Writing a book offers a large canvas: two hundred and fifty-odd pages in which to articulate, refine, and cultivate those thoughts and ideas, feelings and experiences that preoccupy you, and have, often for years. But a book manuscript offers a large canvas not only in the medium of space, but in the medium of time, as well: most books require a year or two to write, and frequently longer.
Those years spent “carrying” a book (similar to carrying a pregnancy), result in a hidden organic benefit. Authors find themselves growing into a more fully-realized sense of their personal reality, while at the same time inhabiting an expanded sense of the world outside themselves.
This is a mysterious and wondrous process, though its beginning is something every author is familiar with. Once one or two ideas are successfully articulated on the page, they begin to multiply, giving birth to new thoughts not otherwise available. Over time, in the space of a book-length manuscript, whole new worlds of thought and understanding open up.
The mystery of book writing occurs in the ability we all share to tap into a greater awareness. Though it is accessible only when we undergo the preliminary “discipline” (actually, a joyful experience) of paying close attention to the wisdom of our deeper minds. It is the book writing-induced access to vaster understanding which creates an enlargement of our personal reality. And this occurs naturally and organically — without our conscious recognition — during the lengthy and painstaking process of writing a book.
There is also the reward that results from nurturing the living being of your book. (Caring for anything is an enlivening experience, as those with children, animals, plants, and whatever else requires constant care, know.) Your book will emanate a life of its own, a life independent of you, its author, in direct proportion to the amount of love and involvement in your book’s creation that you are able to give it (that you, in a very real sense, achieve with your book).
The parallel between parenting and authoring has been observed by, among others, author and creativity teacher, Julia Cameron (The Artist’s Way), who once referred to her books as “book children.” This seems particularly apt. Books, like human children, travel out into the world, affecting others in all sorts of ways, seen and unseen. It is a phenomenon that has occurred for thousands of years.
In Robert B. Downs’ Books That Changed the World, authors from Plato to Sir Isaac Newton, Thomas Paine to Mary Wollstonecraft, Thoreau to Harriet Beecher Stowe, and from Charles Darwin, to Freud, to Rachel Carson, have produced works that profoundly changed the worldview of millions of people — both in their time, and over the course of time.
Newer authors, meanwhile, come from the ranks of those who have been so personally touched by books that they feel moved to participate, to do what books do: they want to create worlds of sense, sensibility, and deeper meaning.
As Pulitzer Prize-winning author and historian, Barbara Tuchman, observed, “Without books, the development of civilization would have been impossible. They are engines of change, windows on the world, ‘lighthouses’ (as a poet said) ‘erected in the sea of time.’ They are companions, teachers, magicians, bankers of the treasures of the mind. Books are humanity in print.”
Long before they reach print, during the long and painstaking process of their creation, book manuscripts offer their authors all the gifts Tuchman lists. Writing a book changes and transforms our sense of who we are (it cultivates our own “civilization”), by opening windows on our inner and outer worlds. And it place-marks passages in our lives, experiences that, without being evoked and preserved in words, would be less available to us, if not completely lost.
The book we are writing becomes our closest companion during all the years we spend working on it, and teaches us what we do not even know we need to know. Our book manuscript metamorphoses magically, from week to week, while holding our best thoughts within the vaulted bank of itself, where it collects and compounds interest. These are vital reasons, all.
Even more vitally, our book gives us our own humanity. Once in print, it offers our individual expression of humanity to countless seen and unseen others.