Probably Not Dead

It has been, as they say, a hot minute. Several hot minutes, in fact.

Obviously, I have moved away from blogging. It’s not that I don’t want to blog–I very much do. It’s that I have limited time to spend on the project that is my book and I decided that it’s in my book’s best interest if I spend more time editing and less time blogging about editing, travel books, and travel theory books.

See, I have an allotted amount of time each week to spend on editing my book and all book-related activities (reading comp titles, blogging, reading editing books, reading travel theory books, reading about upcoming travel book releases, (theoretically) posting on social media, and so on) and I feel that I have been sinking much more time into the latter, when I should be focused on the former. Also, I’ve been avoiding the former by focusing on the latter.

This should not be surprising to anyone who has worked on or is working on a book. We find all sorts of ways of sabotaging ourselves via procrastination through through related, yet ultimately unproductive things. Why we do it? I suppose that’s unique to each of us, yet there’s likely commonalities across the board.

I’m a bit frustrated with myself, if we’re being honest.

I have all of this free time and, yet, I don’t maximize my use of it. One would think that I would have editing this book six times over by now, but I haven’t. If I would just put in the time and focus, it would be long done.

But I sit down to edit and I squirm.

It’s not that seeing issues with my own work bothers me–it doesn’t. If I can read something I wrote that I thought was perfect and spot dozens and dozens of flaws, that means I’ve developed as a writer. Not only that, but I can fix it, I can make it so much better than it was and thus give the reader that much more of an experience.

It’s not that it is tedious to me–I find it fascinating. Reading my own work, doing the breakdown to determine its issues, figuring out how to best fix those issues, fixing it by applying theory of what the human brain does when it reads… it’s exciting. If someone makes the mistake of asking me about my process or editing/reading theory, I’ll launch into a very passionate (and very one-sided) discussion about structure, word choice, mimetics, language, and how we process language.

It’s just draining. It requires so much focus, and not just regular focus, but intent, insane levels of focus that are mentally exhausting. I can only do it for so long each day before I have to stop and do something entirely unrelated.

I haven’t found a rhythm. I haven’t found a schedule. I haven’t found a way to spend more than two or three hours on it (at most) a day, and I certainly don’t do it seven days a week.

I feel wasteful. I feel slow. I feel inferior. I read on Twitter that so-and-so edited their entire novel in three months and I wonder if I’m doing something wrong. If I’m approaching it wrong. I see authors publishing more than one book a year and I can’t help but wonder if I’ll ever publish three books in my entireĀ lifetime because of my speed–well, my lack of it.

And I wonder, and I hope, if I’ll get faster each time. That, because I’m spending so much time getting to know my trends of errors, because I’m spending so much time learning how to correct them, that my writing in the future will be better. That my editing will take less time. Or that I’ll get used to it, so I can do more of it each day than I’m able to do now.

I think it’s worth it. I think that the one chapter I applied my edits to is one of the best narratives I’ve ever written. It’s not the most beautiful or insightful, but it is a complete chapter that pulls the reader through, puts them in the moment with me, which is what I’m looking to do. Otherwise, my book would read like many of the poorly written travel books I’ve read: “we got to the restaurant and ordered three beers, drank them, and walked down the palazzo.”

There’s nothing in that sentence. No scent, no image, no taste, no color. The reader is distanced.

There are many sections in my book like that. I didn’t see them when I wrote it, but I see them now and they’re lead weights or helium-filled balloons, boring slideshows of summer vacation photos you foist on your friends upon your return.

I’m fixing them. I don’t want this just to be a travel book that tells stories of my road-trip adventures, I want this to be a travel book that puts the reader in the passenger seat of my car, that lets them roll down the window and smell the summer air as it blows across Midwestern cornfields.

But it’s a slow process. My husband doubts I’ll finish, give my pace. Sometimes it feels like I’ll never finish or, if I do, it’ll be fifteen years from now and so irrelevant by that time it won’t be worth publishing. And I worry that, by the time I’m done, that I’ll have put all this work into fluff. That maybe it won’t be as insightful and as inspiring as I hoped it would be.

I’ve been readingĀ Figuring by Maria Popova this week. Many of the women she writes about took years, sometimes a decade-plus, to finish their masterwork. Many of the women she writes about were suffering from some ongoing malady that impacted their ability to work, much like my still undiagnosed issue that will incapacitate me for days at a time. It gives me both hope and inspiration that these women, 150 years or more before me without access to the thousands of resources at my disposal, were able to pursue and complete their creative and scientific goals.

Onward, as ever.