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What Pilgrimage of Desire Means to Me

In order to stave off depression …
We must decide what we want our lives to mean.
We must take life seriously.
We must make ourselves proud.

On Launch Day for Pilgrimage of Desire, I wanted to share a few thoughts on what this book means to me, or more precisely, what I’ve made it mean, why it matters to me, why I feel good about the time and energy I’ve spent on it.

What Pilgrimage of Desire Means to Me

Pilgrimage of Desire has given me hundreds of hours of enjoyable writing time: the thrill of conception, the challenge of development, the puzzle of revision. I have solved many emotional and logistical problems during the course of this project. I will always remember with delight all the places I wrote it: the library in Detroit, the airplane to Hong Kong, beside the pool in Malaysia, in the car in Holland, at my Suite Genius co-working space, during Just Write meetups, and at Eric Maisel’s Deep Writing workshop at Hollyhock.

The book stands as a beautiful record for myself, my husband, and my children, chronicling important events in my life and in our year of Operation Hejira.

The process of discussing the book with my family was daunting and painful at times, but very productive in bringing us closer and helping us know each other better.

The impact on people who read it gives me great joy. I am already hearing from readers who are writing more, making more art, and taking steps to live more authentic lives, and it’s a privilege to play a small part in that. I want others to be happy and do what they love.

The money I earn from the book is meaningful insofar as it allows me to create a meaningful life for myself and my family and serve my clients better.

I’m happy with the way that I’ve navigated the self-publishing process, learning what to do, finding people to help me, and making difficult choices along the way.

Seeing the manuscript through to completion even after circumstances changed a lot ~ this is an expression of my genius, Wrestling the Angel, and I find it deeply satisfying.

I’m so proud of the actual writing ~ the book as a finished product. I’m really pleased with how I found and sustained a style that worked, came up with the structure very intuitively, and worked with my editor, Brenda Leifso, to make sure that everything served the story and the reader.

Coming up with a marketing plan and building a network that will help me get the word out has also meant a lot to me. I love having a reason to make and sustain relationships with colleagues.

There are also ways in which this book is not meaningful ~ places where it leaks meaning. It’s good to name these places so they’re not as dangerous to my mental health.

Where Pilgrimage of Desire Doesn’t Mean

Sales numbers and bestseller status are not very meaningful to me right now. I do care about getting the book out to people, but I don’t find much motivation in hitting targets for their own sake.

I worry that the book is not helpful enough. I worry that my approach to the topics of depression, creativity, desire, and meaning isn’t comprehensive enough. (Basically, I am sometimes unhappy that my book is not someone else’s book. I know this feeling is silly, but I’m still susceptible to it.)

I am not satisfied with my approach to project management, leading a team, and planning ahead. This is an area I’m working on, but I feel I’ve let myself down to a certain extent. And that’s okay, I will live.

I’m not sure what to think about my work schedule. It has become important to me to have a moderate schedule so I can have flexibility around looking after my kids and not get burnt out, which means I’m not working much on evenings, weekends, and holidays, nor in early mornings. I’m not sure I’m happy with the current balance, so I’ll keep investigating that.

Our values can shift over time, and different ones take priority in different contexts.

In my late twenties, I would have chewed off my arm to finish and publish a book (I very nearly did).

Now, finishing and publishing a book is wonderful, but it doesn’t have to carry all the meaning in my life. I also have my work as a coach, my husband and children, my friends and family, my life here in Vancouver. The imperative to publish hasn’t felt so pressing, even though much more time has passed.

I kind of knew that my drive to put out a book would mellow, especially after having children, and it was one of the reasons I was hesitant to become a mother, because I wasn’t sure I wanted that drive to abate. But it has, and I’m good with that. I am more relaxed about the whole thing, and that’s been beneficial for my health and happiness, as well as for my output as a writer. Sometimes too much wanting can be an obstacle to creation.

If Pilgrimage of Desire has been meaningful to you and you’d like to support it, here’s what you can do:

1. Tell your friends about the book by email and social media. You can link to the book on Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, or elsewhere, or link to the book page on my website.

2. Buy a copy of the ebook for a friend. Here are instructions on giving a Kindle book as a gift.

3. Post a review of the book on Amazon. Reviews are a huge help for a book’s ranking, which means it gets more visibility and sales.

I would love to know, what meaningful project have you been working on lately? Where are you doing yourself proud and taking life seriously? Please let me know in the comments.

P.S. Hat tip to Eric Maisel for inspiring my thoughts and language around meaning today ~ I just finished listening to his wonderful conversation with Gregory Berg of the Life on Purpose podcast (formerly Radio Enso).


{ 2 comments… add one }

  • Daphne January 22, 2015, 8:42 am

    Hi Alison!
    I love how your book is more about asking questions than it is about answering them. I’m really enjoying reading it.
    Love your question: What meaningful project have you been working on lately? As a writer, I feel sort of between projects, and trying to be okay with the not-knowing.
    I miss the driving energy that comes when I’m working on something I believe in. Right now, there isn’t a story speaking to me, but I know if I can be receptive for a while, the story will find me.
    And your question: Where are you doing yourself proud and taking life seriously?
    I guess …I’m proud of myself for rushing on to the next project, for taking my own eccentric writing process for what it is. I accept that my process includes not writing sometimes!

    • Alison January 23, 2015, 9:09 am

      So good to hear from you, Daphne.

      You seem to be raising another question – does something have to be a project to be meaningful? I think a project provides a strong container for meaning, and holding meaning between projects is more challenging, as you say – I think it means looking for a subtler container, one that’s more journey than destination. Your trust that another story will come is part of that container, I think, and your love for your own process, and your patience. Thanks for playing with these ideas with me!

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