What it was like to write a book (part 1)
Note: It won’t be like this for everyone.
Note #2: This post is about what I needed to be able to write. In a follow-up post, I’ll write about writing itself.
I wrote most of this book during the pandemic and the erasure of the disabled community, grieving the loss of a parent, endless stories of police brutality, politics, and feeling very disconnected from community. There was a lot of crying before, during, after, and orbiting around the writing process. It’s hard to write about communities when you don’t have access to them. It’s hard when your entire being is going through so much heartache.
For the first year of writing, it felt like an out-of-body experience; when I wrote and sent in a draft, I immediately forgot what I had written—every time. I had to look back at drafts or use Find/Replace to see if I had already covered something. Everything in the news kept giving me more to write (and scream) about, and that’s not what I wanted in my book.
I had to find ways to connect with others and find joy in the process of writing. And luckily, I found quite a few ways to do that, even if they appeared later in the process in the second year of writing and beyond.
Accountability and people to write with
My friends, Eric and Melanie, invited me to write with their writing group, which meets once a month, to write for a few hours. The group meets for the first 30 minutes to talk about what they’re going to write, write on our own for a few hours, and check in during the last 30 minutes to share what we wrote or what we need help with or talk about snacks. This group helped by adding accountability, community, routine, and support. I’m so grateful for their support throughout the entire writing process. It came when I was so blocked and got me unblocked in the best ways.
Music to write to
For the most part, I stuck to three playlists through various periods of writing. Almost all of the playlists have instrumental music. I needed this because it was so hard to let the sounds of the neighbor, notification pings, and life interrupt what I was trying to do, but because my focus has been hard to tame, probably since about 2016. Not hearing words helped me not type them. One of my editors quickly noticed that the speed of my thoughts was quicker than my typing. Much quicker. Words would disappear into the blank air of MS Word.
Writing (Apple) (Spotify)
The first playlist was great. It was perfect for the first phase I was in, as I crafted concepts and the general story I wanted to cover. It felt SO right to include the soundtracks to the Monument Valley games. I loved those games because they were so creative, and the music helped get me in the right mindset. I also include Tycho, which I know many designers love to design. And I included Washed Out, which did include vocals, but they were vocals that took me to the places I had dreamt of writing instead of at home, by myself in the pandemic.
Writing #2 (Apple) (Spotify)
The second playlist included recommendations from a designer with a lot of pianos or what I call desert music. That worked until I got tired of hearing the same songs. And some of them stressed me out as I wrote.
Writing #3 (Apple) (Spotify)
The last playlist satisfied my creative flow the way the first playlist did. It had songs from things I had enjoyed creatively. Like music from TV shows such as Succession and White Lotus and games such as Donut County. There’s more jazz in here. I wasn’t writing as much as editing, rereading, cutting things, and cleaning up my passive sentences. It ended with Hermanos Gutierrez’s El Camino de mi alma album, which felt soft and urgent at the same time and took me over the finish line of submitting my manuscripts.
In my first draft round, I got a puppy, a beautiful, sassy golden-haired pup, who I named Gemma. While she isn’t certified, she is my emotional support dog as much as the cutest and most mischievous little brat. We snuggled after long writing sessions, and I planned my writing schedule around here because—frankly—I had no choice. She only started to calm down after she turned two. But she’s been with me for almost the whole process as a one-sided therapist, guest editor, distracter, friend, child, chewer, foot warmer, alarm system, and occasional draft eater. Earlier this year, she was even a marketing specialist turned model for A Book Apart’s dog days of summer campaign, posing with a draft, which was in a binder labeled “IDC-copy-1.3-sk”. She can’t wait to chew on her first copy of the book and work on her first book with the publisher A Book Apaw (kidding!).
Did you know that the phrase “dog days of summer” has to do with astronomy rather than our best friends?— A Book Apart (@abookapart) July 13, 2022
☀️🐕 Inspired by the stars, we're putting on a dog days of summer flash sale today only—just use code DOGDAYS at checkout and save 20% sitewide!https://t.co/urCZrswYIa pic.twitter.com/bc91wY4ura
Thanks for reading. Again, in the next post, I’ll share more about the writing itself. Until then, I’m counting down because a week from today, on October 4th, my book will be out in the world! It’s on sale here at A Book Apart.