Book Writing Struggles


If you have ever attempted writing a book you will probably know these struggles:

  • Coming up with ONE idea that is simply brilliant. In the middle of the night.
  • Putting up motivational notes over your desk.
  • Telling everyone you are writing a book.
  • Working on the idea for a few weeks and realising that it is not that good after all.
  • Actually all you do is sit in front of a blank page.
  • Because you are scared.
  • Scared of yourself.
  • And your idea.
  • Feeling like you have lost all your motivation.
  • Feeling like you have lost your ability to write sentences.
  • To write words.
  • Realising that the structure of your book doesn’t make sense.
  • Deleting all pages you have written thus far.
  • Starting all over.
  • Having 25 different versions of your book on your computer.
  • Some of them dating back to five years ago.
  • Reading all texts you can get, related to your topic.
  • Never being able to stop doing research.
  • Still feeling like you know nothing.
  • Making a plan to wake up early to write.
  • Waking up at noon.
  • Writing until 4 at night.
  • Spilling a cup of tea in your bed when writing late at night.
  • Calling your friends and whining about not being able to write anymore.
  • In the middle of the night.
  • Doing anything else but writing your book.
  • Dusting your shelves.
  • Cleaning your windows.
  • Twice a day.
  • Falling into an existential crisis.
  • Sending your friends a chapter of your work.
  • Getting back a crying-laughter smiley.
  • Or a question mark.
  • Deciding to stop working on your project.
  • Deleting all evidence from your computer.
  • Letting it rest for a few months.
  • Forgetting about it.
  • Until one night… (Start from the top.)

A few days ago I had to review the entire structure of my book. It had too many cracks and wasn’t well thought through. Let’s hope that my motivation will last for a little while and I will finish a first draft. It’s always a race of me against my self-doubts.

Here’s a great quote from Annie Dillard’s book “The Writing Life” if you find yourself in a similar situation.

When you are stuck in a book; when you are well into writing it, and know what comes next, and yet cannot go on; when every morning for a week or a month you enter its room and turn your back on it; then the trouble is either of two things. Either the structure has forked, so the narrative, or the logic, has developed a hairline fracture that will shortly split it up the middle — or you are approaching a fatal mistake. What you had planned will not do. If you pursue your present course, the book will explode or collapse, and you do not know about it yet, quite.

[…]

What do you do? Acknowledge, first, that you cannot do nothing. Lay out the structure you already have, x-ray it for a hairline fracture, find it, and think about it for a week or a year; solve the insoluble problem. Or subject the next part, the part at which the worker balks, to harsh tests. It harbors an unexamined and wrong premise. Something completely necessary is false or fatal. Once you find it, and if you can accept the finding, of course it will mean starting again. This is why many experienced writers urge young men and women to learn a useful trade.

(https://www.brainpickings.org/2013/08/09/annie-dillard-on-writing/ )

How are your writing projects going? Any tips on overcoming writer’s block?

This Changes Everything Vs. My Life on the Road


For NaNoWriMo last year I wrote a blog post a day and one of them was about comparative reading. I think it is such an amazing concept and I wanted to do it again. It gives you a deeper understanding of what you have read, how certain writers tackle certain aspects, and how you can shift your focus when reading.

“This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate” is a book by Naomi Klein from 2014 which looks into the economic, social, and environmental aspects of climate change while also analysing how capitalism brought us there. It was a fascinating book and will probably be one of the main sources for my own project because it has so much wisdom in it.

Gloria Steinem’s memoir “My Life on the Road” was published in 2015. She describes her life as an activist, the people she has met and who have guided her throughout, and the issues women were and are still facing today. It was inspiring to read about a life lived so fully.

What I loved most about these two books was their inclusiveness, their focus on minorities and their unique struggles. Steinem writes about her experiences with people who have faced discrimination and how they dealt with them. What we can do about them. Naomi Klein is also very aware and she takes it a step further, linking these issues to climate change.

One aspect that made me look at “My Life on the Road” through an environmental lens in the first place was this one by Steinem in her interview with Emma Watson: If we had real equality between women and men, women would be able to decide for themselves if they want to receive children or not. They would have full reproductive freedom and would not have to have children they don’t want or cannot have. It would offer them opportunities to work, to invest in education, to live more sustainably. The effect of climate change also depends on global population size. This is why feminism should be one of the main strategies to conquer climate change. Naomi Klein adds to this as she says that every movement aiming for equality is a step in the right direction of conquering climate change.

