Monthly Archives: June 2012

Things I’ve Learned While Writing a Book

When I first became single nearly two years ago I didn’t really know what to do with all my new free time. Even though I’m an independent only child, I wasn’t used to doing whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. I hadn’t really been in that position in over six years! It was overwhelming.

I wasn’t interested in going out and meeting someone new. I didn’t have the money to travel the world. I didn’t want to sit around and dwell on the relationship. To pass the time I started writing in my neglected journal.

Since Day One of working for the airlines I’d taken mental notes on the job and the people involved. Sometimes I’d write little journal entries about this or that but for the most part I’d just take notes on weird and fascinating things I encountered on the job. Once I had all my free time, I decided to organize my notes of observation.

Twelve years of notes gave me heaps of ammunition. It took weeks to scour my 2000+ pages of journal entries to find every single thing I’d ever written about my job. I grouped the notes into categories and those quickly became chapters. Once all the sentence fragments were properly grouped together in an outline, the book practically wrote itself.

In less than a month I had it all written out. All 250 pages. I was probably ready to move forward at that point but something inside of me told me that it wasn’t ready. For the next 16 months I edited and re-edited it to death.

Even now I know that it’s not exactly how I want it. That’s lesson #1 I learned in this process, it’s never going to be perfect so don’t wait around forever and wait for it to be. Thank God I had friends around me that forced me to let it go and get on with the next step.

Lesson #2 is that it doesn’t have to meet your ridiculous, unreachable standards in order to be enjoyed by others. Fear is probably the biggest hijacker when doing anything creative. Fear not only of failure, but also of success.

That brings me to Lesson #3, the creative process is by far more enjoyable than the result. I loved organizing all my points and arranging them just so. I loved expanding on all of them while I filled in the meat of the story. I was in heaven during those times. Now that it’s all done and I have nothing creative to do anymore, I hate it.

I’m sick of editing, proofreading, and fixing the formatting errors. There are mundane decisions to be made like which font to use and whether or not to have chapter titles or drop caps at the start of each chapter. Do I want white or cream paper? Then there was the cover and the description of the book and of me, the author. I ended up having someone do that for me because I felt ridiculous writing a glowing paragraph about myself. Actually designing the cover art was a lot of fun, it was just the details that ruined it.

Lesson #4 is what every one who has ever created anything has learned. It’s a cliché. It’s that you go through cycles of loving and hating what you’ve created. Lately I have more days of hating it and the only thing that really makes me happy about the book now is the thrill I’ll get of holding a printed copy in my hand and hearing my nearest and dearest say they enjoyed it.

I doubt I’ll ever read it again and I totally get why actors like Johnny Depp never watch their completed movies. I thought that was a prick thing to say but now I get it 100%.

Lesson #5 is that I suffer from postpartum depression. The second it was completed, I felt a hole inside of myself. I was totally empty. I missed that feeling of hope and purpose. I had something to do every day and I had dreams of how it may turn out.

That ended abruptly, even faster than that moment you have when you’re reading a really good book and then suddenly realize that it’s going to be over in a few pages. It’s depressing, even though you’ve loved it more than anything up to that point.

I think that’s why some people are so afraid to really chase their dreams. We need dreams and hope to keep us going. It’s really all we have besides our loved ones. If we put ourselves out there and fail, it’s very hard to get out of bed the next day or next month. There’s nothing left to believe in.

I think I’m not going to even pay attention to how my book is received. It doesn’t really matter and I have no control over it anyway. I loved writing it and I know my friends will enjoy it and that’s all I care about. I have already started my next outline and that’s what I care about now. On to the next project!