Finishing A Book


Someone said: “Writing is either easy, or it’s impossible.”

He was lying.

I can’t tell you how to finish your book, but I can tell you how I finished mine. Please apply these simple, difficult steps to your writing process.

1. Appropriate aptitudes and psychopathology

I’ve always scored highly on the verbal portions of standardized aptitude tests––the SAT, GRE, etc. I’ve always been able to write. I have an obsessive tendency, which adds get-it-done-ness to my personality, as well as a bit of mania for inspiration. Many years of education have honed my obsessive streak to full-blown workaholism. These are necessary, but not sufficient, ingredients of a writing career.

2. Kundalini Shakti and the worst things that ever happened to me

In 1975, I began meditating using a form of kundalini yoga. Kundalini is conceptualized as energy coiled at the base of the spine, lying dormant until awakened. When awakened, it moves up the spinal column, purifying the individual’s energy centers and psyche. My experience of kundalini is like sitting on the business end of a cosmic fire hose. It produced ecstasy, as well as kicking out memories of the worst things that ever happened to me.

3. The right circumstances, and motivation becomes sufficient

During an extended healing after step 2, I went to a meditation retreat, coming home spiritually renewed and sparkling. Two days later, I had a cataclysmic experience: The plot of a book was injected into my brain in a second. After that, I wrote for nine years straight, completing drafts of nine novels. The drafts are mostly drivel, but they’ll rewrite nicely. My spiritual awakening unleashed my writing and fueled my creativity, also imparting the drive to complete what I started.

4. The material will finish the book

The book that I’ve published wasn’t one of my novels; it was a freebie, leaping out of me by surprise. I went to a Native American spiritual retreat, had an incredible experience, and started writing about it. Voila! Three years of single-minded work later, I had a book. (That’s the second retreat to jump-start my writing. Neither was a writers’ retreat. No cogitating for hours about technique or critiquing anyone’s writing. Just spiritual regeneration.) I could not stop until I finished Stepping Off the Edge. The material drove me until the book was published, and beyond, into marketing.

5. Paying dues

Would I write better if I an MFA in creative writing or a PhD in literature? Probably, but I’m sixty years old and can’t afford the time. Writing is a skill that demands training. In that, I have paid my dues. I’ve been in writers’ groups for more than ten years. I’ve worked with a number of editors, ranging from great to horrid. I walked away from one publisher and have had my share of scathing critiques. I’ve written queries, gotten rejected, and had “experts” try to scam me. I’ve rewritten, reframed, and thrown out. Had too many migraines and worked myself into a frazzle. I’ve also made dear friends, met fabulous professionals, and finished a book that I love.

How did I complete my book? It took all of my craziness and sanity, the worst things I that happened to me, applying myself to wellness with all my soul, and doing everything necessary to see it born: a lot of work, commitment and much love. And a touch of the divine.

Writing is not easy. Even so, if your highest and deepest self drives you, it’s impossible not to finish.

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