Whenever I travel somewhere for the first time, the initial journey always seems proportionally longer than the return trip. Does the uncertainty of the situation wreck havoc with my sense of time or does my impatience cause me to think that too much time has elapsed? Perhaps, it is more simple. There is so much to see the first time around that my senses become overloaded by the sheer volume of my new experiences. Regardless of the underlying cause, I oftentimes find myself acting like a child who repeatedly asks, “Are we there yet?” How does this analogy relate to the writing of my first book?
Approximately twenty-two months ago, I returned from my incredible Asian teaching adventure and embarked on something totally new. This journey was unlike any that I had taken before. Instead of being physically transported to another place, I sat comfortably at my desk. I remained on my home turf, but uncertainty and impatience continued to be my partners. I was frequently infused with sensory overload. I needed to learn a ton of new skills in order to accomplish my new pursuit.
I was rediscovering my passion for writing and was taking the initial steps to writing my first book. Each month, I made progress.Yet, I continually felt that it was taking far too long. Like well meaning parents who prod their children for progress reports, friends and relatives wondered why my book wasn’t miraculously completed. This added to my anxiety levels.
My first manuscript was excessively long and rambling. Thankfully, my developmental editor provided guidance and reassurance that I could rework the book. The second attempt was an improvement, but my story still needed a considerable amount of work. My new focus was on identifying and weaving together the different messages that I hoped to convey. Along the way, I learned how to write less stilted dialogue and altered my style to show rather than tell. I became more conscious of the difference between active and passive voice.
I wrote. I edited. I took breaks. I read more books and blogs. I traveled. I edited again. The process reminded me of the two years I spent researching and writing my master’s thesis- Rose Haas Alschuler: A Chicago Jewish Woman’s Life of Service, 1887-1979. (For an overview of Rose’s life, see my article posted at the Jewish Women’s Archive website.) My adviser, Dr. Elliot Lefkovitz introduced me to the rigors of the professional writing process. I am grateful for his time, expertise, and patience. Writing a thesis made me realize that effective writing requires discipline and commitment.
After months of refining my words and ideas, I was able to release my manuscript from my unyielding and protective grip. I took a deep breath. I bravely shared my work with total strangers. I waited weeks and in some instances months before I received feedback.
As more people read my work, I was able to refine my characters and clarify my message. I was thrilled by the positive responses (see the posted reviews for MAY THIS BE THE BEST YEAR OF YOUR LIFE) and also acknowledged their suggestions. I looked at my work from diverse perspectives. I added and deleted words, sentences, and paragraphs. Did my words convey the lessons that I learned?
When I felt comfortable with the revised manuscript, I paid a professional editor do his magic. These edits made me realize the finer points of grammar and punctuation. How in the world could an educator make so many silly mistakes? No matter how many people read through the manuscript, errors continued to crop up. How many simple typos could become camouflaged in my paragraphs?
In addition to creating my memoir, I delved into the mysterious world of social media. Within no time, I was learning about website design, SEO, author Facebook pages, and Twitter as well as reaching out to more and more people on LinkedIn. My writing expanded to different genres as I attempted to connect with my varied audiences. I created a video book trailer to promote my story. I look forward to releasing the video book trailer and the book simultaneously.
Like a marathon runner approaching the last mile, I grabbed for my final reserves. I submitted my manuscript for formatting. “I’m almost there,” I cried out to all that I passed along the way. Yet once again, time crawled.
One unexpected formatting issue after another made me realize that my journey would take longer than expected. I had a series of hills to climb. It was challenging not to be consumed by the unpredictable events and my edginess.
Instead, I chose to marvel at all of the writing, internet, and marketing skills that I was learning along the way. Acquiring and utilizing a new set of tools was all part of the experience. I made mental snapshots to help me remember the noteworthy parts. My sons answered numerous questions I could not forget all of the bloggers who provided invaluable free assistance and the paid webinars and teleseminars that further filled in my gaps of understanding. My web designers also lent a helpful hand in trying to educate me.
Now, I eagerly wait for the next proof copy to arrive. Will it be this week or next? I do not know. The excitement I talked about in “Do You Judge a Book By its Cover?” has not abated. The finish line is edging closer. In the background, I hear a voice whispering, “Am I there yet?” If there are no more obstacles, I will be able to provide my final approval soon.
I will move one step closer to reaching my goal of publishing my first book. I am looking forward to seeing MAY THIS BE THE BEST YEAR OF YOUR LIFE listed on Amazon’s memoir page. Then, I will proudly and emphatically say, “I did it!