I’ve been writing a book for 4 years. Here’s what that looks like:
Year 1 – 2018-2019: Everything is new and exciting! I’m in the ideation phase and writing new chapters every week. I go to sleep at night excited to wake up and work on my book. Writing is the best!
Year 2 – 2020: I’m pregnant and confined to working from home due to the pandemic, and I am working on my book at least 2 hours a day. Yet, I’m exhausted, mentally and physically. I know my material inside and out and still can’t figure out what to tell someone when they ask what my book is about. By December, I’m ready to have my baby and never look at my book again.
Year 3 – 2021: Wait, is this year over already? I’m a mom – am I still a writer? You mean there was a time when I wasn’t so sleep-deprived that I could form sentences? By December, I’ve given up on trying to get a good night’s sleep and want to finish this book once and for all. I read through it for the first time in a year, and am delighted to find that it doesn’t suck as much as I thought it did. I could wrap this up in 2022!
Year 4 – 2022: Writing books is impossible. Why did I pick this for my life dream?
I have 75,000 words written. That is an average length for a book. The issue is and has always been how I decide to structure the chapters; it’s a book of essays rather than a straightforward memoir. I’ve come up with 4 different ideas for this and have gone back and forth on which way to do it at least 47 times.
Finally, on Thursday, after I had decided on Structure Idea #3 once and for all, I had my 89th meltdown of this book-writing process. I’m overwhelmed by my 75,000 words that are already down on paper. I’m overwhelmed trying to shuffle around 30 essays that still need a lot of work to make sense with Structure Idea #3. This isn’t fun.
Maybe I’m not ready to write a book?
Maybe I need to spend more time mastering the personal essay, the shorter pieces, before I can take on a book-length project?
Maybe writing 300+ pages of a sensical narrative isn’t in my wheelhouse yet?
Wouldn’t it be more fun to focus on blogging every week and capturing my motherhood stories?
Thankfully, a revelation came to me in the same day and I didn’t have to drown in this angst overnight.
After the meltdown, I went to an Orangetheory class. I signed up for a membership a few months into maternity leave because it was the stress relief I needed. Orangetheory is a 60-minute high-intensity group workout with loud music playing that makes me think I’m dancing at a college house party. It’s perfect for getting me out of my head.
And it’s a reminder that I can complete hard things.
During that workout I thought of all the seemingly impossible things I’ve completed: 9 half marathons even when I thought there was no way I could complete the first one; a full marathon; birthing a child without pain medication; all these Orangetheory workouts when I wanted to pretend I had a 1:00 meeting to be at and skip out early; and of course, surviving many work days after getting up with my sweet child multiple times a night.
Writing a book feels as monumentally tough as all of those, and yet I completed all of them with breaths to spare.
When I whined to Kyle about my inability to write this book, as I often do, I told him, “The difference is all those things are physical. I can push my body to do anything, but writing a book is all mental. I don’t have a mental accomplishment as proof yet that I’m capable.”
He replied, “There is a huge mental component to all those things. Running a marathon? Birthing a baby? You did so much mental prep for that and that’s what kept you going when the time came.”
Earlier in the week, I heard a podcaster define confidence as your belief in yourself that you’re capable to figure things out. I thought of that during my workout, how I figured out a plan for marathon training and scheduled it during my work week. All the books I read on natural childbirth and the mantras and images that stayed with me during labor. All the books I’ve read on how to write a book, and all of the essays I’ve completed thus far. All the time I’ve put into writing toward this goal.
If I quit again and leave all that work in the dust, I’m telling myself that I don’t think I’m capable of finishing a book.
That would deflate my confidence.
I would be the sole person responsible for it. Not a boss or friend or anyone else to blame for not believing in me. Just me.
If I told myself I can’t finish a book now, how would I ever finish a book in the future? I’d still have nothing to go off, no proof that I could do it. I would have 4 years, 75,000 words, and 300 pages toward a book that I didn’t believe I could figure out how to finish.
Funnily enough, my book is about confidence.
This post feels like a good concluding chapter.