Thursday, July 25, 2013
I have had more than a few people ask me recently, 'What does "The Middle of Infinity" mean?' Well, it has meant different things to me at different times. Because of this I often ask in return, "What does it mean to you? I have received many answers, most of which contain a common theme; something to do with being in the present moment. This definitely resonates with me. It is quite common to hear from almost all individuals that have experienced a 'mortality awareness event' to comment on how it changed their priorities and the perceptions of what is important in their lives. The little annoyances and pet peeves are cleared away like cobwebs and musky old drapery. The newly cleaned windows illuminate the saved soul and, for a time, they bask in the moment.
This is truly how I felt immediately when I woke up from the heart transplant. I was, and still am, a new man. The first blog that I wrote in my mind only two days later ended with the phrase, "Past regrets and future concerns have no place in the moment of presence. What I have learned from all of this is to cherish the present." Later, in a fictional story I penned called "Solids", Arthur, the protagonist, in a moment of epiphany realizes that, "The present is the gift we give ourselves."
For some reason I think elliptically and, as such, I also occasionally write in similar fashion. In our conversations, Barbie will say something which will cause me to think of something tangentially related, which will remind me of something else and so on. Five and a half thoughts and 3.791 seconds later I will begin verbalizing my new pondering; all previous frame of reference having completely evaporated. Barbie now has no idea of whom or what I am talking about. I often do this with words and phrases. Recently, at the produce market, I started bagging my groceries while the salesperson was still ringing me up. He jokingly commented that they would have to start paying me whereas I responded, "Well, it is the shortest distance between two points." It took him a second to realize that I was referring to economy of motion and economy of time. So what does any of this have to do with being present. (Now you know how Barbie feels.)
How long is a moment? Is it a zero dimensional point in the middle an infinite timeline lasting exactly 0.012 nanoseconds? For me a moment feels more like a focused connection during an event. As I recollect them I subdivide and compartmentalize them into my memory. When I remember getting married the moment that I cherished was not purely the few seconds when we were pronounced married, rather the moment began when I entered the room and ended when we left and my focus shifted. Some moments last seconds while others can go on for many minutes, even an hour. For me memories of moments occur in blocks of time. At least this is how I organize them. Somehow, now when I say cherish the moment I need to remind myself to cherish the uninterrupted focus. Then passively my mind shifts into elliptical gear and the train of thought is derailed.
To cherish the moment means actively holding the focus on what matters most; the person present before you.
Over time it is easy to forget that epiphany manifest through salvation and fall into old habits. Then something beautiful is noticed, an amber and gold sunset, a baby grasps your finger, a hug from an old friend and the awe and wonder returns.
Thursday, July 18, 2013
Writing is hard. Writing a book is really hard. I mentioned to Barbie the other day that I believe that everyone has at least one book in them; the story of their own life. Some would write it as an autobiography while others would fictionalize it, as did Harper Lee with "To Kill a Mockingbird". What keeps everyone from writing a book? It's not easy. Well, it wasn't easy for me. I am sure that there are many writers that can sit down every day and bang out five to eight thousand words. The thinking part is easy. I wrote the book a hundred times in my mind. Yet the application of fingers (that is two index fingers) to keyboard has always been very difficult for me.
It took three years to write. And yet if I counted the number of days that I actually wrote it would be less than 50. When I switched from Revlimid to Velcade two years ago I suffered many new side effects. One of which was a lack of motivation. However, I could be guaranteed that at least one day a week that motivation would return. This occurred on Wednesday evenings when my high dose of steroids was in full force. This is when the hypomania portion of my drug induced bipolarity bubbles to the surface. However, the motivation produced is also accompanied by a certain degree of disinhibition which allows for a more soul-baring and uncensored writing.
My two greatest challenges in the process were first: how do I truly paint a picture with words that conveys the full emotional impact of the moment? And second: how do I fuse the retrospective narrative with the prospectively written blogs to maintain continuity while avoiding redundancy. In the latter, Barbie was immensely helpful. She read and re-read the manuscript offering invaluable input.
Then one day in January it was done. Writing is just the beginning. Now you have to get it published. Ten years ago I would have been at the mercy of literary agents and the big publishing houses. We now enter the world of self-publishing. In January I knew nothing of this world. It has now become my new hobby.
First yo go to the source of all useless knowledge (and some very useful knowledge: Google.) I found a book called A.P.E and downloaded it to Barbie's Kindle. It teaches the novice author how to Author, Publish and market (Entrepreneur) a book. I followed the steps, doubling back on certain blind pathways, and ultimately decided to have the book self published through CreateSpace, a subsidiary of Amazon. They provide a publish-on-demand service such that the physical book is only printed when someone orders it through Amazon. What a concept; no inventory.
First, though it had to be edited. When my editor, Sarah Bringhurst Familia, sent me revised manuscript, it was bleeding red on every page. Yet, as I clicked and accepted her changes, it became a real book.
Next was designing a cover. This was really fun. I found a website www.99design.com that, for $299, will create a contest where designers compete to build you the perfect cover. Ultimately I had 19 designers submit 64 designs. The last day of the contest Barbie called me to say a new design came in that was awesome. I immediately knew that this as yet anonymous designer had captured my vision and that we had found our cover. In the end it was a graphic design professor from the University of Viterbo, near Rome, Italy, that one the $200 prize. The longest process was the internal book design done by CreateSpace to format the interior. And now it is done.
I have learned so much in that last six months about writing and publishing. We live in a world where so much more is available to us because of the internet. Seemingly impossible things are not just possible, but relatively easy. No one needs to forgo their dreams anymore. You just need to know what question to ask and to whom.
The book is now out there; for some I hope that they may find in it comfort and hope in their struggles. For others, I just hope it is a good story. For me it is a testament to miracles.