Writing a book can be more of a mystery than a chore, more of a spiritual journey than a total act of will. And because the alchemy that goes into writing a book is invisible to everyone but the writer until the book is available to be read, it’s difficult to show this process directly. As readers, we don’t necessarily want to know all the details of the behind-the-scenes part. We want the magic, the finished opus—we want what ended up as the book (after the “cutting room” has had its due) to be able to work on us, without interference. In the moment of reading, we don’t need to know that an author agonized about whether to include this phrase or that. We just want to receive the best of what was eventually put together. We want the distillation.
“The act of distillation is the process or art
whereby the invisible is made visible”
—Jeanne Rose, aromatherapist
I love to use the analogy of distilling roses into natural perfumes and essential oils, in offering parallels to the process of writing a book. To me, it’s a perfect match—though book-writers might not initially think in these terms as they step across the threshold of their writing-desire and into the (at first daunting) unknown. The daunting aspect is "What do I do? Where do I begin? Where is this book going? Do I have it in me?" Yet that same unknown also calls the writer towards what is not yet visible, but beckons to become so.
Distilling rose petals into rose perfume, a chemical interaction, operates with a formulaic certainty. But distilling writing into its alchemical equivalent promises no such certainty—at least, not in the beginning.
So the alchemy of book writing proceeds step by step into the unknown of oneself, until the veil has lifted sufficiently to reveal the glory of what has been seeking to be revealed. And like the perfume-makers, the writer (often unwittingly) plays all the parts of the distillation process—save one.
The writer is the rose garden (or acres of rose fields) that will be harvested to produce the bewitching scents.
The writer is the harvester, rising at dawn to pluck the fragrant blooms in their perfect moment.
The writer is the worker, hoisting the sacks of rose petals (soft and fragrant, but bulky) into the truck, driving the truck to the distillery, spreading the petals onto the floor to reach the desired state, placing them into the still (alembic), and monitoring the progress of their transformation.
So what part of the writers’ distillation process is not similar to the process of distilling perfume from roses?
The transformative process, itself. The part where the writer, and the writing, become fragrance.
This is something that writers (indeed, all of us) can set the stage for, but cannot directly make happen. It happens in us, through us, rather than by us. We have to open to the “Something Larger” that holds us, works us, and distills us. The Something Larger that reveals the essence of our own composted material (our personalities, as well as what we have created), refined out of the "lower nature" (the unworked clay) of our being. This is a transformation that many devoutly seek, and it takes place in the heart. When it happens, it changes our outlook, our centering, our inner evolution . . . and what we desire to contribute, and are capable of contributing, to the world.
A person can certainly go through this distillation process without ever writing a book. But writing a book from the deeper Self is one way to go through this distillation process and come out the other side. For those who write books, the "perfume" is not only the book, but also who they have become in the course of the writing process.
And for those who read books, the perfume is who they get to become through reading the book that reveals their inner fragrance.
So when you read a Rose Press book, you can know that the equivalent of the 10,000 rose petals that are gathered to produce an ounce of rose perfume has happened inside the writer . . . and that the fragrance in the book that’s distilled from this process is being released just for you.
When 10,000 rose petals are gathered in the dark of early morning, placed into retorts filled with solvent, and heated over time until their oil rises as a liquid distillation, then you have just 1 ounce of that most prized (and expensive) of aromatics, rose essence (rose absolute).
In the same way, Rose Press books are the distillation of their authors' essence, refined over time and many revisions to bring you into contact with the gift of something fragrant and indescribably beautiful within yourself.