Naomi Rose : The Value of Completing a Book...
The Value of Completing a Book and Giving It to (Yourself and) the World
By Naomi Rose
I'm going to tell you a story ~ backwards as well as forwards. It's about the Rose Press website. But it could just as well be about the book you write, or have, or will. Or about some yearning inside you that seeks expression in form, and won't leave you alone until you bring it into life so that it has a life and is available for others to feed from.
On Thursday, September 16, 2010, the Rose Press website finally went online. It had been just about a year since its inception when I first decided to put together a website. (The file I started of the correspondence with the web technician, to keep track of things to do and changes to attend to, starts on September 15, 2009.) Little did I know (much like with writing a book or having a child) all that this website would entail. But still, one begins out of some desire, or a combination of desire and necessity. One begins.
So on the day before the site was due to go online ~ September 15, 2010 ~ having delivered every correction to the web technician (me insisting on every comma, on italicizing every book title), I sensed something coming, something connected with the immanence of the website's "going live." What I hadn't expected was this profoundly limitless sense of opening that arrived fully dressed inside my heart ~ this sense of expansion, a horizon almost tasted that was not quite yet in sight. Earlier on, when I was writing and illustrating the website and then all the myriad details of getting it online, I couldn't have anticipated this horizon. But there it was, something-I-knew-not-what; a presence of something not yet known.
And what this tells me is: we cannot, beforehand, know the exact nature and presence of what we are birthing, as we work in our art, our craft, our message. We cannot plan that. We just have to keep staying as true as we can to our inner promptings and take each step, and correct each misstep as best we can. We cannot, beforehand, know the enormity of what we are bringing forth, or how it will give us a larger version of ourselves to ourselves, any more than a pregnant couple can know how they will feel when they gaze into their newborn's eyes, the gripping love that will bind them for life to this mysterious and precious being. We can only give ourselves to what we do, and then be there for the work and for the gift.
Details took up a good four months of the making of the Rose Press website ~ the pickiest of details. Getting the artwork scanned; making sure that every comma, every opening parenthesis, every image-alignment on the page put up by the web technician was just as I intended. Over 129 pages of email correspondence between us over the course of a year logged lists of phrases to refine in print ("set 1 size large font"; "add 2 line spaces above the top of the heading"; etc.), text- and image-positioning instructions, in and amongst the more personal pleasantries. I had never really considered myself much of a "detail person" before, but now I was astonished to negotiate ways of dealing with things on this admittedly intricate website; to find solutions to things that the technician said were not possible. From being a private perfectionist in my art, I became a witnessed, public perfectionist ~ the real thing out loud. "God is in the details," after all. I just hadn't realized how many details there would be, or how many I would stand up for.
"I am done!" the web technician emailed me more than once, when I knew we were not. "There are still these few things," I would write back. And somehow, between us, we found ways to deal with the "few things."
When an email came from her, on September 16th ~ "DONE." ~ and we really were done, at once, interior Trevi fountains opened up in me, endlessly cascading water rising up in the light; sparklers, etheric fireworks, vast inner distances of joy. I had not expected this level of joy. The shift from the long duration of seemingly endless labor to the sudden emergence of this astonishing new life was overwhelming (in a good way); ecstatic. The caterpillar in the cocoon cannot conceive of the butterfly. I had wings.
You Can't Always See the Path Until You're Looking Back At It
Driving home from my studio, where I had received the declaration, "DONE" on my computer, when I parked outside my home I wasn't ready to get out and resume life as usual at home. First, I needed to sit in the car and savor this opening: to be with it, to look back on how it had come to be. Up till now, although there had been creative work (the writing, the illustrations), I was mostly in touch with the work of the website: the laundry list of things, each next requirement squeezing out awareness of the one before it. Now, the path behind me opened up of its own accord and revealed the high points of the journey, both the hard parts and the parts I loved ~ what I had given myself to, not knowing how it would come together, or even if. Just listening as best I could to what called inside, and following, wrong turns and all.
From behind the wheel of my parked car, my mind went back to the initial urge to write a website, without any idea of what should be on it. Taping blank 20 x 24 sheets of newsprint paper onto the back of a wooden screen in my studio, I hoped that each sheet would tell me what the pages of the Rose Press website would be. Some days I could hardly bear to turn the screen around and look at the blank pages waiting for me to know something and turn them into something. But then little bits of ideas would come, like marginal scribbles on a napkin, and I would put them down on the pages. Gradually, these scribbles began to reveal what that page could be about. But it was just ideas, no writing as yet.