Our environmental problems today are the product of hundreds of years of inequality, of exploitation, and expression of power over nature. In a culture where not everyone is able to work together because of prejudices and strong opposing opinions, there will be no unified action against climate change. One which we so desperately need. Gloria Steinem argues that these movements are indeed happening right now, though, and that she has experienced living right among them. Felt their power and the hope they radiate. This is also what I noticed in the end of “This Changes Everything”. There is a way to get through this. We have to transform our values and work for a more just world.

“My Life on the Road” examines how this is done in detail. Going around, talking to people. Listening to their struggles and spreading awareness. Giving talks to activists, forming groups, marching. These are the practical aspects of the great change Naomi Klein wrote about.

Since Klein’s book is researched to a great detail and could be seen more as a piece of journalism, it does not have as many personal stories in it as “My Life on the Road”. However, the part I loved the most, was her telling the story how she struggled to get pregnant and how her son was born. She wrote about the BP oil spill and its effect on the eggs and youngest fish in lakes and oceans. It was beautifully linked and thus all the more powerful. “My Life on the Road” as a memoir has all these stories and anecdotes which are linked to the pressing issues of our time. This taught me a lot: When writing my own book I have to connect my own stories to the issues I’m talking about. Otherwise, they will get too distant. I don’t want to be a preacher. I want to be an observer of the world, a storyteller.

Both books have changed my perception. After finishing “This Changes Everything” today I am a bit more hopeful that we can avert the crisis, but I’m also more painfully aware of the damage that we have done thus far. I feel physical pain in my stomach and heart when I read about oil spills, about devastating pollution, and the exploitation of people all over the world. Gloria Steinem assured me through the women’s movement that this can be changed. I have had the great amount of opportunities only through women like her. Once we recognise our power as a unified people, we can make a difference. Once we tell our stories and share our values, we will succeed.

Both of them showed me a journalism at its finest. Since it is a profession I could really see myself in, it was interesting to read about their lives. I felt a personal connection through the love of writing and the passion with which they dive into their topics.

What is the overall message of both books?
Be hopeful. Work harder. Be more inclusive. Listen and learn.

#climatemarch


We Resist. We Build. We Rise.

Weighed down by a bit of weekend-loneliness, inability to wrap my head around uni stuff, and the cold fingers of writer’s block strangling me, I was not in a good place today. Together with the news of Trump’s executive order on Arctic drilling… my hope hid itself in my cold, dark fridge. It doesn’t see climate change if it is in there. (I believe that is also what most climate change deniers do.)

 Just like the Women’s marches did early this year, the climate march on Washington today gave me my hope back. It crawled from between the kale and the carrots out of the fridge and announced that it would get stuff done now.

These marches show that people care. They show that we have the ability as humans to come together peacefully and protest for a common denominator: The future of our planet. It is beautiful to see people from all over the world supporting each other even if they are so different. Because this unites us all.

“When humans are ranked instead of linked, everyone loses.” Gloria Steinem in “My Life on the Road”

Some argue that climate change divides rich and poor even more. Only to a certain point in time can those, who made their money through oil and coal, build their forts to protect themselves from floods and storms. In the end, nature always wins. We are all on the same page here. And it is not us against Mother Earth. We are rather her ignorant, carefree children who have yet to grow up. We don’t have the time to go through that process. We have to understand right now that it is best for us to work together in peace. That love and understanding are the only ways through which we will be able to survive. Humans took such a long time to evolve. All that time we have lived in connection with our planet, never against it. Let’s find that connection again. To our Earth, and between ourselves.

Did you go protesting in any of the climate marches? If so – Thank you so much! You are awesome! – please tell me your feelings and thoughts about it!

“I read a book about that…”


As I was just sitting in my Atmospheric Physics lecture (It’s complicated, confusing, and cumbersome), I could think of nothing else than getting back home to continue reading my new-found love: My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem, recommended to me by the lovely Stephanie (https://adventuresofabibliophile.com/). When I told a book-loving friend of mine, she said: “Feminism. The classic. Obviously.” She knows that I spend most of my money on books. About climate change, feminism, and self-improvement. The classics. One year ago I could never have imagined reading about these topics. I would always prefer fiction over reality.

This year I started to cure my little life-crisis with books. Where do I want to go? What do I want to be? How do I get there? Everything was explained to me. In books. All the books my friend and I had read and talked about during our runs in the last months had paid off. We were teaching ourselves how to be good managers more than our study course did.

