I know some of you could care less about writing a book, and I also know some of you will be reading this blog based solely on the title, hoping I might possess the secret to publishing success. In the interest of full disclosure, perhaps a more accurate title for this post would be How To Write A Book - Step 1 of 300, because I’m pretty sure there are at least 299 more things I still need to learn before it's all said and done. But for now, let’s stick with Step 1: Wherein I Disclose The Magical Ingredient Necessary For Writing A Book.
Oh, except it doesn’t involve magic.
The past several weeks have been a little trying around our house. (If you’ve been reading my blogs you’ll know exactly what I mean when I say the horse barn has been seeing a lot of action.) Anyway, I won’t bore you with the details because I know you’ve had similar weeks, in fact many of you have had much, much worse, and so my goal here is not to convince you that my level of rage, frustration, disappointment, sadness, exhaustion, anxiety, worry, and/or regret is any worse than yours, only that it’s necessary to frame my current mindset. So just imagine a time in your own life when you’ve felt completely overwhelmed and you’ll know exactly where I'm coming from.
For 7 months, 2 weeks, and 3 days I have been actively involved in the writing of this book. (Yeah, I double-checked the numbers--nerdy, right?) Throughout those weeks and months I have made incredible progress, it’s true, but I have also suffered from debilitating doubt, countless setbacks, innumerable wrong turns, and more modifications than I could count. I've also been internalizing the alarming truth that this book will not happen unless I make it happen, which means I must somehow figure out the secret to writing success. At the same time, I continue to be a wife, mother, sister, daughter, granddaughter, and friend, which is to say all the people in my life continue to count on me. My kids still count on me to pay attention to them when they come home from school, to drive them around to friends/activities/appointments, and to gather them around the table when it’s time for dinner. My friends still count on me to call, my parents still count on me to care, and my husband still counts on me to be sane. Which is to say that none of my relationships have altered—everyone still needs me to be me.
The combination of these realities has produced some serious misgivings. Am I doing the right thing by writing a book? Am I striking the right balance? If I am doing the right thing and I am striking the right balance, what makes me think I have even the foggiest idea of how to do it?
Then, last night, I realized I know exactly how to write a book.
Months ago I signed up for an evening class on helping elderly parents remain at home and independent. However, I was somewhat reluctant because evenings are the sacred domain of family and relaxation; in fact, I hate giving up my evenings almost as much as I hate running and that’s saying something. But in a burst of optimism (I’m sure I won’t be exhausted/overwhelmed/grumpy by the time May rolls around) I went ahead and committed, paying the fee in advance as a form of insurance.
Well, you can probably imagine. After surviving the past few weeks, the very last, and I mean the absolute last thing I wanted to do with my Wednesday night was to haul my sorry self down to the classroom and sit through 90 minutes of PowerPoint slides enumerating the risks to an elderly person’s independence.
I probably already know what she’ll say, I mutter to myself. What a waste of time--what were you thinking?
Seriously, Mother Theresa would give you a pass on this one—she knows you’ve been through the wringer and she certainly wouldn’t want you to suffer. As if I had any right to channel the opinion of a departed saint, let alone a faulty opinion.
I even went so far as to drag my husband into my rationalizations: I’m thinking about skipping the class tonight…having a beer and doing absolutely nothing. Does that make me a bad person? God love the man, he managed to be both supportive and cautionary in the same sentence: I don’t want you to go either, honey, but you’ll probably regret it later if you don’t….
Sigh. So I trudged into the house, gathered up my notebook and pen, and drove to the class.
And therein lies the secret for How To Write A Book: put one foot in front of the other.
I wish it were sexier than that, I really do. I wish I could say it had something to do with courage or brilliance or The Mysterious Muse, but it doesn’t. Instead it has everything to do with putting one foot in front of the other, going to sleep, then rising again the next day to do it all over again. For weeks, months, years; whatever it takes. In fact, I'm doing it right now, here in front of this computer. In this moment when all I want is to give myself permission to drink that overdue beer and do nothing, I am forcing myself to do the opposite. Why? Because I committed to writing these blogs and I know that if I let myself off the hook too often, they won't happen. The book won't get written. So I drag one foot, kicking and screaming, in front of the other, and I keep going.
That class I was so sure I knew everything about? I didn’t. I came away with information I doubt I could have found on my own, data that will probably show up in the book and help someone out.
So if you're having one of those days or weeks, or god-forbid months or years, when you just aren't sure how to accomplish whatever it is you're facing, please know this: I feel you. I really do. And it's OK. You don't have to be saintly or brilliant or perfect, just try and put one foot in front of the other and know that I'll be right here, doing exactly the same thing along with you.