Writing, writing, writing… wait. What am I writing? What is the point? Who am I writing this for? Why am I writing this book?
I was doing really well for several weeks, writing every moment I had in bursts of focused energy. The first section of my book finished, six lovely chapters focused on the first few years of my daughter’s life. And then…
The focus vanished. The doubts set in.
One complaint about “special needs memoirs” is how parents take over their children’s stories and make it all about them. The child is lost under the parent’s struggle. I don’t want to fall into that trap. My daughter is the one who struggles daily with her disabilities. This is her life and I am telling her story in the hope it will help others. But am I actually including her in the storytelling, or just rehashing my own fears and triumphs?
I don’t know.
So now here I am, staring at my screen and the 100 pages I’ve already written, unsure whether or not to continue. Do I stop? Start over? Keep going? Chuck the whole book and go back to writing plays? Am I able to write the book I envision? Perhaps I don’t have the skill. But I have to try.
I’ll follow my own advice and go back to that basic question: who am I writing this for?
Answer: Parents of children with disabilities.
Why am I writing it?
Answer: Because I want to help them find joy raising their children and not be overwhelmed with grief and fear.
How will I do that?
Answer: I don’t know.
Fingers flying along my keyboard, I furiously write the first draft of my new book. I’ve given myself an unrealistic deadline: New Year’s Eve. Hiding in my room late at night when I should be sleeping, I write. As soon as I drop my daughter off at school but before my first client, I write. I forgo the gym, forget to check my email and never return phone calls. I write in a frenzy with an unrealistic deadline calling the charge. Who cares if it’s unrealistic? This is the first, rough, god-awful draft. Getting words on paper, or screen, is all that matters.
You heard me, I said god-awful rough draft. My sentences are incomplete and my thoughts scattered. Most of my scenes don’t make sense and will be cut. My characters are boring and my dialogue worse. None of it is any good. I know that, but I keep writing. It’s not supposed to be any good yet.
My first drafts are always terrible. I’m really writing a fancy outline, piecing ideas together like a puzzle, waiting until later to fill in the middle. Mostly exposition, I write down thousands of words each day as I try to create a cohesive structure for my thoughts. If I stop and worry about making the scenes strong or the prose pretty, I’ll lose the flow of the story, the heart that keeps the story together.
I love this part of writing a book.
Once the final page is written, I’ll let it breath for a few days. Then I’ll write again, cutting and filling and shaping the chaos I’ve written. With hard work the book will turn into something other people can read. That process can take years. I hope my rough draft isn’t so awful that I have to scrap the entire thing and start again. It happens. But I won’t worry about that right now. I’ll just keep writing, writing, writing, writing…
I hear it all the time: to sell books writers must be online marketing themselves. We need blogs updated four times a week. Active Twitter accounts and Facebook pages. Pinterest clip boards filled with images of scenery from our books. And now Instagram because people under 40 want to see us writing, not just read our Tweets.
How exactly are we supposed to get any writing done?
If I spend all that time looking for interesting things to post on my “page”, when will I finish writing a page in my book?
I’m sorry, but my life is not so interesting I think I should fill up the net with images of my toenails or what I ate for dinner. No one’s life is. But we writers will make things up to have something to share online. If only I could come up with that one clever Tweet that goes viral and suddenly I’m a star on line for a day. That one clever comment everyone will repost. My blog will get a bump and I’ll sell more books. It’s like winning the lottery.
If I spend creative energy thinking up funny sayings or hunting for inspirational quotes (which I do, I hate to say) then that is creative energy not spent writing.
Where is the balance? How do we write and still find someone to read it. Writing for yourself is no fun. Writing for thousands is thrilling. Or so I hear. Maybe if people like what I’ve written here in this blog they’ll share it and my blog will be featured all over Facebook. It’s worth a try.
Time to work on my book.
Writing is like exercise; you can have the desire to run a marathon or lift weights, but actually putting on your shoes and working out takes more than desire. You have to force yourself to go to the gym. Force yourself to sit in that chair with your laptop open and fingers hovering over the keyboard. It’s hard work. You have to build stamina and strength.
After a summer of entertaining a child, all I can focus on is “Animaniacs” reruns.
But my book is calling. I have a pile of notes and a complete outline. My plan is laid out. Now I just have to block out an hour a day and build up my marathon writing stamina. In time I’ll be humming through three hours of typing before my butt falls asleep.
Today, I feel like a jogger on that first, painful day.
1. Gather all the doodles, notes and outlines I’ve been writing in between taking care of Rhia and write the first draft of my memoir.
2. Take care of my own health. Get that mammogram and the labs my doctor told me to get in June. Get my teeth cleaned.
3. Clean five months of dog hair, cookie crumbs and dirt from inside my car. Wash the seat covers. On second thought, take the car to someone who will clean all that crap for me.
4. Watch Dr. Who season 8, which is finally on Hulu and which I’ve had zero time to enjoy.
5. Indulge in my favorite hobby, terrarium and miniature garden making. Make enough good ones to sell so I can buy more plants. Mostly, this will be the time to shut off “mommy-mind” and turn on “creative-mind.”
6. Finish a pot of coffee.
7. See friends, especially the one who was injured this summer and who I promised to visit. But I haven’t been able to go anywhere because child is not in school.
8. Contact former clients and connect with potential new ones. I need more editing and copywriting work. Got any? Drop me a line. Please. My kid spent all my money this summer.
9. Trim my eyebrows.
10. Write, write, write, write, write…. and do that some more.