The Lonely Road

Writing a book is an emotional experience, at least it has been for me. Of course, I’m writing a memoir, so maybe my experience is different than other writers writing different things. I’m pretty sure we all share one thing in common, though, and that is the lonely road. The road we walk as we write a book from start to finish.

I am a loner. I like being alone. The lonely road is curvy and hilly and very bumpy. There are days I feel like I have on no shoes, and the map is completely wonky. I look around and see no one.

We all toil alone. Ultimately, it is just the writer and the draft. The writer putting in the time while the story reveals itself, both in the writers’ mind, and on the page.

Right now for me, the draft on the page is not meshing with the story in my mind. As I read through the work so far, I find that something isn’t quite right. When things aren’t right, I freeze up. Why write more words when the whole draft needs torn apart and rewritten?

Also, I made a mistake this week, I think. I shared my work with someone whose work I respect and admire.  When they offered to read and help – I jumped. Probably too soon. WAY TOO SOON. After a lovely exchange of messages and despite my best instincts, I sent a chapter. It’s been a week now, and I haven’t heard anything. I’m in agony, thinking I’ve blown this opportunity. Was my writing so hideously sophomoric? Did I offend in some way?  Have I made a complete fool of myself? How did I not see that big typo before I sent it off?

Those questions sit heavy upon me as I look at this mess of a draft. It all kind of makes me want to cry. It’s a despair of the soul, realizing how much fucking work I have left to do before I can call this a book. And realizing: asking for help is hard. Sharing work is scary at first.

I have a strong spine, but thin skin. We are our own worst critics. I just need to be patient. With myself and everyone I meet along the way.

While I don’t mind being alone on the road, this section of the road is absolutely desolate. The offer of help was a mirage. There is no relief. No water. No shady spot to sit and rest.

So, I have to keep walking. This road will lead me to somewhere.

What is funny is that last week, I was pretty sure I was 80% done and close to being finished. This week – it’s the exact opposite. I’m 20% done. Nowhere close to being finished.

This is the lonely road. I can’t talk about it with ‘normal’ people. My husband just looks at me like – how hard can it be? Write the stupid book! (At least I have a spouse that supports the general idea of me being a writer and understands my need for solitude. But nitty-gritty details and general bitching? His eyes glaze over.)

My book needs a complete structural edit. After staring at it for a couple of days, I opened a new document and started cutting and pasting, just for fun. I moved Chapter 5 to the beginning. The first four chapters will now be used as narrative and flashback. I’ve got to learn to write all the transitions. Everything is tied together in my mind, but now I need to tie it together for the reader.

I could be three weeks away from being finished, or three years. Who the hell knows? I’m not sure I’m built for that kind of stamina, and I’m tired.

I’ll keep walking. Slowly, carefully, with purpose. It doesn’t matter if I ever hear from that other writer. It doesn’t matter one bit.

It hurts, but it doesn’t matter.

All I know is that I’m not at liberty to stop writing this book.

And if I see you on the road, wobbling and tired, I will offer you my hand in friendship and tell you:

Keep walking.

(Edit: I heard from the writer just hours after I posted this. Great feedback! Still, lots of work to do.)

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