When I started working on my book on climate change, I also started reading books about it for the first time. Took everything I could get my hands on. You wouldn’t believe how many works there are in our library. Every time I now have a conversation with my dad about the topic I always add: “I read a book about that…” He now is able to interpret the look on my face and finish that sentence for me. Climate change and the media? Climate change and feminism? Climate change and refrigerators? Climate change and bearded trolls in Sweden? You name it.

Through all this reading I got a little overwhelmed by the scope of the project in front of me. I read myself into a writer’s block. Do you know who cured it? Gloria Steinem. I was so excited that even in my lecture I couldn’t stop taking notes. Which was probably not a good idea. Hydrostatic equilibrium? Adiabatic what? Again please?

“A love letter to the books…
That make you jump up hyped to change the world.
That make you write your heart out.
That make you take notes in class with all the crazy ideas you have.
That take you back to your passions.
That make you daydream about reading on.
In which you want to underline every line because they are so true, so honest, so pure, so beautiful. “

My Life on the Road is such a book. I’m just into the first chapters and I’m already inspired. Her writing style is amazing and her sentences resonated with me even in the darkest minutes of my lecture when all I did is scribble down equations I didn’t understand, next to words I had never heard, and a professor who smiled briefly but coldly and said that it all was so logical. Of course. Welcome to uni.

In the midst of all that I remembered her words. They revived in me the wish to also be a journalist, a traveller, a seeker of stories:

“It’s as if attentive people create a magnetic force field for stories the tellers themselves didn’t know they had within them. (…) The simplest paths to deep change is for the less powerful to speak as much as they listen, and for the more powerful to listen as much as they speak.” Gloria Steinem, My Life on the Road

Weeks after weeks had I tried to word in my book the need for people to listen to each other, to consider each other’s fates, and to be inclusive in all their talking. Who would have known that it could be said that easily…

As you may have noticed I am in love with this book. I will write a review once I have finished it. Until then I have some questions for you:

Do you know any good books about journalism?
Any other non-fiction you can recommend?
What was one book that made you jump in excitement, that inspired you?

Deadlines and Goals


There is never enough time to do everything. We think that these organised people around us somehow make new time to do all things they love. They don’t. They just have their priorities straight. For effective time management – every book on that subject will tell you so – you need to set your goals. You need to see where you want to go, how you will get there, and when you will do so. That would be all fine if there wasn’t that nagging voice in the back of your head: Does it really matter RIGHT NOW? Couldn’t you just do it in two weeks time? Nobody will care anyway. Watch one more episode. Meet with your friends for dinner.

We put our tasks off until we can’t anymore because we have reached the ultimate deadline. Resulting in stress and bad outcomes. Why not invest more time in realistic planning before hand and then getting the job done? (Hint: we are lazy)

For all this wonderful planning (that I by the way adore) you need to know your goals in life. And then hustle. I just read Lilly Singh’s “How to be a Bawse” and it is awesome. So much practical advice on how to a) be a decent human being b) get shit done c) set your goals and d) grow and climb the ladders of life. You should really check it out. This book is a kick in your booty that was located lazily on the sofa. My booty has been in a very comfortable position lately. I told myself to write daily for this whole year. I made it until the middle of April. Then I stopped. Too much to do, I told myself. My dream – becoming a writer – seemed too far away. I had writer’s block on my latest book project and I just couldn’t get myself to add any more words. The mere thought was ridiculous. How could I write anything every anyway?

Instead I told myself that there was too much to do for uni and then ate my body weight in peanuts and watched youtube videos. Congratulations.

Goal setting for my blog hasn’t worked out that well in the past (look at the hundred’s of posts where I told you I was going to upload regularly. That went so well…) But it doesn’t help to complain about that. Let’s try again. Only talking doesn’t bring me anywhere. I need to do what I preach.

To kick myself in the booty, get away from all this “I am so stressed” nonsense, striving towards my goal of being a writer, I will post once a week. Please hold me accountable for that. Write me angry emails or comments if I do not provide a post every Friday.

Do you have a project you need to get done? Set yourself a deadline and tell your friends to check if you achieved it. Write me in the comments! Tell people about your goals and you are more likely to succeed. Let’s beat the monster of procrastination together!

Why Our Art Matters


John Green made a fabulous video about artists and their work today using the metaphor of the world’s largest ball of paint. I let him tell the story:

He said we might put all our energy into painting that one layer, and making it the most beautiful, only for it to be painted over by others. In the end, our layer of paint did contribute to the size of the ball, to its magnificence. There will be people remembering how we painted that one layer. One day, they will be gone as well. The artwork remains.

