I spent half an hour on the floor today, grinding a tennis ball into my back.
So you know it’s book writing season.
Isabel Allende once said the hardest part of writing was the physical sitting. She’s right on, but it’s not the hardest for me.
For me, the hardest part of writing is getting beyond page 50.
Everyone who has the inkling to write a book, when they press themselves, they can write 50 pages of that book. Then something dreadful happens. You just don’t want to do it anymore. You print it out. Tell yourself you’ll edit while you wait for material to surface for page 51. You begin to edit, but then other more pressing events take place, like watching The Grand Budapest Hotel again, listening to Spanish language podcasts, or dusting.
Soon that manuscript is the only thing that is collecting dust.
And you ache for the WANT to keep working on it, but the want has disappeared. Then guilt appears and whispers all kinds of sour nothings in your ear.
That’s when you do one of two things:
- Move on. It was a dumb idea anyway. No juice for it. Learning Spanish is a better use of your time.
- Verbally abuse it. You heard me right.
Around the 50 page mark, the manuscript is starting to realize that you might actually want to do this. By halting your progress, it’s asking you if you really REALLY want to do this. If you are willing to live with it.
When you write a book IT NEVER LEAVES. Paris Letters will be with me forever through emails, posts, comments, Instagram photos, Pinterest, articles I write, articles written about me, book clubs, and even future books and bios will be written by “the author of Paris Letters.” I’m delighted, honoured, swelling with pride, and I’m so grateful to get to be the keeper of Paris Letters.
You’ve got to really want that book to be a book because then it’s yours.
Your manuscript isn’t being unkind. It’s giving you a slew of decent excuses to help pull out of the project with grace and dignity. No harm done. And ya, Spanish is a useful language to know.
But if you really want to write that book, read on…
You take that first 50 pages and you yell at it. You say, “THIS IS HAPPENING.” In all caps. It’s more effective. Enunciate.
(You swear more when you write books… you use up all the good words in the manuscript and are left with the second-tier vocabulary.)
Then you look at your manuscript again, but this time you point at it, too. “THIS IS HAPPENING.”
Then you call it on its ridiculousness. You say, “I know what you’re doing. You’re trying to scare me out of this. I want this and you are going to help me make it happen, so bring back the enthusiasm, bring back the ideas, because THIS IS HAPPENING.”
Because you know the manuscript is sitting on gold.
Then you close the Spanish language lessons. That’s when the manuscript lifts a cheek and there it is… the ideas, the enthusiasm, the plan for this perfect opus that only you can write. You revisit page 49, reread what you wrote, continue to page 50, then set your hands on the keyboard ever so softly so you’re ready for when the next sentence comes.
And the next sentence will come. It will.
“I always worked until I had something done and I always stopped when I knew what was going to happen next. That way I could be sure of going on the next day.”
Hemingway, A Moveable Feast
Since I’ve been partaking in the good winter work that is book writing, I wrote more about it in the Painted Letter this month:
And because I watched and rewatched The Grand Budapest Hotel this month, this is the subject of the Travel Letter for this month:
I know without a doubt that Wes Anderson spent some time in the same scuzzy hotel that I did when in Budapest, because even though the hotel in the film is a mod-podge of different hotels, there is this one, very run down hotel, renovated in 1970… trying to be luxurious… and it’s just so weird.
Because you made it all the way down to the bottom of this post, here is some free Mendl’s stationery I created… another worthy diversion from book writing.
Now back to the Spanish language podcast. NO! Back to book writing. Book writing. That’s what I meant.