Writing a book is an amazing experience. I’ll admit, I didn’t have a clue what I was getting into when I started writing a memoir in 2019. I had no idea how to organize and prepare for such a large project. Ultimately, I just began.
I’ve learned some things in the last couple of years! Here are a few of my personal takeaways:
You’ll Need to Find Your Own Groove
When I knew for sure I was going to start writing, I researched how all the great writers structured their day – what time they started, how long they’d write before taking a break, etc. In order to be a real writer, I thought I needed to structure my day the same way. But I soon found that what worked for other people, didn’t work for me, and that showed up as a lot of stress. I needed to allow for the unexpectedness of life and be flexible enough to flow with it. I committed to writing every day, but within that, I took days off when I needed to, wrote at different times of the day to make room for family, friends and appointments and because I was living a nomadic lifestyle, had to be comfortable with being on the move and the challenges that presented. In other words, I found what worked for me.
It Will Take Longer Than You Think
This point probably shocked me the most! I had no way to even ballpark this, and my inexperience had me thinking I’d have a book at the end of a year. I’m not saying it can’t happen, but now that I know more about the various parts of the process and the amount of editing that goes into it, my expectations are much more realistic. And it’s not just the formal editing, it’s the editing that happens because you’ve evolved as a writer over time. I’ve learned so much along the way; from research, from my editors and from myself. It seems like the editing will never end! I think it’s really important to resist the urge to rush. Sometimes you may need to sit with an idea or lean into a memory. We may not remember details, in the case of a memoir, until we’ve given ourselves time for thoughts and sensations to surface.
Don’t Forget to Enjoy the Process
This one is a big one for me! I still have to really work at it. I’ve prioritized my writing so much that it’s easy for me to overdo it and lose life/writing balance. I try to stop at some point every day and breathe, smile and remind myself I’ve created this beautiful writer’s life and to lean into the beauty of it. It’s easy for me to get so committed to writing that I forget to simply stop and enjoy the moments as they’re happening. But, I’m getting better at it!
You Will ‘Unfold’ as a Writer
This was an exciting discovery for me. I started to see the difference in my writing style from when I’d started to when I finished. The first draft was essentially an exercise in getting the story down, from beginning to end, and I knew I’d be going back through it to make changes. But I also noticed there was something happening that I think has been really critical, especially in the case of an emotional memoir: I started to relax. Little details started to come back to me as I became less afraid to write the story. There was a tenseness at the beginning, both physically and emotionally, that could only be worked through by spending time with the story. I needed to let go of the fear, get comfortable and allow it to come through.
If You Really Want to Write a Book, You’ll Make it Happen
This is obviously true with anything that’s important to you. If you really want something, you’ll find ways to work around any obstacles or challenges that come up. Don’t give up, don’t think you can’t prioritize it, don’t let anything or anyone stand in the way of you accomplishing your goal. It won’t be easy. You might get lonely. You might have to make sacrifices. Sometimes, you might seriously doubt yourself. But if you’re determined and you’re disciplined, you’ll write that book. My life changed dramatically just as I decided to write my memoir, and I immediately doubted I could write through the instability and uncertainty. But I soon recognized that amidst the challenges, the show must go on.
I’m still learning. I’m still growing; as a human being, and as a writer, but I’m totally up for the adventure.
What would you add to this list? Feel free to add a comment, it’s always great to hear about other writers’ experiences!
Photo by Carol Good – all rights reserved