It took guts to sign up to write a book in a weekend. It took guts to show up at the end of a work week and begin writing full speed. It took guts to keep that ink flowing, the pen moving, to keep on when tired and sore, to not let up on the speed, never let up on the speed, to get to that emotional point and say the unsaid. It took guts to give up caffeine, noon lunchtime, weekend naptime, to sit back down, and go again as hard and fast as you could. It took guts to reach inside and find story that you knew was there all along.
Tom Bird’s workshop is based on the premise that the soul knows the book that wants to be written, and that by letting the right brain have its way that book will come out fast and full of heart.
About thirty of us met on a Thursday evening at Body Café in Santa Fe, were guided into a meditative state and began writing longhand on unlined pads. We were elbow to elbow, a group of strangers, some experienced writers like me, some novices, and a group of Unity clergy Tom had invited.
We wrote in fifteen minute increments, taking one minute breaks in between to count our words, sip some water, or eat a little of the snacks we’d been encouraged to bring. All the while the CD of soothing music, punctuated by a coyote’s howl, and subliminal encouraging messages played non-stop.
I had the idea that I would not make it because it had taken me 30 years to complete my first book. Good for me, I’d persevered around raising a child, doing bookkeeping for my husband’s business, starting a couple accounting consulting enterprises of my own, and working careers from real estate to landscaping design to stone masonry. All the while, I found stolen mornings to write that 1200 page first draft, to figure out I needed to break it into a trilogy or more, to attend writers conferences to pitch the book to agents in terrifying 10 minute sessions, to rewrite and rewrite and rewrite, and finally publish Incarnation.
With a little help from my friends.
The second day we met at 7:30 and continued longhand until about 10 AM when we switched to computer. I used a spreadsheet to calculate my word count and clocked in at up to 664 words in each 15 minute session. We broke for a 45 minute breakfast at 10:30, and that’s when we started talking to each other. People had traveled to get here, some were locals, everyone friendly and determined. Then we were back at it. A brutal session that lasted until a second break for lunch at 2:30.
All this was well organized, by the way, with the staff of Body Café delivering our food orders to our places at the appointed hour.
I was writing at a wobbly table with a man sweet-faced man named Mike who always said bless you if I sneezed, who accommodated me with gentlemanly politeness and a few well placed comments. We had a balance going, bracing the table with our feet and knees, Mike often standing to work, me on my pillow with my back support, Mike with his trail mix, me with my cheese and apple and protein bars. Neither of us stopped or took a break except that one minute to count our words.
It took guts.
Somewhere in that long session I got the tittle to my book, the sequel to the sequel to Incarnation, a story that had been in my head (or my body, or more likely my soul) for a really long time. Rain. I typed that in at the head of my document and kept writing.
I was in an altered state when we stopped to eat again. The community table was full, so I found a little two-top and sat down. That’s when Jen joined me. I was light headed, weepy, open, and when we started talking, and I realized Jen was a therapist who did past life regressions, and I had written a whole novel about past lives, and that now writing about Atlantis and star-seed beings called, Ari, we were in the same zone. Little by little I came down to earth and made a new friend.
Not long into the final session of the afternoon, I got the last line of my book. “And then it rained.”
I was stunned. I got up and went into the bathroom. Alone in the stall, I thought of my two year-old granddaughter Gemma, who, when she does something new or brave, like jumping off the couch says, “ I do dat.” I do dat, I thought, and then I wept. I had not only done it, I’d done it before the halfway mark of the weekend.
I reported to Mary, Tom’s ultra-capable assistant who was writing her own book and keeping the timer going, that I’d finished. She sent me to Tom who told me to take a 5 minute walk and see if I was really done. I was not the first to finish by any means. We all met in a yoga room at the back of the spa and Tom taught us the emotional mapping method of book design. Here’s where the pink, blue, yellow, and orange post-its and the poster board we’d been told to bring came in. His proprietary method involved re-designing the story along screenplay lines, pulling the emotionally laden sections to the top of each of five columns (designated by pink post-its), following by the cool blue narrative, back-story, expository, then building back up with yellow and orange. Tom gave this speech multiple times during the last two days and each time it sank in a little more. We set to work taming the monster, writing the cryptic notes designating scenes onto the post-its and arranging them on the board. In between, we went back to the writing room and started in on our 2nd book, using the same method, the CD playing, the timer, Mary calling us to write down our work counts.
The last afternoon, Tom talked to us, had us write, encouraged our process, looked at boards. Unexpectedly, it started raining. As we left, covering our boards so as not to ruin them, I felt the wash of that rain, reflected in the title of my new book and the cleansing effect of getting it out.
I came out of the workshop with a mess of book, a plan for putting it into shape, and daily inspirational thoughts of how it would connect, what it would mean, things to put into it. I’m feeling the dance my new book will make with its predecessor, Chosen. I came out with a huge respect for everyone involved, from Tom and Mary, to the Unity group, to the writers who were delving into their deepest wounds to tell there stories. All that time Mike, standing across from me, typing into his computer, was writing about the death of his child. Oh, my God.
It took guts.