I was at a gathering for writers. The leader talked about whipping out x thousands of words a day, getting so-and-so to help edit the final manuscript, another to do the book design, etc. and getting it up on Amazon as fast as possible to get those sales made and dollars rolling in. Leader made writing and publishing a book–a whole book!–sound as easy as popping a frozen bean burrito in the microwave for lunch.
Leader recommended using an online global freelancer site for editing and related services, and noted that he used someone from overseas because the people in the U.S. “just charge too much.”
Leader also mentioned a family member who has been working on a book for “three years now.” And with the shake of the head said the family member, “is never going to finish.”
I’ve been working on my book for over seven years.
I won’t be going back to the gathering. It’s not just because the Leader was encouraging people to use overseas freelancers instead of people like me and my fellow state-side creatives. Or that Leader seemed more concerned that we hurry up and publish and sell instead of delivering a well-written and compelling read to the buyer. It was these things but mostly the dismissive attitude with which he discussed a family member’s personal writing track. That one hit home.
I could list all kinds of revered authors who took 5, 10, 20+ years to write (Ken Follett’s Edge of Eternity, 7; Susanna Daniel’s Stiltsville, 10 and she writes about it here). It takes what it takes.
I didn’t have to take Leader’s comment personally but I did, and in a way I’m glad. I’d been frustrated with the pace of adding new material to my book–a trip to Belize after I finished chemo in 2007. I was tired of worrying I’d never get it done, after all it’s been over seven years. And I don’t measure in x thousands of words per day. I’m more like, “today I got to the part where we take the golf cart to dinner,” and “almost done with the boat ride to the snorkel site.” It’s never how many thousands of words I wrote.
Seven years, ten years, whatever, I’m going to finish and finish well. To help, I sought out ways to increase my pace. I found one in a tomato.
You might be aware of the Pomodoro Technique™ a simple time-management approach, but I was clueless. Basically, you use a timer to work uninterrupted for a set amount of time then take a short break. I wanted something simple for my laptop. I searched Google for apps that help writers with focus and productivity, and found the Pomodoro One app, a super simple timer based on the Technique, for free in iTunes.
For the last six weeks or so, I’ve used the timer to help me add the Belize story to my manuscript and for whatever reason it works. For me, 30 minutes of work with a 5 minute break for a total of 2 hours per day has kept the story moving. (You can customize your work/break times however you want.) I pop in some earplugs, leave my phone in the other room and refuse to open email. And I’m proud to announce that this morning I completed the addition of Belize! Strangely, on this day eight years ago, I had a bilateral mastectomy to remove breast cancer. Writing about Belize has been a hell of a lot more fun.
Tomorrow I begin adding the last of the new material. I’ll be using my tomato, earplugs and the positive energy of a friendly co-working space I’m trying for a month called Green Spaces, to keep me on track. I’m targeting the end of October to have a draft to a local book coach. Maybe even earlier!
I hope to blog and tweet more then but for now, I say, Tomato. And tomato says, Write.
Do you have something years in the making? Have you finished something that took you longer than you’d expect? Do tell. You have my full support.