I’ve been a writer for as long as I can remember. I’ve always written in some form or another and I’m sure I was born reading a book. For most of my career my writing was centred around business writing, product development and training material.
I started blogging in 2010 when I moved to Ghana, this is my fourth blog. One has been retired, but the others are still going, each with a different purpose and audience. While I’ve been published in magazines, I’ve never written a book and it has been on my to do list for many years now.
I decided that this, my 50th year was the year to finally make my book happen. I’ve got a big to do list this year, and time is running by too quickly!! I took myself off to Bali to retreat for 32 blissful days in June, in order to focus on writing my memoir about the year I lived in Ghana. The working title is “How I learnt to love my bum and other lessons from Africa”.
I had this grand idea that I would knock this book off in a month, with time to spare. Yeah right. I started well, but quickly realised that it was going to be more challenging than I had originally anticipated. I’m so used to blogging, quick wins and finishes that the process of an unfinished product at the end of each day felt all awkward and prickly to begin with. As my wise friend and fellow writer Helen told me, writing a book uses different muscles than a blog, similar to the differences between running a sprint and a marathon.
So, after 32 days I came home with just over 30,000 words completed, not too shabby. I also had an idea for another book and that’s 5,000 words in, as well as various blog posts and other creative ideas flowing all around me. I’m very happy with the outcome of my retreat and I plan to make it an annual event.
This is what I learnt:
- I am an expert procrastinator. I’ve written about this before here where I generously shared some of my best tips for extreme procrastination. I really am the queen in this area and if there was some kind of nobel prize equivalent, I’d win for sure.
- It’s not my husband’s fault. I always said I wasn’t able to produce a book with him around, because, well he’s my biggest distraction. However I left him behind and still managed to get distracted by lots of shiny things and almost everything else, every day.
- I remembered more than I thought I would. We lived in Ghana from July 2010-July 2011 and despite my hubby’s best advice to keep at least a small journal with even a sentence a day (yes he’s always right, as well as being extremely hot), I didn’t. This means I’m relying solely on my memory, which I’m pleased to say, has been very reliable to date. I have also found some old blog posts, photos and Facebook to be helpful.
- Writing a memoir can be painful and emotional. One of the reasons for writing this is to share my experience of living in Ghana. That year was both the best and worst of my life. It pushed all of my buttons, shoved me hard right out of my comfort zone and taught me more than I had learnt in the previous 44 years on the planet. Remembering the highlights and lowlights triggered quite a few tears.
- It’s ok not to get it perfect right off the bat. I learnt about shitty first drafts from Brene Brown and Anne Lamott and for that I’m grateful. I’m writing down the bones and fleshing it out later. I am a recovering perfectionist and this was a biggie for me.
- It’s ok to change direction. I thought I knew where the book would go, but it has taken me in very different places than I had anticipated, and that’s absolutely fine!
I’ve been home for a week now and I must confess to having lost my momentum a little, actually a lot, ok I’ve not looked at it since. I’m almost finished writing my smaller book and plan to have it off to the editor on the weekend, so after that I will pick it up again and get back into marathon mode.
Someone hold me accountable! Too many distractions…ooh look that’s pretty!