As artists we spend a lot of time wondering about if it matters what we do. Certainly through the blog I have shared my work with more people than I would have ever imagined. But even this is temporary. At only a few years old I did a lot of arts and crafts. I loved that. I always glued pieces of paper together and drew on them. That was my art. It is probably tucked away in some box I will never find again. But it contributed to the ball of paint that is my life. Five years ago I started drawing portraits and I still have these first sketches in a binder. Another layer on the ball of paint. Now my artwork is a lot better than those old sketches. I have painted over the old layers. All this time invested contributed thin layers.

If we see our development as artists like that, no perceived failure will ever trouble us again. Because they are all just lumps and bumps in a layer of paint we will soon go over with another colour. We might decide that we don’t like this ball anymore and start a new one. We might glue some paper onto it. We might write some verses on it. But with everything we do, it grows. We grow.

We also spend some time discussing the inevitable question in our head: Are we really undiscovered geniuses or are we just normal human beings thinking too much? Can we really ever know? Is it important?

What do we want our art to do for ourselves? Do we want to be recognised in the streets for our artwork? Do we want to appear in fancy magazines? Do we want our art to sustain our lives? Or do we want to make people happy, make them think, bring them joy? Do we want to send a powerful message? When we pose these questions we will know what we expect from the world. What the world can expect from us.

A genius can work silently in their studio day after day, from dawn to dusk. A genius can get up at 4 in the morning to cram in some extra hours of painting before the day job, only to come home at night exhausted and tired. A genius can get up at 12, write for ten minutes, eat ice cream the whole day, and go to bed five hours later. A genius might have picked up ballet dancing at forty years old and be amazing, despite everything everyone ever told them. We are all geniuses in our own way. We make it work. We struggle through insecurities. Through self-hate. Through doubt. Through anger at ourselves and our equipment. At unsaved documents. At word counts that won’t grow. We will curse our writer’s block and the muse that has left us. We will curse ourselves most often. That is just part of the process. We go on anyway because we have to. We are artists.

Whatever you might want to create today, know, that it will count. It will count for your own development, your growth. It will count for the world. It will count for the large ball of paint that is our culture, and our common humanity. We have always created something to make life more beautiful. We have always used art as a means for communication, to express our wonder about the world. These are challenging times we live in – let your art tell the story of this time. Use it to create even more. Art is what connects us on a much deeper level and this connection is what we need right now. There is so much division, hate, and fear out there. Let’s work on the beautiful ball of paint together that is our planet Earth.

In which way are you an artist genius? Let’s have a little chat in the comments!

I’m Back & Book Project


Oh it has been a long time. I actually have an excuse which is not really one. I have lost my password and nothing worked anymore and exam phase and bla bla bla. But I’m back. I will write essays about the environment and feminism again.

Over the last few months I have been writing daily. It gives me so much pleasure. At the moment these texts add up to 90 000 words… You would think that a student had better things to do. But writing in the evenings is always the thing I’m looking forward to most (Well, not every day … aka writer’s block or evil cycle of self-hatred)

What have I been working on?
It’s a book. You guessed it. My twenty-third (or so) attempt to writing a book. I think everyone is laughing about me and my projects. This one is different, I like to tell myself. It’s non-fiction.
I always loved to read fiction but I could never make enough stuff up to fill a book. I would be overwhelmed by all the things I had to consider. What would they eat? How would their kitchen counter look like? What would the pictures on their walls show? Nope, too much work.
Then I discovered non-fiction. First, through self-help books and then through books about the environment. Which got me thinking. I am an environmental management student. Why not write a book about that? I began to research a little and quickly settled with climate change as a topic. Far too broad. I read loads of scientific papers and decided it should be about the social aspects of climate change. Analyses of feminism, media representation of climate change included. Now that’s a topic I can work with. I wrote a bit and I read a bit and now suddenly it’s 12 000 words. This is going well.

The only problem: I’m a little bit overwhelmed by the dimensions of this project. The more I read the less I know. I am painfully aware of my ignorance and my following ancient concepts of society. I have to step past the rules and read everything I can get my hands on to be able to be a decent human being in writing about this.

This project gives me life, it gives me hope, and it gives me a purpose (why also keeping me putting words on a page every day).

Also I would like to give a huge thanks to the lovely women who commented on my post on feminism (https://verenacave.wordpress.com/2016/11/08/intersectionality-and-feminism/)

https://scribbledstories514.wordpress.com/
https://sammarshihab.wordpress.com/
https://tuneinfeminism.wordpress.com/

Thank you so much for you kind words, they really gave me back some energy to write on and to use my voice.

If you would like to point out any issues or questions I need to include in my book, please tell me! I would love to discuss them with you!