Book Review: How to Write a Book Proposal
John Keat's Sonnet "When I Have Fears" (1818)
It is ridiculous to equate this immortal sonnet written by the poet, aged 22, looking straight and courageously at the face of death - with the prospect of sitting down to write.
"When I have fears that I may cease to be
Before my pen has gleaned my teeming brain
Then on the shore
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think
Till love and fame to nothingness do sink"
But somehow, this winter, when I accidentally stumbled upon this masterpiece and its interpretation by David Lehman while reading the weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal, I did.
Life changes irrevocably as one experiences the death or disappearance by dementia of one's parents. Death, even if witnessed through a tragic or untimely friend's passing, is no longer a mystery; it entered the intimacy of home. A day doesn't pass when the memory of my mom or the last days of my mother's life slips into my consciousness and I must work to swat the intrusion away - lest it become too painful and even debilitating. This memory comes on like a spirit, washing dishes or taking a walk in the woods. I will never admit to someone with a more recent loss of one's mother, that it 'gets better,' - it doesn't- I miss her everyday; and the older I get I understand her struggles more - they are like mine - and I am sorry that I could not have been more of a comfort to her. This is perhaps the worst of it.
Keats wrote in his diaries and letters, quotes Lehman, "the excellence of every art is its intensity, capable of making all disagreeables evaporate."
This is why I write - for when hitting the rhythm, the right notes with the tapping of the keyboard or the etching of ink and pencil on the page, time doesn't have its weighty responsibilities, its' endless and boring to-do lists, errands, or chores. It flows. But why, when I read Keat's title, "When I Have Fears" and Lehman's reflection on his sonnet entitled, "Staring Into the Abyss, Boldly," did I think of the task before me - starting to write my second book?
Even though when I am writing I am most content, the idea of starting my second book is like having a great, unnameable fear (that doesn't have anything to do with death). Its like "staring into the abyss, boldly." For I know what makes me happy, and yet, days turn into weeks and I haven't written a thing - except for the usual journal entries and business writing that supports my life.
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