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Winemaking

Okay, so I’ve been a bit remiss on the old blog-making front.  It hasn’t yet been a year since I last checked in – but it would be if I waited another week.  All I can say is, I’ve been busy.  The book.  The travails.  The rewritten, completed manuscript.  The publisher interested.  The publisher suggesting a Fall ’09 release date.  The publisher offering a contract.  The contract signed and countersigned.  The distributor’s deadline approaches.  Some questions about the title working or not working.  Different ideas for new titles going back and forth.  World around us in economic collapse.  And … publication date delayed.  Not just the title problem.  The industry problem too.  That is, people aren’t really buying books in these ‘tough economic times’.  Especially from an unknown, uncredentialled, below-the-radar luminary such as myself.  The understanding at the time was that it was only delayed for three months – but that has translated into an unconfirmed length of time.

I did talk to the editor assigned to me, trying to get a sense of where it all stood, and she told me, in effect, that there were too many words – which reminded me of the Emperor telling Mozart, “Too many notes, Herr Composer”.  The problem is, it’s not a book that can be edited without leaving a hole.  It would be like pulling strands out of a basket and expecting it to still stand. But her comments sat with me, and I talked to the publisher, who loves the book, and he allowed that, yes, if it were shorter, it would be easier to market.

Now it was never my intention to write a tome.  I don’t really enjoy unwieldy books myself, and strove with mine to make it as concise as possible.  So I thought about it, and I realized that the only way to shorten the book would be to journey deeper still into its material and find a simpler grace to it, a more precise pivot point on which the material as a whole could balance.  That realization was enough to draw me into the valley of the shadows of sensing, questioning, flailing and finding – and though it felt a little like tearing myself asunder, I did get there, and came back to the surface world of light, like Gilgamesh with the life-giving plant clutched in his hand,  equipped with an understanding of that deeper grace at the heart of the book.

What bringing that grace to the book has meant is that the scaffolding that was necessary to support certain ideas can be done away with, because they arise naturally from a deeper place now.  So although the book will have lots of new material, it will actually be a shorter, more coherent read.  A little more direct, too, I think.  And perhaps a little more challenging in a good way, too, in that it comes at some ancient, unseen paradigms with cleaner vectors.

It is, as I pen this, though, the sheerest agony, jettisoning polished phrases, polished chapters, and starting with a clean slate, and allowing the book to become what it needs to be.  And knowing this is the fourth time I have rewritten it.  The pain of the process is compounded by the fact that I haven’t earned much money while working on the book over the past seven and a half years,  and I don’t know how long it will take.  Can’t know.  The pain, of course, is matched by the joy, the profound pleasure, of doing what I must, discovering more and more clarity in the book’s expression of itself, and keeping the faith that, as my grandmother used to assure me, these things have a way of working out.  So the writing continues.  And the way it feels to me is almost as though by tearing the book apart and recreating it, I am doing the same thing to myself.  I am reminded of a poem by Rumi, translated by Andrew Harvey in his book The Way of Passion:

The grapes of my body can only become wine
After the winemaker tramples me.
I surrender my spirit like grapes to his trampling
So my inmost heart can blaze and dance with joy.
Although the grapes go on weeping blood and sobbing
“I cannot bear any more anguish, any more cruelty”
The trampler stuffs cotton in his ears: “I am not working in ignorance.
You can deny me if you want, you have every excuse,
But it is I who am the Master of this Work.
And when through my Passion you reach Perfection,
You will never be done praising my name.”

To which I can only reply, tears in my eyes, “To winemaking!”

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