Baby’s First Cry

December 11, 2010

I just finished writing a book.

Just this moment put the period on the final sentence.

Just now.

(Yes, it’s that same one I mentioned last month, here and here. I did manage to conquer the getting-started part!)

It’s only a first draft, so there is much revision and work ahead — but if books were babies, this would be the moment where we would hear that first bleating cry.

Oddly, as I walk around the room contemplating the act of completion, it seems to have untethered me from time. (Something like Vonnegut’s Billy Pilgrim, I suppose, but in very different circumstances.) Which is bringing out reflections on the truth about time, something I think about more and more.

In my youth, everything had an urgency to it. Of course, as babies that urgency is amplified to the point of hilarity—giggle, cry, scream, sleep, all in the span of ten minutes. As teenagers, it is hardly less strong (or, at least at times, less hilarious).

As we grow older, things gradually seem to feel less urgent.

The tyranny of must-have-right-now eases off. Memory’s event horizon stretches out and out, and the illusion of time begins to hold less sway.

I am coming to realize — not just to know intellectually, as insights from Einstein and Heisenberg and the other guys, but actually to perceive — that the passage of time is a trick of perspective, an illusion. Time is not a string strung between two tin cans, a mountain ridge across which we perilously creep.

In actuality, we do not move away from point A and toward point B. It is more that points A and B slip in and out of us.

In fact, we simply are, and the we right this moment includes within it all that we ever have been and all that we ever will be.

My parents, both deceased, are alive right here and now; the follies of my youth (and oy, they are many) make me blush, laugh, and learn, all right now, because they are here right now. I look at my wife and see the adorable, precocious, vulnerable 6-year-old perched just millimeters below the surface and often spilling out directly onto the surface.

This is hard to put into words, this visceral perception that I am not moving “through” time at all.

Reviewing my favorite sheet of affirmations, I look at the phrase “My books have sold eight million copies.” This phrase jumped into my head in 1998. Of all the books mentioned on my web site, not one had yet been written or even conceived of. But the statement felt real. It feels real today. Because it is.

I used to think that affirmations were simply a form of self-hypnosis, a hope couched in the language of assertion. I don’t see it that way anymore. The future is not something that “is going to happen,” it is simply another layer of the onion of our eternally now existence.

I often forget this. The more the urgencies of the moment claim my attention, the more I am drawn back into that infant state: “I want my bottle, and I want it now — or I’m gonna scream until I get it or knock myself out: waaaaa!”

But every so often, and more and more often these days, it floats back, especially in those moments when my mind and senses drift to events and people long past, or to circumstances long future … and I realize I am not projecting the architecture of hypothesis out along a rickety temporal framework, but am reaching my senses out (or is it in?) to touch larger dimensions of this glorious moment.

I’ve said it before: Writing a book doesn’t feel like building something from the ground up, out of little pieces. It feels more like unearthing something that already existed, whole and of a piece. And you know? I think that’s exactly what it is.


  1. Mary Heglesen Gabel


    I am stunned as I read your words. While I haven’t written a book, my father has. Being a graphic designer, I turned it from words on a page into a printed, hold-in-your-hand, listed-on-Amazon reality.

    When the finished copy was uploaded to the printer, “contemplating the act of completion, it seems to have untethered me from time,” was exactly my experience. I’m still trying to reorient myself two weeks later.

    My father’s book, which he will sign for family and friends at his 90th birthday party on Dec. 26th, is both a genealogy dating back to 1370 and an autobiography. So your perception, “It feels more like unearthing something that already existed, whole and of a piece” is exactly what it is.

    I love having you put into words what I’ve just experienced.

    I was also stunned by your affirmation and how true it has become. I am part of the same company that you and Ana are with and that brought clear to me another piece of how to draw the future into existence.

    I’m a big fan of your (and Ana’s) work.


  2. Mary Jo Hughes

    Happy to hear you completed you book.
    May you have a very Merry Christmas, give my love
    to Anna
    Mary Jo

  3. Michelle @ Following Your Joy

    Hi John,

    Sincere congratulations to you on completing the first draft of your new book! How very exciting!

    Your perspective on the book, a baby, and life – gives me an overwhelming ‘peace’ about the present moment and is a reminder that “it’s all good.”

    It’s funny, I often say that my very favorite part of my coaching work is helping my clients “become more of who they already are.” It’s similar to that ‘unearthing’ process you describe.

    Enjoy this precious time and have fun with your book! Cheers to you!

    Peace and Happy Holidays to you and Ana.



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