PORTRAIT OF A PEOPLE
Book Progress Diary
Writing a book and publishing it has been one of my dreams since I was a little girl. Even before I could read, I would glue sheets of paper together and scribble on them, pretending that I had written a book.
For a decade, I used to write texts and hide them and discard them. Unrelated texts, ranting, swooning, decrying, whatever made me want to say something. But all those texts were no book material. Maybe a collection of essays, but they didn’t make up a coherent story. I was frustrated.
It was only when I met my dad at age 35 that everything else started falling into place. I remember the moment I was sitting with him in the lobby of the hotel we were staying in for the weekend while I was attending the writers’ workshop in Birmingham. That’s when I thought: this is it – I want to share my story. This story. All of our stories matter. All of our stories are unique. So I want to start by sharing mine; maybe you will want to share too.
I thought I might as well document my writing process here. For extra motivation. I plan to publish my first book on my 40th birthday. That’s the plan. Like my editor said: “You make plans, and then life happens. Be aware of that.” It’s my aim, and I will continue, even if I am not meeting my writing target for the day. I am too far into the writing process for it to stop.
My first draft has been written, and it all comes down to editing and adding material. I have chosen November 13th as my editing deadline. It’s the date I will send my first draft to my editor. My book comprises 40 stories, so I have decided to set aside 40 days for me to work on my book consciously. 40 is a spiritual number. Make use of that.
Day 1: Day one went well 🙂 I sat down, lit a candle, became spiritually attuned, and got to work. I was so happy and so proud. Writing should always be this atmospheric.
At the same time, life happens, and I know I should enjoy those beautiful moments because sometimes writing means jotting down a few words in my notebook between doing the laundry and driving the kids to music lessons.
This past decade I have read a ton of books by writers about writing. And what they keep emphasizing is that you need to carve out time for writing whenever you can. The perfect time slot won’t show up. You can’t always take out time to sit down and write unless the writing is your major source of income. And that’s okay. If you are willing to be a writer and if you are willing to show up for your dreams, write down that one sentence that shows up for you instead of waiting for the pages to fill diligently and sitting down for hours.
Day 2-7: Bummer. Today, and days 3-6, didn’t work out at all. I didn’t write or edit anything. I am disappointed in myself. I was drained after running errands, working, and playing all day. I couldn’t force myself to write some more.
I know it’s human, but part of me berates myself. I want to work on that: embrace my progress and those days when I can’t fit any writing in anymore. I want to remind myself that I have come this far. That I am writing. That progress is taking place. And that the quality of my work does not depend on me forcing myself to knuckle down. Quite the contrary, actually: The more I enjoy the time spent writing and editing, the more productive I will be. Happiness breeds success.
I once read that procrastination is not laziness but an effect of trauma. I am wondering whether my resistance to more writing is related to the hurt that might come up when confronted with my writing. Or am I just tired? I will keep exploring.
Day 8: Finally sat down to keep writing and editing. Stories 2-8. I feel the resistance kicking in. “Why do I want to do this? I could just stop the project. It doesn’t matter anyway. I’m tired. Should I go for a swim instead?” The small voice in my head is berating my creative process and progress.
Listening to music before starting to write usually helps. It got me through writing my final thesis when I wanted to become an English teacher. I used to listen to “Sand and Sky” by Paul Kalkbrenner each time I set out to write. Today I felt like listening to Emma Bale. It’s a melancholic song. Melancholy can set the mood for expressive writing. And off we go. See you in two hours.
“Sky and Sand” – Still as excellent as I remember it. A quick throwback to 2011 when I was writing my final work thesis. I wrote about “the function of children as narrators in adult fiction.” That feels like such a long time ago. Since then, I have changed relationships, houses, and workplaces. However, my love of music, learning, and writing has remained.
Today, I am mainly looking for secondary material that I can include in my book instead of writing and editing. Now the past ten years of reading and research do make sense. Finally, because of my book, I get to share all the authors and quotes that have inspired me over the years. That’s awesome. You never know when the things you love will come in handy. “Follow your bliss” is not just any old saying. It is everything.
I wish I could say writing a book is easy. It is, and it isn’t. Writing the first draft was pretty straightforward. The memories draw you into a meditative state that propels your writing forward. Then the editing demands all your conscious concentration—making sense of the feelings and memories and tying up all the loose ends.
Turning the unspoken into the word is an art that takes patience and courage. Sometimes you get it right, and sometimes you don’t. And then you start all over again until it feels right.
Stories 1-20 are first time edited. There is still a lot of editing and inserting secondary material to be done. But right now, I have reached a point in the writing process where I am looking forward to doing more work. It’s like when you are trying to let your hair grow: at one point, right at shoulder length, you are dissatisfied with what it looks, and you are pondering another shorter cut. You can make it when you get past that point and ride it out. I made myself sit in the discomfort, in the perceived “ugly”, and made it to a “maybe” – to a “this is fun”.
“Hi. Where have you been?” That greeting made my day. I accomplish most of my writing in a cafe down the road. I can quiet my mind best when some hustle and bustle is happening around me. I can observe and be part of everyday life while at the same time being engrossed in my mind. I feel taken care of and looked after, safe to hang out with my thoughts, memories, and past and write it all down.
I am going through all the books I have read over the past ten years to find secondary material and quotes to support my writing and stories.
Re-reading my favourite authors and texts makes me think about all the places and spaces I have been to and all the people I have encountered.
This part of the writing process makes me incredibly happy. It comforts me to see that it all makes sense in the end.
I haven’t written or posted anything since November. So instead, I started a new project, designing and selling tiny greeting cards. I call them “love notes” because the project is about sharing small heartfelt messages with the people in our lives.
Maybe the project is partly about avoiding writing. My editor edited my book the first time, and now it’s my turn again to work through his notes and comments, integrate his beautiful work, and create a more substantial body of writing.
On the one hand, I am so happy and grateful for all his work and that progress is happening. Yet, at the same time, the more concrete the book becomes, the more resistance I experience.
Somewhere I read that the more resistance there is, the better the path you are walking on. So that’s why I keep writing – that and because I enjoy myself. So stay tuned 🙂
Integrating my editor’s notes feels daunting at the moment. There are so many things I want to change for clarity and structure that I am tempted to just give up.
But then I start reading what I have written, moving me deeply. And maybe reading my book will move some other people too. Comfort them, make them see that we are in this life with our struggles and stories and always have a choice. I know it sounds cliché, but it’s true: we always have a choice. So I choose to keep on writing because partly I can’t help it. The urge to write is more potent than my fear, resistance, or doubt.