The First Year After

Kachina angelAfter what? Any major life change. In my case, publishing my book, Hand in Paw. That definable action of publishing the book created a marker for notable change in both my external and internal orientation.

I’d been intensely engaged in writing Hand in Paw for over four years, followed by fine-tuning and formatting for another six months. The formatting period did provide a step back from intense engagement, but I wasn’t prepared for the great shift from writing to marketing.

In the process of writing such a personal book the project itself becomes a living entity. I was engaged in a relationship with it, bringing this living entity into the light of the world. It’s a lot like pregnancy, gestation and childbirth. There came a time when I needed to release this child into the world. But a parent still tries to guide and help, support and protect. Writing and pregnancy are very similar processes. Except in this case the pregnancy was a lot longer than nine months!

Marketing and writing take different kinds of energy. The two activities employ different parts of the brain. Writing is an internal creative process. Marketing is an external linear process. It’s difficult to do both at the same time. I found that when my focus shifted to marketing, the part of me that was given to writing didn’t disappear but went into near remission. I wrote small articles and a few blog entries, but nothing major. Thoughts and tentative reaches out into other projects kept the creative flame alive, like a pilot light, but the drive to write or to engage in a large project was gone. I worried about that. The animals didn’t though. I stayed in communication with Tyson, Buki, and the other animals who were part of the book. They encouraged me to trust the process and let my energy help Hand in Paw on its journey into the world—to share their stories.

There’s a flow to writing a book—or attempting any creative effort. I found myself wrapped up in the unfolding, all the pieces and parts between beginning and ending. They flowed together and became a process rather than a project. Suddenly, when Hand in Paw went to publication, that flow turned off. Engaging in marketing was a much more challenging process for me. Absent that writing focus of my life, my day, my breath, my energy—physical as well as creative—I was left to sort out, who am I?

Who am I now that I have entered this marketing phase? How do I handle my energy? What are my next best steps? Engaging in marketing was a challenging process for me. It did not flow. I found myself standing as a stranger in my environment, looking around, reevaluating, regrounding myself in my surroundings.

I started cleaning out nooks and crannies—a nesting activity—and tying up loose ends that had been left dangling while I was immersed in my book. I began reevaluating obligations and commitments, and divesting myself of those that didn’t fit. I released things that were no longer useful, even ones I had once treasured. Books—they were the hardest to release. I also reevaluated where I spent my time and energy.

As busy as this year of marketing has been, when compared with the solidity of the time working on my book, it felt formless, untethered.

Yet I found myself able to do more in the community and the world of marketing, such as being present and engaged with passers-by at a book fair for two solid days. In my previous career with a nonprofit agency, I had done that kind of outreach easily, but it would have been incomprehensible to me to do it for my own work. I wasn’t comfortable at the book fair, it pushed my boundaries, but I did it—even when one of the questioners became hostile and screamed at me, “Don’t put your mumbo-jumbo curse on me! You’re evil, you hear me? EVIL!” After he stormed off, people from surrounding tables asked, “Are you okay?” And I was. None of the invective stuck to me. I was and am okay, and I can learn to do things that I previously thought I couldn’t do.

As I fulfill this year of marketing Hand in Paw, I find myself thinking, hmmm maybe it’s time to shift gears again and begin my next project. And which will that be? Out of several, which will call to me most strongly? My animal guides murmur in the background, encouraging me to feel my way into my next project.

What is my next best step?

My “next best step” is a mystery to me, for I have become a new person through the process of writing and marketing Hand in Paw. I am not the same person I was when I began this journey.

With humility I seek guidance for my next best step, and await that answer.

Question for you, the reader:

What major changes have rearranged your life, time and energy? Retirement or leaving a job? Divorce? A death? Moving to a new community? Graduation? Children leaving home? Illness? All have the potential to create that pause and reset state. How have you adapted?

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"Animals are such agreeable friends - they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms." - George Eliot
"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated." - Gandhi
"There is little that separates humans from other sentient beings – we all feel pain, we all feel joy, we all deeply crave to be alive and live freely, and we all share this planet together." - attributed to Gandhi
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