19 Dec Still, I write…
I haven’t said much about this until now.
I have been working on writing a book about writing a book (ready for this??) for the past 10 years… Now, that doesn’t mean I have worked on it constantly – I have in fact put it down and walked away numerous times. Then, there have been the times when I say I will finish it but don’t follow my own advice (in my book!) to create enough structures to stick to my commitment and move through my fear. Yes, fear. Even after all these years in the writing world, having published 3 books, coached other authors, taken (and taught) numerous courses, read countless books on writing and more recently having agented others, I still have my own fair share of fear about facing the blank page and putting myself out there.
Last year at this time, I made a promise I would finish this book. I’ve been in a committed writing group since the six of us met at Laura Munson’s Haven workshop in early 2017. Since that time, our group has had monthly calls and meet twice a year to love on each other as well as support (and critique) each other’s writing. I have brought other writing projects to our group, but not until recently did I get serious about this book.
Here’s what I had done in the past: I had wonderful assignments that I gave to my coaching clients over the years and was using them as chapters. I wrote essays about the writing process and sprinkled them in between. I wrote about finding your topic, cultivating a writing practice, writing a book proposal, getting and agent and getting published. I made outlines and lists of what I should cover. Then I put it all away. Then I would start again with another outline (forgetting to revisit my earlier outline) then start all over again. I would re-write and edit (and edit and edit) the beginning but never quite let myself finish. I accumulated an overwhelming amount of content that became a stressor in itself —and still never had an ending. I moved everything to Scrivener (GREAT writing software, check it out) and then moved it back to Microsoft word, I printed it out and put it in notebooks. And, still didn’t finish…
The irony was not lost on me that I was writing a book about writing, yet not quite writing it.
Recently, my beloved writing sister Nancy gave me some (what sounded like) wise and stern advice. She said, “Kristen, my love, just let yourself sit down for 15 minutes a day, let whatever comes, come, be gentle with yourself, write it one word at a time”. And, I said, “Oh, wow Nance, I needed to hear that!” She laughed (kindly) and said, “Kristen, it’s from the pages of your book!”
Ah, how I needed to hear that. I had already made a huge commitment (as I said) at the beginning of 2019 that this year I WOULD finish – and had consequences in place. Throughout the year I practiced some good structures – i.e.; putting writing time in my calendar and treating it as I would treat any other important occasion or appointment. Then other times, I would overwrite my scheduled writing, putting anything else first. I had days of editing where I realized I had some really good stuff – and I had other days where I hated every word (I don’t mean this lightly – for some of us, the critic is LOUD – and YES – I talk about this a lot in my book!).
Then the fall arrived, and I counted the few months I had left, knowing that no matter what I would finish it but still was not quite putting as much effort as I knew it needed.
Fast forward to November. Let me just say that it truly was a busy year as I have many amazing clients, I am agenting and finding homes for their books – and this takes a lot of my brainpower as well as my creative energy. I LOVE this – and am blessed to have this for my job. AND, it doesn’t exactly give me the brain space to do my own writing. I often jot notes but those just end up being more potential content – and really ends up as mental clutter. I have re-edited the beginning of the book countless times at this point both on my own —and with the help of my brilliant writing group. AND, I still didn’t have an ending and worried I had thousands of words left to write.
SO – what I know about myself is I work well under a true deadline. I forgave myself for not doing my writing hours over the last few months (and even a lot of the summer) and after meeting a new author who is in the perfect position to be a beta reader of my book as she has just started writing and doesn’t know much about the wonderful world of publishing, I made a promise to her to turn in a rough draft NO MATTER WHAT on December 24th at 8pm —and I blocked out 5 solid days in my calendar to complete this monumental task. Now, I don’t recommend that anyone binge write (or edit) necessarily but I already had so much content and was close to a rough draft albeit one that needed heavy edits, some re-organization and that ever-elusive ending.
RIGHT NOW, I am part way through day 1 of my 5 day retreat having gone to sleep last night with anxiety and some tears about what I might face in the morning — and this morning, I sat with my coffee in a borrowed Tiny House with no dogs, no phone, no internet, said my mantras, lit my candle, patted my own head and began.
What did I accomplish so far? I hand edited the ENTIRE draft and found an ending. I let myself put some placeholders where I started to get stuck – and kept going, instead of overanalyzing and over-editing. I gave myself the gift of seeing it as freshly as I could (hand editing helps this, read more in my book soon :-).
What I am reminding myself is, I may face my inner critics again when I go to sit back down —but the next step is inputting my hand edits back into my word doc, adding what needs to be added —and then I will print again (yes, on recycled paper) and do one more hand edit.
THEN, on December 24th at 8pm I will turn it in. I will let myself know it is still a rough draft. I will get feedback from a potential reader, run it by my writing group, edit again – then bring on a professional (already picked out amazing brilliant) editor who will help guide me to the end.
I see the light. And, it is good.
For me, each time, it has been like this —the ups and downs, the doubts, fears and wanting to give up—yet the stronger voice underneath all of that that declares — THIS SHALL BE. And, I shall do this.
I know I can. I know this because I did before (even though sometimes this seems a distant past). And, I know it because I know who I am and have worked hard to get here.
So, I write this for you, dear sister-fellow writer on the path to publication. One step at a time, one word at a time, we get there.
And, to help you get there, I will get my book out into the world as soon as possible!