How The End of My Book Wrote Itself

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Lisa is a freelance writer, consultant and life coach. She has her BA in English and Creative Writing from Princeton and her MPA from Harvard. Lisa recently finished the first draft of her book manuscript, Burning Down the House. Her dream is to publish this first book and teach the world how to discover their hidden joy. Her post day is Tuesday.
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For a woman who has a book due in two weeks, I have been rather busy lately with everything but writing: entertaining house-guests from Mexico City and Boulder, Colorado; going out salsa and 80s dancing; participating in a workshop with my spiritual teacher that I organized; posing for pictures as a “muse” for a painter friend; rearranging all my living room and dining room furniture; and of course doing my usual client work, logging gym time and meditating.

Whew! I exhaust myself, just reading about the week I just had!

Strangely enough, I don’t feel that this whirlwind of activity is about me “avoiding” the writing. Of course, procrastination is a technique and skill I have honed over a lifetime, and I am rather good at it, if I do say so myself.

Yet this time around it honestly feels as though the book is simply percolating inside me, words and scenes bubbling up and rearranging themselves, and when I sit down at my laptop in a cabin in the woods the week before it is due for my self-created “Writer’s Retreat” – it is just going to pour out of me.

The Sounds of Silence
The week before my book is due, I will “unplug” from my iPhone, Facebook and Gmail and lock myself away in a beautiful cabin, alone with my laptop, my writing vision, my thoughts. I have been on weeklong silent retreats before in which I “unplugged” from the world, talked to no one for a week, and I loved it.

This will be a different experience because rather than doing yoga and meditating and chilling by the pool, as I have done on past silent retreats, I will be finishing a book. No biggie!

I have been working on this book for almost a year now, which seems surreal. I have been blessed enough to document my progress and share my dreams, my successes, and at times my frustrations, here.

This Dream Team at 8womendream and all of you, reading this, have kept me going during the bumpy patches, cheering me and infusing me with the energy that I needed to stay on this writing journey when I got off track. Thank you!

So Why Am I So Calm?
Oddly enough, despite the fact that I still have 30 pages left to write and a whole manuscript to finish editing before October 12th, I am feeling remarkably calm. In fact, I cannot detect an ounce of panic anywhere in me right now.

I attribute this in part to the fact that I meditate for a half-hour daily, and have for years, which helps me maintain my equilibrium and sanity on the inside no matter what is happening in the outside world.

In spite of my innate sense of calm, one could still conceivably argue that I am doing myself and my book a disservice by not focusing on it exclusively in these last few weeks. And in fact, I have not been prioritizing it completely for the past month and a half, which has by the way been the best month and a half of my life so far.

These have been the happiest days I have ever known, filled with fun, friends, adventure, mini-miracles every day, and other big dreams in my life manifesting in surprising and beautiful ways.

I met a spiritual teacher who feels like a spiritual soul-mate from another lifetime, and we are going to collaborate on teaching workshops together in India. Meeting and collaborating with Nithya Shanti is a dream come true.

I have also fallen in love.

And What Exactly Does This Have to Do With My Book?
You may wonder how and why this is relevant to my book. If I am truly honest with myself, and you, have I allowed myself to drift, not focus, lose sight of the most important priority here ~ completing this dream?

I would argue, no, for a few reasons.

First of all, I have been steadily working on the book for nearly a year, making incremental progress, and am actually in pretty good shape as I near the “home stretch.” This is just a first draft manuscript, after all, not the final version I will later submit to an agent.

In two weeks, my writing coach will edit the rough version to help me determine if the structure, plot, characters, tone and themes work, and then I can get busy polishing my writing.

I can easily write 30 pages in the next week ~ five pages in a day is a breeze for me at this point, since I’ve been in the regular flow and rhythm of writing for months now ~ and then hide myself away in the cabin in the woods to edit the manuscript for a week straight.

It can happen, and it WILL happen.

Second of all, everything that has happened in the past miraculous month and a half ~ the happiest little moment in time in my life so far! ~ has been woven already into the tapestry of my life, and it will help determine how my book will end.

How Will My Story End?
When you are writing a memoir, you have to decide at what point you will begin the story, and what point you will choose as the “end.” Obviously it doesn’t always make for the most exciting story to say, “I was born in….” and to end with “…and now I live in Troy, NY where I am a freelance consultant and writer.” YAWN!

To make a memoir truly relevant and exciting, it’s necessary to extract only the stories and details from our lives that fit into the context of the particular story we are telling. In this case, I am telling a redemption story about how I overcame trauma and suicidal depression to create a joyous, magical life in which I love every minute, living in bliss.

So I skim over my childhood and skip straight to the “trauma years,” when my life crashed and burned for a while. I talk about my journey from there ~ the travels, the loves, the losses, the spiritual path, the continuous and serendipitous adventures.

By the time we get to the end of the book, I am a happy woman, at peace with myself and my life.

