I feel like every stage of writing my latest book has been overwhelming. I’m even taking a break to write this post because I feel overwhelmed haha I don’t know that what I’m about to write will help with the feeling, but I hope to look back on this post one day and laugh about it all haha!
It’s hard to believe that a year ago I was deep into the process of writing Seven Lives. I remember, vividly, the sleepless nights…and the endless ideas. I recall running out of notebook and ink in my pens as I tried to capture every thought. There were even some nights when I ran out of steam and used a voice recorder app (usually around 3am) to capture future ideas that I didn’t want to forget. Ah…those were the days! haha
I repeated this pattern and wrote furiously here in Cabo Verde…then in Lisbon…New Jersey…New York…before finally finishing in LA, around four months after I began. I remember a brief moment of shock before I celebrated this news with my friend Linda. I remember treating myself to a massage the next day because my body desperately needed it. My Vietnamese Mama Lien infused me with great energy during that massage…and that helped as I had to face the reality of the 27 notebooks I’d created.
The next part of the mission was to type the notebooks. I started the process in LA, while I was designing/publishing my second book! I laugh as I think of how crazy I was to tackle both of these projects at once haha! Somehow, my amazing design, Dillon, helped me to get my second book,unbreakable, done in a month’s time. But I still had many notebooks to type up.
By this point, I remember that the notebooks completely filled up my carry-on luggage. I was so nervous about losing them…and they were so heavy! I decided that I wanted to finish up all of my typing while I was in Austin. That way I could leave the notebooks behind and not worry about my carry-on luggage being too heavy for international travel back to Africa. I spent so many days and nights typing. I’d usually stay up until 3am typing so I’d have time during the days to spend with family and friends. I remember my hands and body being so sore from all of the typing. My Mom was so sweet to celebrate every time I finished typing a notebook, but I didn’t feel successful until I finished all of them. And somehow I did. My gift to myself was a manicure/pedicure treatment, with all of the extras…plus a ninety minute massage. It helped tremendously. My parents supplied the celebratory vegan ice cream which was also amazing.
Then I remember having the typed file…my book in digital form! Except it didn’t look much like a book. There were large blocks of text…without chapters or paragraphs. Somehow, I had to turn all of that into a book. But after time in Austin, I had some great days with my sister and then I took a month off from all book related work. I got back to Africa and slept for weeks.
Around October, I started up again. I measured the progress of my edit and tried to keep myself encouraged. The first edit took ages. (And with the benefit of hindsight, I should have started with reading the Chicago Manual of Style before I went through the editing process haha More on that later.) Finishing the first edit felt great, but I knew immediately that a second review would be necessary.
The second review turned into a third…and then forth review. I was reaching complete burnout. I’d accomplished my goal of “completing” my book within a year of starting, but it still didn’t feel finished. I realized I’d need outside assistance and hired an editor to do a review and help with putting together documents to get an agent. At the same time, I was able to get my manuscript printed (pictured) and bound on the island. I decided that I should do the fifth review using a paper version. It was probably one of my best decisions, and I managed to read the entire manuscript, and make edits, within two weeks…a new record!
But then I discovered that my formatting was all wrong (I’d added a space between paragraphs instead of indenting…plus I had some dashes and quotations to fix, in accordance with the style guidelines). I told myself that I could fix these things while making other editing changes, and so I continued.
Now, I’m about halfway done…and feeling bleak haha A 1,200 page manuscript is a monster of a document, and I think I’m challenged by the reality that none of these stages of the process can be done overnight. It all feels overwhelming and I’ve asked myself–more than once–what I’m doing. Why am I doing this?! But this project begs to be completed. And I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t put forth my full effort to get it done right. Still, that doesn’t mean that I don’t feel overwhelmed.
The work is tedious…and often mind-numbingly boring. But I know that if I don’t do it, no one else will. And I know that if I hired someone else to do it, it wouldn’t feel like my project. I think books are like babies for authors…we want to raise it ourselves. Since I’m looking at going the traditional publishing route, I know that I have to prepare myself for feedback and suggestions that might require major edits…and I admit that I can’t wrap my mind around that haha But that’s something for another day.
For now, I have a stack of pages with changes that need to be translated to the digital version. All I know is that I just want to get through that. Hopefully, I’ll be wise enough to celebrate that milestone too :)
So now that I’ve unloaded that burden onto you (haha!), I think the message is that there are times when we feel completely overwhelmed by something we’re going through. But if we look more closely at that thing, we’ll recognize the pattern–it likely resembles something we’ve (successfully) gotten through before.
More than anything, I think these moments test our will–how bad do you want it? Often the thing that we think we’re working on is really just a metaphor for something else. For me, it always seems to be freedom. But happiness, peace, independence are all just as noble. Achieving whatever that is requires perseverance that has associated costs. Letting go of things and people (and places)…pushing through fatigue…and being uncomfortable are all possible side effects. We grow during the journey…and, if we are wise, we are able to recognize successes and take some moments to celebrate ;) If we don’t do that, life can feel like an endless struggle..and no achievement will ever feel like enough. And in the words of the wise Taoist master Lao-tzu: “Only those who know when enough is enough will ever have enough.”
I wish you peace during challenging times; the fortitude to push through when needed; and the wisdom to rest when you must. Knowing that everything is happening for our highest good, may we embrace our path and help to uplift others on the way ;)