Writing with abandon

by larryfire

I have been writing a book for nearly a decade.

When I type out those words it seems impossible that it has been that long, but it is true. Nine years ago I started penning a travel biography about my time in the UK and Europe from ’96 to ’97.  I began this project old-school; I literally wrote the first draft.  By hand. Onto paper. With a pen.

I still have the first draft packed into a box in a friend’s attic in Sydney.  In the book’s first incarnation, chapters either read like journal entries or as essays. It took about 2 months to get everything down on paper.

I then began systematically typing it into a borrowed laptop. Technology was relatively primitive back then so I backed-up my files onto floppies. As I re-drafted over the years, the thumb drive changed my life, and I put the floppies away with the first draft. Then came an external hard-drive, and now my book (a wholly different-looking beast than how it had began) lives in The Cloud.

But I digress…

Once it was input into electronic form, I worked away at my book in spits and spurts. I wrote about the process in a previous post (Write Now!), so I won’t bore you with it again.  The last line of that post says, “Yes, I need to get back to my book.”  And yet, here I sit some 6 months later, and I have managed to squeeze out a paltry 4 chapters.

To change the subject, I saw an old friend last weekend. Well, she is not old, but we have known each other for the better part of 20 years. She, too, loves an American and lives in the U.S. A work trip afforded me the chance to see her and meet her husband (lovely bloke). The fates smiled on me doubly, as I was able to take more away from the reunion than the simple pleasure of catching up.

Larissa (her real name) is a creative type too. We met studying for our respective Bachelor of Arts degrees, both with a major in Theater Arts. She has come full circle after some professional detours and is currently rehearsing a Sam Shepherd play, and is a voice over artist and teacher. I, too, have had some professional detours from the stage, which is why I know I love to write.

I moaned to Larissa that I have no motivation to write my book at the moment. Or any moment, really. I work at a computer eight hours a day, and while I mostly love my job, it does not inspire me to sit at a computer when I am not there. There are many things I would rather do when I am at not at work: reading (Oh, how I love other people’s books!), running, movies, conversation, cleaning, laundry, and a thousand other things that seem more appealing that the thing that I supposedly love to do most.

I also mention to Larissa that I am inspired by something else at the moment.

I want to write the story of how I met Ben, of how we fell in love while living a world apart, and how I ended up packing up my life and moving to another country to live with a man I had yet to spend more than 5 consecutive weeks with. I want to write about that.

But there’s The Book…

How do I abandon one book to start another? Will I ever finish it if I keep finding distractions – literary or otherwise?

Yes. No. Maybe.

Which brings me back to my conversation with Larissa.  “You are not abandoning your book. You are putting it away so that you can follow inspiration. You can always come back to it later.”

She said this while we were walking through Whole Foods looking for the ingredients for my Quinoa/Wild Rice Salad. Suddenly, right there next to the bulk bins, it made sense. I needed to give myself permission to abandon my book, so that I can follow what inspires me now.

On the flight home I scribbled furiously into a scribbler pad. I filled 20 or so pages and there is (much) more to come. A lot of the content has already been written and will come from travel journals, emails,and accounts that I wrote for us after our trips together.

In the car on the way home from the airport, I recounted my epiphany (thanks, Larissa) to Ben. He recalled that a favorite author of his said, and I am paraphrasing, “Some of my best work happens when I am procrastinating from the work that I am supposed to be doing.”

I have asked Ben’s permission to be candid. He has given it. I think. For weeks now the first lines have been bouncing around inside my head. “It seems a little ‘hokey’ to say that I dreamed about Ben before I met him. But I did.” Since deciding to abandon my book, those words are on paper now.

Oh, and recipe for the salad to follow. It is incredible – no, really!