Celebrate the Important

The author Stephen King celebrates finishing a novel with a ritual. He knows when the last word will be written, and he plans the celebration, which is simple (and not scary).

Ritual is important to us as humans. Celebrating should be. It doesn’t have to be fancy or elaborate, but when something goes right, it’s a good idea to celebrate.

So this week, when I came back from the photo shoot in Cincinnati, I wrote the introduction, the dedication and put in the final patches of items that needed changes. I sent it to my editor, and then the book’s work was done. Yes, there will be edits, yes there is a lot of work to be done, but the writing part is complete.

I kept working till supper time, fed the cats, and then invited Cooking Man to dinner at our favorite Vietnamese restaurant. It was a cold night, it had hailed in parts of town, and we picked out ways through melting ice to get to the restaurant.

It felt good to eat without racing through dinner. It’s good to share a meal when you feel satisfied that a two-year-long project has come to an end. There was hot tea instead of champagne, and pho instead of caviar. But it was a satisfying celebration.

We downplay important occasions. We know what to do on Valentine’s, but when it comes to creating our own celebrations, we stall. Here’s a checklist for celebrating:

1. Talk about your emotions–what was hard to overcome, what makes you happy.

2. Give a name to what you are celebrating. Create your own name for the day if that makes it more special.

3. Plan a special meal. You can share a meal, celebrate on your own, go out, eat in. But it should be a special time where you talk about triumphs and joys, not bills or hardships.

4. Wear something special, buy flowers, or put out fancy placemats. Listen to music that makes you feel happy. Don’t rush through the celebration.

5. Take a photo, write in a journal, do something to remember the day. Feel the happiness in your bones. Let it soak in. You earned it!

–Quinn McDonald is writing another grammar book for a client. She’ll use it for years, but it will never be officially published, just photocopie


Finishing the Book

Dawn in September.

On January 11 of this year,  I began writing my book. The book contract has been approved, the schedule set. Today I finished the book. The last two days were the worst. Not because I was sad, but because it was the finishing-up part. Charts to make to verify other people’s Gallery entries. Charts for my own images in the book. How-to books are complicated. Counting to make sure I had all the steps in the right order. Making sure the image name in the text matched the image in the photography folder. The ugly part of writing a book.

But then it was done. I sat there, staring at the thumb drive that held two gigs of words and images. For about an hour, I didn’t know what to do next. I felt cut loose and drifting. Nine months ago, Raw Art Journaling: Making Meaning, Making Art had been a concept. Now it’s a group of files. Next June it will be a book with an ISBN in the amazon.com warehouse. It does not feel like giving birth. It does feel like a lot of work.

There is a lot to do yet. There will be galleys to proof and changes to make, but for right now, my part is done.

For all of my life, I’ve been a night person. Over the last nine months, I’ve slowly become a morning person. I’m still fighting going to bed, but I don’t want to miss dawn. I love the dawns coming up behind the palm trees. I love watching the sun slide from Southeast to Northeast and then back again. I love walking in the early morning, before a lot of people make the streets busy. That very quiet time in the morning let me meditate, walk, think, and write. I would hate to lose it under a pillow.

What’s next? Right now, that’s not important. I just want to sit here and hold still, listen to the clock tick. Because the book is really finished.

Quinn McDonald writes for Somerset Studio magazine, and is a certified creativity coach.  Quinn  has just completed her second book. She knows there will be a third one.