Trying My Heart Out

This past weekend, my husband took our kids to Colorado. I was sad to miss the mini-vacation he planned—horseback riding with the kids in Pagosa Springs and mountainside fun in Durango and Purgatory—but I wanted to finish the second draft of my memoir manuscript. I wanted to stop saying, “I am writing a book.” I wanted to be able to say, “I wrote a book.”

And I finished. How is this even possible? I wrote a book. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end.

Now I will start writing query letters to agents and entering my manuscript in competitions to see if this book will ever see the light of day.

I think it will. As far as books go, it’s purty good. It’s not the worst book. It’s not the best book, but it’s my book.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Some of the chapters appeared in literary journals like Creative Nonfiction, Hayden’s Ferry Review, and Cutbank, so I mean, editors have liked my writing. I used to be so scared of finishing anything, let alone a book.

Writing my first full-length book was a process filled with steps I could have avoided, like doubting myself and beating myself up.

Author Erica Jong said that she “went for years not finishing anything. Because, of course, when you finish something you can be judged.” This was my experience. As I worked on my manuscript, I wondered if I had ever finished writing anything in my whole life. I wondered how I would ever know when I was done. And I am probably not totally done, but I am definitely moving toward a new step in the process.

At times, I told myself I wouldn’t be able to finish this book. Sometimes, I felt like a failure. Writing my first full-length book was a process filled with steps I could have avoided like doubting myself and beating myself up. Now that it’s done, at least the second draft, I feel slightly elated, but the journey isn’t over yet. Now I have to move toward the publication process. Before I do, here’s a breakdown of my writing process, which was maybe 50% full of detrimental behaviors and 50% full of positive behaviors, too.

My Process of Writing Life in Flight

1. 2015—Write some stuff, feel bad about it because I think it sucks.

2. Go over my writing, realize it is not so bad, start writing again, immediately feel bad about my writing because it sucks.

3. Visit a therapist. Figure out I have an anxiety disorder. Start taking anti-depressants.

4. Keep writing. Feel bad about my writing less and less, but still, I wonder who the heck is going to want to read this. I realize I need to start taking myself seriously as a writer.

5. 2018—Start a treadmill journal and stick with it. Each time I write, I record my writing progress.

6. Send my writing to friends and my writing group.

7. Plot out my whole manuscript.

8. Work on the chapters little by little.

9. Get lost in the manuscript every once in a while and want to cry about it.

10. Keep recording my progress in my treadmill journal.

11. 2020—Work on my manuscript as much as I can in-between raising children and teaching English. I even manage to find time to write during the pandemic because we are in quarantine, and I cannot go anywhere.

12. 2021—Miss out on some fun times because I want to stay home and write. My husband starts saying I’m a workaholic.

13. Stay home and finish the book while my kids are out of the house.

14. Finish the book, make myself a latte, and start writing this blog.

I have a journal that is seventy pages long where I recorded each time I sat down to write. It’s called a treadmill journal because it takes the fantasy out of writing and being an artist. Writing is work.

My treadmill journal follows the process that Greg mentioned in the linked article, but mine has a different style.

I don’t log the hours I’ve worked on the book because I don’t want to know the hours I’ve worked on it. I do keep track of each day I sit down to write, and I keep track of my progress and where I left off.

That way, the next time I sit down to write, I can pick up where I left off without wondering where I was. So if I go two or three weeks without writing, I don’t feel completely lost and I can get back into the groove of writing.

Shout out again to Greg Martin, who had a little faith in me when I was in my early twenties (If you go to his linked site, you’ll see I’m the first person to like his bio 😂). And shoutout to my writing group friends who have read my writing throughout this process: Dana Salvador, Laura Sewell Matter, Trish O’Connor, and Christina Yovovich. The importance of finding your writing people—that should probably be a blog, too.

Anyway, Greg saw something in my writing when I was inexperienced and really bad at grammar, yet he still encouraged me to go to grad school. Love your teachers, people.

Now I’m moving toward the querying process. I will keep track of my process, probably using a spreadsheet, and I’ll share my progress on this blog, once I figure out my next steps.

Cheers to long term goals, ya’ll. With a lot of hard work, some tears, and a little mental health help, I was able to gather my ideas, images, and story and birth them into existence.

Hopefully, if you have dreams you want to accomplish, you won’t hold yourself back like I did. Hopefully, you won’t waste years of your life crying about your progress and wondering if you are good enough. Hopefully, you’ll move forward with your badass self.

But if you do hold yourself back, don’t worry, you can stop at anytime.

10 thoughts on “Trying My Heart Out

  1. Congratulations. It is an accomplishment. As a writer once said to me: “Anyone can write a bad poem, but to complete a novel is rare.” Memoir adds the challenge of inevitable heartbreak in process as you relive events and overcome doubt and fear. Brava!

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    1. Thank you Jan! I am still trucking along. Now I will try to get this thing to see the light of publication, but I think I can say I’m done writing (I mean, are we ever done? I could keep going, but I am at a good stopping point =0)

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