Inspired by the feedback he receives, an an author begins to revise the memoir he wrote and sets out on a journey into New Mexico, and into his past.
“Dan, your book is extremely good!” That was a powerful statement from someone I respected a great deal. I tried to let the words sink in.
It was time to get feedback on my book. My friend Karen had typed my longhand notes into a rough draft, and said it was a wonderful and powerful story. You know how you discount what you hear from someone who knows you really well? I sometimes did that with Karen. I needed to get another opinion, to reinforce Karen’s feedback.
I had the strong sense that I wanted my friend Scott to read the manuscript. For him to read it before showing it to a couple of my longtime friends felt odd, until I realized I needed an outsider’s opinion — someone who didn’t know all the background like some of my other friends did. I had known Scott for a number of years; he was highly intelligent and worked in the Information Technology field, but he was very intuitive and spiritually in tune with himself. Scott had a great way of getting down to the heart of a matter, and speaking his truth clearly, which I really wanted to hear.
I sent a digital copy of my manuscript to Scott by email. He was thrilled and honored, and said he would start reading that weekend. He called me the next night; he was blown away, and kept referring to it as a contemplative meditation. He didn’t read much nonfiction, had read few memoirs, and didn’t know what to expect. He quickly got into the rhythm of the story and became totally engrossed and overwhelmed.
“Dan, I’m not sure exactly how to describe what is so powerful about your writing. I’m a computer guy. Hey, what do I know about writing styles? But reading your words has gotten to me in a really deep and powerful way. Granted, I’ve only read about the first 30 pages. I was going to print it all out and then read it this weekend. But then I started reading as the pages came off the printer, and couldn’t stop. I was plunged into your story so quickly it was breathtaking. The way you describe your meeting with that Wayne guy – even down to walking into his office through that funky door that looked like it was out of a pirate ship or something. It was all just so real – I could feel it. And when he put you down with his harsh words, and you got angry after that, it was just incredible.”
“Scott, this is wonderful feedback. I really hear what you’re saying. And you know what’s amazing – the first 30 pages is just the setup. The book really starts to heat up at about that point, and the real roller coaster ride begins.”
“If that’s the case, I can’t wait. And I’m thinking that if the early part of the manuscript can bring up this strong a response, the reader will trust the writer more, and from feeling that initial power, will know that more is coming and want to read on!” I let that thought sink in for a minute. Actually, it took quite a while for the impact of what he said to really hit me, to fully absorb it.
Since I was really depleted from a contract job I’d worked on in the fall, I needed some time to rest and recharge. But as well, I wanted a spiritual recharge. I needed a trip to New Mexico. Specifically Farmington. What was the pull and why was it so strong? I’d asked myself that question many times over the years. Farmington was a small town of about 30,000+ tucked in to the northwest corner of the state, not far from the famous Four Corners — the only spot in the Continental U. S. where four states came together.
Farmington was in the middle of the Navajo reservation, and had a strong Indian cultural influence. There was a special energy about the area – I’d even read that it was some kind of spiritual power spot similar to Sedona in Arizona. I found that easy to believe, because I felt creatively alive, yet very grounded, when I visited there.
I grew up in Farmington – I attended school there until we moved in the middle of my junior year in high school. In the late ‘50s and early ‘60s it was a simple time. There was quite a buzz when they added a fifth digit on our phone numbers. We left our cars parked on the street with the keys in them, and no one ever thought about it. I never remember our house being locked.
I was very active in school, especially in junior high (middle school) – we had speech contests, published a literary magazine, and I was on the annual staff. We had miles of canyons and deserts outside the town to explore and roam in. My Dad and I went fishing at Jackson’s Lake. We seldom caught many fish, but had a pleasant time together. I grew up seeing Shiprock off in the distance to the west. Looking back, I felt a warm energy around that time, in spite of the unhappy memories as my parent’s drinking increased during my teenage years.
When I made the trip, I wanted to stop over in Albuquerque, where I had lived from 2002 to 2006, visit with old friends, then drive to Farmington and spend some time editing the book. One day, things fell into place and I set up a plan. Upon arriving in Albuquerque, I would go to a 12 step meeting I used to attend, have lunch with friends. That afternoon I would make the three-hour drive to Farmington. I would stay in a quaint motel that had more personality than just a box with a bathroom, and go to the library to do my editing work on the book. The next Friday I would drive back south to Albuquerque, go to the meeting once more, and return to Fort Worth the next day. I liked the plan, and it felt right. I thought it was a rest break and a way of connecting with a spiritual anchor. Little did I know I’d get another book out of it, and more incredible feedback about the book I had just written!
I left for New Mexico on a Thursday morning, drove part of the way and spent the night in Muleshoe (a small town in West Texas) at a nice little family owned motel. I got in to Albuquerque the next afternoon, dropped by my old company and visited with the people I used to work with. I checked in to the motel, which had an indoor pool. I sat in the hot tub and marveled at being back in New Mexico after a relatively short time. I felt quite a bit different from when I had left; I was more grounded and relaxed after getting some of the negative energy from my grandmother out of my system.
Saturday morning I checked out of the motel, and went to the 12 step meeting. It was an odd experience. There were a number of people there I didn’t know, but the regulars were there as well. I visited with several old friends, got caught up with Cecil and Carl. I had told William (I changed the names of the people in the meeting to protect their anonymity) I would bring him a copy of my book, and wanted to hear his feedback when he had time to read it. I shared in the meeting about how my creativity had blossomed, and that I was about to publish a book.
After the meeting, I talked with a woman named Deborah who expressed quite an interest in the book, having heard about it from William. I told William if Deborah wanted to read it, I was fine with that. The group went out to lunch and it was great to visit with everyone. Angela had come down from Santa Fe just to see me, because one of the leaders had announced in the meeting I was coming to town. Everyone was interested in how my writing had progressed, and it was a very enjoyable experience.
After lunch, I drove to Farmington, enjoying the red-tinged bluffs and mesas, the expanding horizon, Huerfano Mesa off to my right, and mountains to the far north. I drove down into the valley, through Bloomfield and into Farmington. I relaxed. I checked into the motel, then drove around town, exploring the place I considered my home base.
I cruised down 20th Street past the high school – where I’d been in Honors English class, and we put on a performance of the Greek play Medea. I drove by Hermosa Middle School, the source of so many of my warm memories. I meandered out Main Street and drove up to San Juan Country Club, where I learned to swim and play golf. I drove past our house on Crescent Street, and frowned a bit – by the time we moved there, the memories had begun to grow painful.
I settled in to a comfort zone – a spiritual place. I felt safe enough to be really creative here. Later, my safety zone would expand, and I could write easily anywhere, but for right now, it was good to be back and connect with the energy of this place. I had a sense I might learn something while I was here, but had no idea how creatively empowering my week in Farmington would be.
“Red Rocks in New Mexico” Kangotraveler @ Flickr.com. Creative Commons. Some Rights Reserved.