I am an unpublished writer, writing my first book. I just hit 80k words on a solid second draft. I’m almost done, and then on to the editing/rewriting.
I think it’s one of the toughest things, being in this limbo state. I don’t know what the future holds for this book, but I am excited about it in a way that quivers deep in my belly. Good things are going to happen, I just know it.
But I’ve got to get this book done.
I go to bed thinking about it, and I wake up early to write on it every day.
The thing is, though, I’m not a fast writer. In fact, I’d say I’m pretty slow. But then, I talk to other writers and tell them where I’m at, and they say, wow, you’re making great progress. It’s a matter of perspective, really. There are all kinds of examples of fast and slow writing.
It doesn’t matter, though. Writing slow is better than not writing at all, and I was not writing at all for many, many years. Decades, even. I felt like I was dying inside. That feeling went away once I started taking my work seriously. That was 30 months ago, in October of 2014.
Be Quick, but Don’t Hurry. It’s a saying that Coach John Wooden used for his players. I’m getting quicker, but I refuse to hurry. I’m establishing my muscle memory as a writer. Grooving those patterns into my brain so that they become second nature. To me, quick is efficient, hurry is sloppy.
Rather than feel like I’m dying inside, I’ll just keep writing at my own pace. I’m too old to beat myself up over it.
My friend, Sam, just sold his second book, and is working on his third, in less than two years. He specializes in a specific genre of non-fiction, for a specific market. He blogs, he travels, he speaks, he gives workshops and is busy, busy, busy. He is a real go-getter. I’m super happy for him and I love watching him go after his dreams. I’m learning a lot from him.
But, I know in my heart that I’ll never be the kind of writer he is. His thing is his thing. The work he is doing is important, and it’s HIS work, his vision. I can’t be him and have his career. I can only be me, I can only share MY work, and my vision. And I am 100% OK with that. I cannot compare my speed, my style, or my project to what he is doing. We are in different lanes of the highway. He’s quicker and more strategic. He’s a planner and a performer. His vision is clear.
I honestly don’t know if I even have a vision. I’m finding it as I go. I’m OK with that, too.
All I know is that right now, I am writing a memoir. A deep, dirty, painful, magical, awesome rock n’ roll memoir. I’m digging stuff up. I’m seeing patterns in my life. I’m seeing themes and connections from childhood that are still impacting me. There are memories that are only beginning to make sense to me, now that I’m looking at them as an adult, and from afar. Sometimes I need to really think about it, or research it, or I’ll reach out to people who can help clarify. Sometimes I’ll have vivid, amazing dreams in which mysteries are revealed.
Sometimes I just need to sit with it all and have a good cry.
In other words, I’m taking my time to deal with the shit that needs to be dealt with.
I never took the time to deal with it before. I was too busy. Too busy with school, with a big career, too busy with a marriage and two babies and a household to run. I was too busy trying to be perfect, too busy trying to make everyone happy.
I’ve always struggled with attention and focus issues. Distractions and multitasking are my two worst enemies and that’s all the world values these days it seems. Busy-ness is a trap, I think. If you’re a writer, you’ve got to be busy for the right reasons. You’ve got to say no to things, sometimes. You’ve got to keep your focus tight, and you’ve got to make room for yourself, as an artist.
Just like not writing, being too busy made me feel like I was dying inside.
And I was dying inside. One thing sure to make you slow down is a cancer diagnosis. All of my years avoiding issues and being too busy, too hard on myself, too perfect – it was literally killing me.
I’m OK now, I think. I’m on the mend. I’ve beaten cancer. I’ve been writing this book for two-and-a-half-years, through a tough cancer treatment, and I’ve got more work to do. But I’ve got a solid draft. A draft that I can mold and edit into something. I am not afraid of cancer anymore. But I am afraid of not writing.
As a new writer, there are a lot of things I’m supposed to be focusing on. Building a platform, blogging, connecting with others, sharing. Absolutely. I want to do all of those things. I AM doing all of those things. I’m making progress. I’m learning to prioritize.
But most of all, more than anything, I want to finish this book and be done with it. I have more books in the pipeline, whispering to me from the shadows. They need to be written, too.
I am not worried about being perfect; there is no such thing. But I do want to do quality work. And with a memoir, it takes time to find real reason you’re writing the book. You have to write the book to answer all the questions. The act of writing a book actually transforms you, because you aren’t the same person you were before you wrote the book. There is great magic in the act of creation, for the art AND the artist. But, you need to sit with things, sometimes.
You sit with your life and try to make sense of it, and sometimes it’s easy, and sometimes it’s goddamned hard.
At the heart of it, I am a healer and a comforter of people. It’s a role that comes naturally to me. Writing this memoir is my way of healing myself. By sharing my story, I’m helping others. The only way to help others is if I’ve taken the time to find the truth about my experiences, to find the common humanity that binds us all together.
If you are writing a memoir, be prepared to give yourself some time. Honor your story, but get it done, share it, and move on to the next one.
Be quick, but don’t hurry.