Your book was published this week. Something you created made it out into the world, and your creative work with it is finished. (Book promotion is a different story.) There’s nothing more to write for this particular book, which makes you wistful, nostalgic even. Your book was not finished. And now, it is. One book complete, and another (and another) wait to be written. You try to remember what writing this particular book was like, but your memories have already dissipated. You realize how little you remember. You realize how much you’ve already forgotten. This thought stays with you awhile.
There’s so much you forget about making a book. There’s so little you remember.
Perhaps, there’s a reason for this forgetting. Perhaps, if you remembered everything required to write this book, you would run for the hills or the mountains or the forest or the streams instead of writing another book. Perhaps, if you remembered, you wouldn’t write the next book, the next essay, the next poem, the next paragraph, the next line, or the next word. If you remembered what making a book required, maybe you would give up on writing. Maybe you might not want to create anything. But, if you forget, maybe you can write another book because you’ve forgotten the agony of a book’s beginning and the harrowing and continuing doubts about its potential.
Here are the all of the things you forget about making a book once it’s published:
You forget that a book is made word by word, line by line, paragraph by paragraph, page by page, and chapter by chapter. You build a book piece by painstaking piece. Only you. It’s yours to build. It’s yours to protect and harbor. It’s yours, it’s yours, it’s yours…
You forget that a book is not only made up of your words, but also your dreams and your nightmares, your hopes and your fears, your desires and your longing. You forget how much of you is in the book. You forget your investment.
You forget that a book is made by your thinking, your research, your dreaming, and your analysis. You forget that all of these take time and space. You always forget this with every writing project. You forget that writing is more than click-clack of typing and staring at your laptop screen. Writing is also the ideas that come to you while you’re driving kids to and from school and preschool, while you walk the dog, while you snuggle the cat, while your mind wanders as you wipe down counter tops and wash dishes, while you are on the cusp of sleep at night or in the foggy wakefulness of early mornings, while you sip your coffee, or while you do other things besides put words to the page.
You forget that a book has more than one beginning. It begins as a notion, a faint idea, or a sentence. It begins again as you decide again notions, faint ideas or hastily written sentences. It begins again each day as you pour over what you’ve previously written. It begins again with revising and editing. It begins again with rewriting and killing your darlings.
You forget that a book begins with all of the possibilities. The possibilities seem endless, but they aren’t. The possibilities narrows the more you write. They become refined and clear as more and more words populate the pages.
You forget that a book is a creature you shape as it shapes you. It works on you as much as you work on it. The work is hard for both of you, but it’s worth it. Isn’t it? It is, you think. It must be.
You forget that the book doesn’t always feel like a book. It can feel like fragments and scraps of things that you trying valiantly to bind together. Sometimes, they refuse to fit together. Sometimes, they protest their proximity to one another. But sometimes, they come together, and you start to see glimpses of the book you are writing. You start to see where the whole project is going. You start to believe that what your writing could actually be a book.
You forget that making a book feels like a slog with no end in sight. The glimpses dissipate. You hate what you are writing. You hate the book. You hate yourself for deciding to write a book in the first place. You decide that a Netflix marathon of superhero shows is a better life choice than writing. You almost give up. And yet. And yet, you don’t. You binge The Flash, but the next day, you return to the book, the slog. You can’t not write the book either, so you might as well write the damn thing.
You forget that making a book requires dedication, time, and patience even if you feel like you have none of these. Books take time, you remind yourself. Books take dedication, you note with exasperation. Books take patience, you mutter ungratefully. You are not known for your patience. But you try to give yourself the space and time to make this book because you want to write it. But mostly, it is because you’re in the thick of it now. You given too much to the book to give up now.
You forget that making a book can seem hopeless. You forget that you feel like you will never accomplish what you imagined and dreamed. Your book is hopeless. You are hopeless. You note your self-doubt and let it wash over you. You continue to make the book anyway.
You forget that making a book is difficult even after you’ve written one or two. You forget that you can lose your momentum and stall. You conveniently forget what writer’s block feels like. Why would you want to remember what writer’s block feels like anyway? You decide to keep writing. Your book needs you.
You forget that you can find your momentum again. It’s only lost for awhile, but it always comes back. You’re a writer, after all. Writing is what you do.
You forget the joy of the final draft. You forget the nervous excitement of waiting to hear what the initial readers think. You forget the feeling of having a book published and your inability to stop smiling. You forget that people, some you know but most you don’t, will read your book. You promptly forget the pain and hold onto joy.
You forget what it felt like to write that book because you are already working on another book. Because that’s what you do.
The book that was just published is Grace Period: A Memoir in Pieces, which is available at both Amazon and on iTunes. And yes, I didn’t think I could write it, but I wrote it anyway. That’s what writers do.