But What Is The Climax Of The Book?
That said, I still have to pick a scene to use to “end” the book. In Eat, Pray, Love Elizabeth Gilbert is “crossing over” to an island with her Brazilian lover. Pretty romantic and sweet!

I am still deciding “how” the book will end. There is no traditional “Hollywood, ride-off-into-the-sunset” ending here ~ because the whole point of the book is that joy comes from inside, that happiness is a choice, and that it is not dependent upon external circumstances.

That said, it seems to be working out conveniently ~ for the sake of my story, and my life! ~ that I am happier than I have ever been, and have plenty of miracles to pick from to share as part of the book’s conclusion.

Essentially, I feel as though my book has been busy “writing itself” for the past month and a half ~ in the form of my magical and wondrous life, which will be featured in the book. My life IS the story here.

And The End Remains A Mystery, For Now…
It would be a “spoiler” for me to tell you here how I think the book will end. And besides, my life is still unfolding day-by-day in the meantime… Who knows what will happen next that might make it into the book!

What is especially beautiful about my life right now is the fact that many of my childhood dreams are coming true, seemingly all at once! Since I believe that we “write our own stories” by choosing to create a vision for the future, and believing in it, and walking into it, I am proud of myself for making these dreams a reality over time.

How would you like YOUR story to end? What would you like to have happen next in your “Book of Life”? Why not write down your vision for the best possible future this week, and then live your way into it?


Lisa of 8 Women DreamLisa is a freelance writer and consultant who has published articles, essays and poems in journals and newspapers across the United States. She has her BA in English and Creative Writing from Princeton University, and earned her MPA at Harvard in 2005. Lisa launched her dream to write her first book by signing up for Ellen Sussman’s “Memoir-in-a-Year” class, speaking her story out loud at a Take Back the Night rally. She recently achieved another milestone — 250 pages written in her manuscript! Lisa is bi-coastal with her home in Troy, New York and her heart in San Francisco. Lisa is also a lindy hopper, blues dancer and belly dancer. She has traveled extensively on four continents. Lisa’s post day is Tuesday.

  • Heather Montgomery, CEO & serial entrepreneur

    Congrats! I can’t wait to see your book at the book store, and to hear the falling in love story!

    You rock – H

  • Julita, a mother, former Electrical Engineer, a nurse soon to be FNP

    agree with Veronica above, you saying and ‘i fell in love’…shows that you have reached your vision for the best possible future!!

    so proud of you and I think the way you look on the outside shows how you feel on the inside, you look so beautiful, glowing with happiness like a little girl.

    I also think that it is hard to believe that it has been a year since you started your book, making me realize that time waits for nobody, every moment counts.

    enjoy your retreat, and keep us posted.


  • Mariska Smith

    Congratulations!!! I can’t wait to read the book. Your man is hot. No wonder you are in love! :-) M

  • Veronica

    WHAT??? In one sentence you said : and I fell in love…..shit girl, you just accomplished my dream. I am so proud of you, now tell me how to do it. :-)

  • Toni Schram

    Can’t wait to read how your book climaxes!

    What an incredibly intense writing endeavor this must have been for you. At the same time, a very freeing one.

    I’m so damn proud of you and wish you all the best!

    Love ya-


  • Remy, Photographer & CEO of Cornerstone Creative

    Lisa, Congratulations! What an incredible accomplishment and you have shown us all how how to stay true to your dreams and stay open to possibilities. When you look back over the past 12 months, I wonder how much of it surprises you – and how much you planned for….like, if you were sitting here a year ago, planning what 2010 would be like, would you have written out all that has happened in your life this year? Hmm.

    I wonder! How much of what you have now did you create with just your intention to have it! You are a very strong person, I’m guessing you can create whatever it is you want for your life.

    As for the end of your book? How do you end a story that isn’t finished yet? I’m guessing that some of your ending will be asking what if, or now what? and lead us to the “next installment” – lol. I’m sure that your coach will have some great thoughts for you as you rework your drafts.

    Have a great time in the woods. Looking forward to hearing all about your experiences soon.

    xox Rem

  • Catherine Hughes, Editor & Chief

    Congratulations on everything Lisa – what a journey this has been! I think your journey has turned out so well because you enlisted feedback, asked for help, were open to hearing it (and changing) – and poof – a new life.

    I was reading a great blog yesterday, and the writer wrote one of those passages where the reader has an “Aha moment”. She wrote, “In order for your dream to come true, and your life to change so you can obtain what you want – you must change into the person who matches what you are seeking. You cannot stay the same. You would already have what you dream of if you were the person that matches it. If it’s not in your life, you must change.” Now I am paraphrasing her, but I set back and thought, “so true”.

    I am still thinking about it this morning in fact.

    I am asking myself what areas of my life do I need to change to bring more of my dream more fully into my life. I have received so much great advice from top bloggers and people in the publishing business – have I changed enough? It’s a great question.

    Thanks for being an inspiration, for coming on this journey with us and for showing up every week and giving us your best.

    Big hug, Cath