired.
Today I went to the library and found a desk beside the genre fiction shelves, right where the mostly black covers of the mysteries give way to the mostly pastel covers of the romances. I wandered through the general fiction, trying to replenish my soul in the stacks.
I had such a heaviness about me, however, that I could not imagine myself focusing for the length of an entire novel. I went through and pulled out books based on the skinniness of the spine. Realizing I had left my reading glasses at home, I also needed a book with large enough print to see without squinting.That is the unglamorous way I ended up selecting Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Chronicle of a Death Foretold.
It is a mystery, but the central question is not “Who done it?” Or “How was it done?” Or “Will the criminal be caught?” It is “Why did this happen?” What events conspired to make the tragedy inevitable? Was everyone complicit or was no one guilty because they all thought someone else would intervene? Thus the solution to the mystery lies in the heart of the reader. Why did this happen? What does it mean?
I don’t have a big closing to tie all of this together. But a thin book can sometimes be just what the doctor ordered.