As you all know, I'm in the middle of trying to write a memoir about our adoption. It's pretty much killing me. So, since it's on my mind, here is the sum of all my fears:
Why Writing A Book Is Like A Dysfunctional Relationship:
Stage 1: Infatuation
The idea hits you like a hurricane and suddenly you can't think of anything else. On the train: thinking about the book you're going to write. In a cafe: scribbling notes for your book. On holiday: disappearing for the chance to be alone with the delicious possibility of your book. You write down ideas for titles. You doodle cover designs. You feel smug and self-satisfied about how wonderful your book is going to be. At this point, everybody else's books look like pale, undernourished, sad little things. Your book will be so much better than that. You feel like this. But about a book.
Stage 2: Gifts
Getting started properly is harder than it looked. You buy - and read - books written by writers who are writing books about how to write a book. This is not procrastination, it is an investment. Then you size up the task ahead of you. This is the point at which it becomes clear that an ordinary set of writing tools will simply not be sufficient to do justice to the beauty that is your book. If it were a woman, you would buy her diamonds, but instead you buy scrivener and set up dropbox and those who have truly been bitten badly make excuses to buy new laptops [not me, by the way. Obsessive, yes, but not financially irresponsible]. Then you set up your dropbox folders and fire up scrivener and actually start to... write.
Stage 3: Comfortable Togetherness
This is working pretty well. The words are flowing, the ideas are coming. When there is spare time, you spend it together. You love being with Book, and you're pretty sure that Book feels the same way about you. The word count goes up.
Stage 4: Faint Disillusionment
The only thing is.... some of this is seeming a little repetitive. And the structure is not really as clear as it should be. It seems that there are about three thousand words on what actually happened to you, and ninety-seven thousand words about how that made you feel. Can that really be right? Better check again. Just as well scrivener has such an advanced word-count function. Okay, it is right. You give some of it to your husband to read. He says he likes it, but he doesn't ask for any more and he doesn't laugh at the parts you were pretty sure were funny. Also - this just feels like a , colossal, unbearable amount of work. Your mother suggests, gently, that your time might be better spent elsewhere.
Stage 6: It's Not You, It's Me
Suddenly, spending time with Book doesn't seem quite so appealing,. There's nothing wrong with the book, you tell yourself, it's just that you are really really busy. You have other demands on your time. You have an actual life, remember? And friends. And work. And other commitments. Sheesh, if only Book could stop being so self-centred and see that your entire life isn't about writing it, then it would see that you have got Stuff going on. It would give you a break. It would stop nagging. You are committed to the relationship, but you've got a lot on your plate, okay? OKAY?
Stage 7: Actually, it IS You, Please Stop Ruining My Life
And then, you realise that no, all that was lies, the real problem is that you hate your manuscript. It's boring, it's wordy, it's self-indulgent and you don't even like the main character which is a giant bummer because the main character is, well, you. You contemplate all the hours you have poured into it, all the emotional energy, and shake your fist at the stupidity that made you start it. It all seems like such a waste. You write procrastinatory blog posts like this one. The only silver lining is - at least nobody got to read it. At least nobody else knows how bad it is. At this point, everybody else's books look like works of genius. All of those pages, and all with those nice little numbers at the bottom! You seethe with envy and wish you had had a different idea. In short, you think that probably, life would be better without Book. You wish you had taken up crochet instead.
Stage 8: We Can Work It Out
But the thing is, you really don't want to live without Book. You slink back and apologise. You make plans for how things will be different this time. You will be more realistic, and not expect Book to meet all your emotional needs.
Stage 9: Isolation
Having other people around just makes things complicated. Your mother suggests, more forcefully this time, that you are throwing good effort after bad but you tell her that Book is wonderful, really, and when the two of you are alone, nobody could be better company. If the rest of the world doesn't understand the love you have for each other, well, that's fine. FINE. You and Book will make it on your own.
Stage 10: Trying to Leave
The first draft is nearly done. Suddenly, you start to fantasise about how it will be when this thing is finished. You will have your old life back! All those hobbies, all that housework, all that time to watch reality TV. You whisper as much to Book, and Book whispers back - how will you know when you are really finished? Sure, it feels like the editing is done, but how would you know for sure? You don't want to push it out there too soon. People will laugh at you! The comma placement leaves a lot to be desired. There are too many adverbs. Okay, you decide, you really can't be parted from Book now. This whole thing needs a major re-think.
Stage 11: Until Death Us Do Part
You decide to rewrite the whole thing in future tense. Would that make it seem more edgy? Perhaps you will change it around so that the main character (you) speaks in Latin and has psychokinetic powers. Maybe it would be better if you stared at the end, or in the middle, or wrote the whole thing in verse. There are so many ways this could be so good, you tell yourself; it's just not quite there yet. You no longer have any plans to actually finish. All your friends have forgotten what you look like. Your husband can no longer remember your name. You realise that you and Book are in this thing alone, together, forever and ever, amen, until your heart stops beating and Book's non-existent pages start to crumble. This isn't quite how you pictured your life, but here you are. So you fire up the computer, and shut the door, and make another pot of tea. And you massage your bony, ancient fingers and
Because really, what else is there to do?