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.