On April 12th, 1985 I set a goal for myself to submit a manuscript to a publisher by the end of the year. Which committed me to generating a manuscript. I could feel the idea for the first manuscript forming. As I had been reading my journal notes from the previous several years, I was appalled to see my negative relating habits, and how strong they were. A theme started to emerge, something like “reach out and grab someone” – a study of how my clutching at people pushed them away.
I decided if I was going to do it right, I needed to treat it like a business project. Those years I was living in a garage apartment in an area of Houston called West University, since it was west of the Rice University campus. In April, I was setting aside time after work to write, but it was tough to maintain a flow. I was a contract landman in the oil industry, and my current job finished up at the end of April. I decided to take advantage of the time off, and dedicate the time to writing.
So in May of 1985 I started going over to the Rice campus and setting up shop inside the main library. I would make it an official eight-hour day, five days a week for writing. Some days I would review notes from my journals to hone in on what I wanted to write about. Some days the writing would flow. And on other days, nothing would seem to happen – but I was there to capture words if they fell out onto paper. I continued to follow the “Dear Joan” format as each topic emerged – I would write it as a letter to my friend Joan, to keep myself hearing my writing voice. I kept up this routine until finally I realized I had told a story. I started to call it Search For Happiness, but later changed the title to Search For Peace. That fit more accurately the nature of my journey and the story.
Of course, the other reason — unstated — to go over to Rice was that no one could see me and know about my writing goal. I was spooked several times when I would run into someone I knew at the library – I made up excuses for why I was there, but didn’t reveal my true reason. I didn’t see it as odd at the time, but explained it to myself that I didn’t want to be giving regular updates on my writing process to all my friends. True in itself, but there was more underneath that I couldn’t see.
At the library, I began to see my writing rhythm. My thoughts had to go through a gestation period where it didn’t look like anything would happen. I would just sit for a while and let random thoughts try to collect in a coherent order in my mind. Then at a certain point, when I began to write, the thoughts just flowed out in a logical and very natural order, and they made a lot of sense
Yet as I wrote, I would experience times of mind numbing fear that would lock me up and keep me from writing. Some of the long days of sitting were about that. The fear wasn’t connected to anything in today, and I didn’t know where it was coming from.
During May of 1985 I got back together with a woman named Sheila who I had previously dated, and though we were both very skittish about renewing our relationship, we had some good experiences together. She was trying to find a house to rent, but couldn’t afford what she wanted. Then I had what at the time seemed like a brilliant idea. If she would rent the house she wanted, I would rent a room in it from her, and use it as my writing office. (The codependency of this offer merits its own article — or book — but that’s another story altogether. lol!)
I had everything nicely set up in my garage apartment, and could comfortably write there. Yet somehow the experience of getting up and going to the library – to a separate place – every day, made me feel like I would be more productive if I went to a separate location to write. This seemed to make a lot of sense at the time. The other, more compelling reason I gave myself was that I didn’t want people knowing that I was writing a book, because I didn’t want to constantly answer questions about my writing. Actually, it allowed me to hide out and keep my writing secret. I didn’t have a good justification for myself as to why my writing had to be secret. It just had to be that way.
So I moved my writing desk, file cabinet and materials into a room at Sheila’s and went over there to work. I had decided to take more time off from work, so I was able to spend most of the summer cleaning up and editing Search For Peace. I would also spend time going back over to the Rice Library researching the publishing industry, to find out how you went about getting a book published. I had read a book called A Bridge Across Forever, in which the author, Richard Bach, had recounted taking a writing course in school. The way to get an A in the class was to bring the teacher proof that a story had been published. It resonated with something I had felt for years, which was that publication was the final step in releasing a book to the world.
I spent the summer editing the manuscript, investigating publication, and a lot of time feeling that disconnected fear all of this was bringing up. All the while hiding out and not telling anyone what I was doing – and not really understanding the need for all this secrecy.
“Pen on Paper” Completed in 2004 to serve as the basis for the publicity of a retreat for authors entitled Writers Refuge. jlseagull @ flickr.com Creative Commons. Some Rights Reserved.