Friday, 18 December 2020
An actual book update - for once!
Hope you're all doing OK - or as OK as is feasible right now. I wanted to check in to wish you a merry Christmas (or as merry as is feasible right now!) and to thank you for your patience with The Book That Took Forever. I have a little bit of news on that score and it feels exciting to be getting in touch about that rather than some other tangentially-related thing.
So - long covid did an absolute number on my cognitive abilities this year and, as you know, recovery has been slow and unpredictable and a bit fraught, but I think I'm almost there. I have some ongoing vascular issues and can't tolerate much in terms of exercise, but generally I'm feeling much more like myself. My confidence, though, had taken a big hit and needed to be slowly built back up as much as my immune system and everything else. The book came to a standstill, both in terms of writing and crowdfunding, and I had got myself into a tangle of anxiety and avoidance.
The Unbound authors have a Facebook group which I had started using as a stick to beat myself with: "Look, Steve has finished his book. Where is your book, Laura?" and then stopped looking at almost altogether. But just by chance - or perhaps because the universe took pity on me, or the universe was fed up of my constant wailing and self-flagellation - I happened to see a post from someone who was offering some writers' coaching. I e-mailed him immediately: "Please! Help! I'm terrified of my own book!" (not my exact words but that was the gist).
And we've only zoomed once so far but already it's really helped. Just talking about the book made me stop avoiding it enough to get some of the excitement back, to be reassured that these are very ordinary writerly anxieties, that this is an important project and one I'm capable of delivering. And so we are back on course! The second draft is shaping up and I'm going to get back on the crowdfunding in the new year.
It's not an easy book to write, and these are not easy circumstances in which to write it, but I have a strong record for doing hard things. Five years ago I was afraid that I couldn't finish the PhD, with my sick toddler, my mental health in the toilet, my marriage endlessly circling the drain... The sleep deprivation, in particular, was just exquisite torture. And I had written all this stuff and it wouldn't arrange into a structure. The whole thing just loomed like a mountain in the distance and I couldn't see a route by which I could even get near it. In the end, though, it got done and the examiners loved it. There is something particularly gratifying about polishing off something ambitious, knowing that the odds have been stacked against you from the start. It often takes longer than planned but gains immeasurably from the struggle that went into it.
I am so grateful for your support. Thank you for believing in me enough to stump up for a book that doesn't exist yet. Thank you for waiting for it so patiently as hurdle after hurdle has come up. Thank you for all your emails and messages. I have met so many wonderful new people through this venture. I'm also very grateful to my new coach: giving up your time to help a stranger write a book is such a lovely, selfless thing. And I'm grateful to Unbound, who took a punt on me and are putting up with what must be one of the longest crowdfunding campaigns in history without a murmur of complaint. And I have this all-embracing network of friends and family around me, without whom I would most definitely manage fuck all.
I hope you all have a peaceful, joyful Christmas and new year. I don't want to add to anyone's to-do lists but drop me a line if you feel like it. I'd love to know how you are and how the year has been.