I Might Have Written My Final Book
- August 22, 2015
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A year or so ago, I had the compelling sense that I might have written my last book (To Be a Man).
I love writing, and have ever since I started scribbling poetry while in the midst of a doctoral program in biochemistry, way back in 1969. A year later I quit the program but didn’t quit writing. My writing has co-evolved with my psychospiritual work. Both were — and are — in my blood, reinforcing and deepening each other.
Whether or not what I wrote got read, I kept writing. And working. I was able to write my books and at the same time do my work for a long time. But no longer.
The foreshadowing of this was in the putting together of my book Emotional Intimacy in 2012. I was passionate about the topic and had plenty of richly relevant material for it, along with a publisher who was solidly behind me.
And I still had — and had to do — the work that Diane and I do side-by-side: individual and couple sessions, weeklong groups, and trainings. Going back and forth between the book-to-be and our work became increasingly challenging: the energy required to do the edits and complete the book often left me drained, regardless of the joy I felt in the writing.
The day or week of psychospiritual work over, I needed — far more than prior to my sixties — to have free time, with no preset structure. But the book called, and I needed to heed that call, or I would have never properly finished the book.
There was no problem with getting thus depleted with any of my earlier books, but I found myself sinking with my book on emotions. I’d work out and meditate, gathering enough energy to write what needed to be said, but I was spending more and more time recovering, rejuvenating, and readying myself to write more or to work with clients.
I was dipping deep into my reserve tanks, and was too often very close to running on empty.
This was offset by the exhilaration of getting everything in a piece of writing to come together in a way that really worked, but such times mostly just obscured the very real erosion of my resources. It seemed that I was spending more time recovering from my writing and work than being in it.
The fact that I was in my mid-sixties meant little to me; I assumed that I should be able to fully give myself to my twin passions, writing and work, given how central and natural they were to me. After all, I’d done this for over three decades. And I had been working successfully (and all-naturally) with my prostate cancer since I’d been diagnosed with it in 2008, staying quite healthy.
But more than passion and love and fitness was needed. Substantial and ongoing breaks were also needed, and not just between work stints and writing deadlines.
Then I got an offer to write a book about men. A very compelling topic, to which I knew I could bring much. So I dove in, getting a first draft done relatively quickly. The words had emerged easily, and I assumed that after completing the usual round of edits a few months later, I’d basically be done — and ready to move on to my next book.
A half-year later l still hadn’t begun another book, and couldn’t even consider doing so. The men’s book had a resolute grip on me, going through two rounds of heavy editing, the first being a developmental edit — through which I rewrote much of the book as I reorganized it — and the second a “regular” edit, with a bunch more rewriting and pruning.
The first round did me in; it was mostly hard labor. I was tired when I began, and extremely depleted when it was done. The second round wasn’t as hard, but I was weak enough to be floored by a few body blows.
I was down for the count, even when I bounced back up to do some weeklong groups with Diane. My blood pressure was way up and my energy was way down.
I noticed that, for the first time, I was strongly preferring work to book creation; both took plenty from me, but the work didn’t require such prolonged energetic commitment and was consistently more satisfying, especially when seeing our clients having hugely relevant breakthroughs. What a gift and privilege, as always, to be able to do such work, to be so well used, and make a living from it!
The men’s book has been out since the beginning of this year. I’m happy to have written it, and am enjoying its impact, including my being inspired to offer 5-day men’s groups.
At the same time I’m feeling a sobering freedom in knowing right to my core that I cannot continue to both work and write books. It’s simply too much for me. I’m a young sixty-seven, but I’m still sixty-seven and need to keep a consistently watchful eye on my health. We need to continue making enough money, so work is priority.
So I might have written my last book. I’m at peace with that. No more strain. It’s part of honoring my aging, slowing down and making more and more room for simply being, not as a spiritual strategy but as a natural necessity.
The only way I can envision writing another book is if I don’t have to work while I’m thus writing. This would mean being covered financially during the time — close to a year — that another book would likely take. There is no way we can fund this, so such support would have to come from outside us, possibly through a grant, or patron, or some unknown-as-yet way to take a writing sabbatical for a sufficient amount of time.
I will continue giving myself fully to my work; not trying to combine it with authoring books makes this possible. I’m content knowing that I won’t give myself to another book unless we receive enough support for it to be a time of ease instead of energetic strain and depletion.
And I am happy to have written my books, glad to have had the energy to do so, grateful to have had so much encouragement from so many readers, and deeply hopeful that my books will continue to be of real service to others in their journeys of healing and awakening.