"You Don't Have to Eat the Elephant at All:
Honoring Your Desire to Write a Book from the Deeper Self"
[From Issue #1, May 2004]
a book from the deeper Self—in contrast to writing a book for another
reason, such as career advancement, or the desire to prove something—is
not something that's outside you. Like the most intimate presence of God, it
is inside you. How your book gets nurtured into being, and the writerly craft
of “thinking in terms of a book” is another matter. But the book
exists inside you from the start, and will remain inside you as it grows until
it is complete and ready to go out into the world.
There’s a well-known phrase to help a person deal with the prospect of an overwhelming task: “How do you eat an elephant? Answer: One bite at a time.” There are some ways that this advice does apply to writing a book from the deeper Self, and some ways that it really doesn't.
First of all, why would you want to eat an elephant? Aside from its thickest of hides and mammoth size, elephants have been shown to be among the most socially sensitive of animals, adopting orphans and tucking them into the herd, and performing what are clearly mourning rituals when one of their herd dies. There is something in our modern, action-oriented way of thinking that is perhaps missing a beat, if our analogies on how to get things done include the inspiration of eating an elephant, a bite at a time.
What if, instead of having a daunting, overwhelming task ahead, when the realization that “Oh my God, I really AM thinking of writing a book!” hits, you could let go of all the attendant scenarios and chatter—the “How will I ever write a book?” and “There are already so many books out there, who needs one more, from me?” and “I'd better get an outline together,” and “Who would publish this?” and “Could I get on Oprah?” and “I can't write a word. . . . I'm blocked. . . . I have nothing to say—help!!” and so on—
What if you could simply trust that whatever brought the seed of desire to write this book into your heart in the first place will stay with you, will not abandon you, throughout the entire process of writing the book? What if a book were not so much an accomplishment (although, certainly, it is) as, a journey—one that, as with all real journeys, means that you put your feet on the path, however it is that you got to the path, and you begin. And you are met by things outside yourself and things inside yourself, and in the course of this process you find yourself transformed.
Writing a book from the deeper Self is really much more like having a baby than like eating an elephant. It is an organic process, with its own phases and timing (though not so neat as human conception and gestation), and at a certain point it takes on a life of its own. The seed of desire to write a book is proof of its reality. If you can accept and welcome that and water the seed with your gentle, patient love, the book will grow as it's supposed to grow. And you can trust that it's really there, really rooted, really yours, and really—a friend.
To embrace this process as an inner friend is a very different experience, a very different way of holding that you are writing a book from the usual frantic ways of thinking about book writing. If what grows in you is to be embraced rather than attacked, a bite at a time, then you do not have to play a social game (at least not at this point. Perhaps—perhaps!—later on, in selling and marketing the book).
All you need is to stay present to what's in you, and then to become yet more present, and yet more. And this meeting with your ground of being, where all real things—desires, feelings, deeper and higher motivations— spring from, will sustain you, teach you, give to you, whisper true and surprising things into your ear when you are doing nothing more than taking a walk or washing the dishes, and you find that you just have to stop everything right then and there and write these whispers down. These “fragments” become the emerging text of your book, each one over time seeking its full meaningful place in the scheme of your book, each one ringing unmistakably true.
Writing from the deeper Self is a gift you receive after priming the pump, and a gift you give back by writing down and seeing what it is that you find as you walk on the path. There IS an elephant, from the point of view of the mind: “This is just overwhelming. Where do I begin? What do I say? Who would publish this? What ... what ... what?”
But from the point of view of the deeper Self, there is no elephant. There is only the journey. And the heart is what calls you out to do this work, to write a book that will show you something deep and true about who you are, and thereby will show your readers the same about themselves.