Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Five Remembrances

By Amy MacKinnon

I've written in this space before about the Five Remembrances of Buddha:

The Five Remembrances
1. I am of the nature to grow old. I cannot escape growing old.
2. I am of the nature to have ill-health. I cannot escape having ill-health.
3. I am of the nature to die. There is no way to escape death.
4. All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature to change. There is no way to escape being separated from them.
5. I inherit the results of my actions in body, speech and mind. My actions are the ground on which I stand.

Though I'm not a person of faith, these aphorisms appeal to my sense of perspective on the world. To some, they may appear bleak. To me, they are a way of coping with the inevitable. Acceptance is a powerful thing.

How does it all apply to this writing life of ours? When we dream of the possibilites of having our words appear in print, we may include buckets of money, best-seller status, glowing reviews in the New York Times, scads of charming notes from readers, and, if we are so bold, a place on a certain talk show host's nightstand and then her bookclub.

And so you should dream. Dream beyond all reason, but be prepared to balance out the glory with the guts of this business. Prepare yourself so you don't succumb to either the glory or the guts of this business. Seek balance. Know that you're never as good as the sycophants claim, nor are you ever as dim as the critics proclaim.

As many wonderful experiences as I've had over the past ten months, and I know just how blessed I am, I am prepared for the downside of putting myself out there. One week before publication and already people are wondering about the details of my personal life, how they measure up to the trauma of my protagonist Clara Marsh. Others will criticize the writing, the subject matter, the overall quality. I am now fair game. For someone who's spent most of her life hiding among the shadows, I expect some days the naysayers will engulf me. This is the price we pay.

So here are my Five Remembrances for Publication

1) I am of the nature to become irrelevant. I cannot escape being irrelevant.
2) I am in the business of being harshly critiqued. I will be cruelly critiqued.
3) I am of the nature to fail miserably. There will be times when I will fail.
4) My words are of the nature to be misinterpreted by those who cannot understand their intent. There is no way to prevent this.
5) I inherit the results of my actions in body, speech and mind. My actions are the ground on which I stand.

You'll notice I didn't change a word of the fifth one. No need. From this point forth, that's all I can control.


A big thank you to blog friend and dear, dear reader Larramie. Your post on Tethered is the most magnificent review a writer could ever dream of. I count it among the dearest gifts I've yet received.

Happy launch day, Kristy Kiernan! You know her as the author of Catching Genius, but her second novel, Matters of Faith, is out today and you will love it. It's already an IndieBound pick for September. If you haven't pre-ordered it, I urge you to run out to your local indepedent bookstore today and grab one for yourself and another for your best friend.


Carleen Brice said...

I LOVE THIS POST!! As someone who's re-reading When Things Fall Apart (and getting it much more this time around) and as someone who has experienced some much unexpected ill-health, this really hits home and feels right. (Why so unexpected?? It happens. It's part of life.) The Buddha's Remembrances and your's about publishing. I'm printing this post to keep. Thank you!

Larramie said...

Life happens. Yet, through it all, we hopefully grow stronger, better and much more accepting. Hmm, now why does this remind me of Tethered?

As for the post, Amy, it was my way of thanking you for writing/giving so much of yourself in an incredible novel. And others needed to know, allowing them to respect as well as relate.

P.S. How about another copy of Matters of Faith for a family member?!

Amy MacKinnon said...

Carleen, it's true that ill health strikes us dumb. But after dying and then coming back, it's something I live with always. I certainyl don't fear it, but I'm aware it will be. Doesn't it help to know that in some strange way? Find peace and contentment in the prayer garden. That's about the most wonderful concept I've heard of all year.

Larramie, excellent idea: buy yet a third copy of Matters of Faith for a family member!

Kristy Kiernan said...

Hell, grab one for the dog. Isn't it time they learned to read?

Thanks for the shout-out, but also thanks for the post. I didn't find it bleak at all, I found it calming and true.

Therese said...

Yes, as Kristy said, "calming and true."

If I didn't already know you were ready, this post is proof. So wise and well said. :)

Carleen Brice said...

Amy, You had a near-death experience? Would love to hear more.

Anonymous said...

For the first time, these past few weeks, I have experienced fear. The fear of war, is something life altering.
This post is part of the healing process as my fears are now gone. At least for now.
Amy, you put things into such good perspective. Thank you.

Amy MacKinnon said...

Kristuy, hope your launch day was beautiful!

Therese, thank you and congratulations on your latest two-book deal. Amazing!

Carleen, let's someday soon have some Orange Mint & Honey tea and talk.

Usman, I think of you often and wonder how you and yours are coping. Personally, I've always wanted to go to war, to have my metal tested, but I would find it unbearable to live among it with m family. My thoughts are with you.

Shauna Roberts said...

I missed your earlier post about the Five Remembrances, so thanks for posting them again. I've printed them out to hang in my closet to remind me.