My Heart It Screams: The Book Writing Process

Today marks the second blog I have written in months.  In many ways it feels much, much longer than that.  Yet, I have thought about writing this particular blog post many times throughout the book writing process when I had the chance or took the time to stop and really think.  Think of this post as reflection, as my processing through, or whatever you really want to call it.  These thoughts/conclusions/ideas are in no particular order and I apologize in advance for the length.  Like Rhonda, I can be a bit “wordy”.

Nightmare Schedule

As I sit on my couch on a lazy Saturday morning, part of me wonders what is on my list of things to do.  I always have one.  Today’s list consists of what to clean since I’m still way behind on that as well as what I should be doing to get ready to go on tour.  That said, there is no pressure to get any or all of it done, which feels weird.  Before this week, my schedule from March on was a complete nightmare.  Teaching is hard enough.  It exhausts me to put on a show for 5 hours a day only to have lesson planning and grading that never ends.  Then, I would come home to write (and to grade or lesson plan).  I literally worked all day, everyday.  Yes, I took some breaks to be social, to sleep, but not much.  I’m not going to lie.  There were many days that I sat on my chair in my office, literally in tears over how exhausted I felt.  Yet, I knew that I had to keep going.  I pushed and pushed even when my brain and body wanted to shut down.  That said, for the next book, I hope we give ourselves more breathing room.

Pride

Believe it or not, this type of schedule wasn’t totally new for me.  I experienced a similar amount of work when I was campaigning on top of teaching.  Yet, this type of work was, in many ways, more challenging for me.  It was often done in solitude with the exception of text messages from that writing partner of mine.  As someone who works in a VERY social setting, it was hard for me to keep working when it was quiet and I was by myself.  At school, it is never quiet and I’m lucky if I get 25 minutes of solo work time a day.  When I’m in front of the kids, I have to pump myself up or they eat me alive.  I had none of that with writing.

That isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy the writing process (I’ll get to that)–just that it was challenging for me in many ways, too.  That said, like campaigning and teaching, at the end of the process, when we sent the manuscript off, I felt such a surge of pride.  Pride that we saw it through.  Pride that we saw it through TOGETHER and pride at the quality.  The one area of my life that I have always felt competent in is through work.  This book reinforced that, no matter what happens from here.  I may not be the most successfully social person but I know that I can work hard and can accomplish great things when I put my energy there.

Creative Process/Openness

As Rhonda has mentioned, I believe, the version of the book we just sent to the publisher is vastly different than the first one.  I would describe the first one as safe.  It required a lot of research, organizing, outlining, etc.  We could hold the topic of fandom at arm’s length, not sharing much about ourselves or our personal fandom.  For me, personally, this is a realm that I feel comfortable in. I liked doing research in college and grad school.  My social science background got some use.  Then, of course, we decided to go at the topic from a different angle, a more personal one.  In fact, we started a second way then changed to a third way.  For the first time in my life, I found myself second guessing my work.  Again, I question myself socially all the time but I don’t at work.  I’m confident in my choices, my decisions–no matter if those decisions happen in my classroom or on the campaign trail.  Yet, now, I wondered.  I questioned and pondered up until a few days before we sent it.  Did we do this the right way?  Are we sharing too much?  More importantly, did I share too much?  That is never easy for me.

As some of you may know, my mother is an artist.  She creates these amazing fiber art pieces, often combining fabric with other materials.  A part of me always wished to be her and to be that creative.  I always joke, though, that I can’t be because my father is more scientific, more analytical, more anal.  He has a math/science brain.  This combination produced three kids who all went into social sciences, which allowed for the analysis that my father is comfortable with but isn’t as black or white as a hard science.  I never felt like I could live like an artist with the struggle of baring one’s soul.  While our book is still non-fiction and still has academic elements to it, it is also creative in how we approached fandom.  It also required me letting go more than I usually do and to be more open than I am normally, like most art does.

I do believe that the process was good for me.  I pushed myself in ways that needed to be pushed.

Friendship

Whenever Rhonda and I work on a project, I’m always amazed at how well we work together, whether that is this blog, our book, or fan events.  Our commitment to our friendship and to our work keeps us going, keeps us focused on the goal.  At times, it isn’t always easy.  We both have strong feelings about what is needed and sometimes those ideas clash.  During this process, there were times that I needed her to step in with a part I was working on and times that she needed me to.  We were in constant communication during the past few months–often not even bothering with greetings but moving right to “business”.  As we often say, we did what must be done and still live to call each other friends at the end of the day.    That said, I’m really looking forward to spending time together as friends, not writing partners but as two people who like each other.  We deserve to have FUN and I’m ready to laugh my way through most of July!!

Gratitude

Beyond being and feeling incredibly thankful for having a great writing partner who kept me on track, pushed me to be the best writer I could be, I am also thankful for a few people who personally helped with this little project of ours.  (I know this is what an acknowledgement page is for–I don’t want to wait!)

First, I have to thank our friend, Heather, who read every single word, providing feedback on content as well as line-by-line refinement.  We couldn’t have done it without her.  I am especially grateful to her.  Let me share a little story.  Early on in the rewrite process, I finished a chapter on the 1980s.  I had spent a lot of time on it, brought in some great references, put Duran Duran fandom in context.  I felt confident until Heather read it.  Her feedback implied that parts of it were…boring.  Oh shit.  I don’t and can’t have that!  I knew that something needed to be changed but I couldn’t figure it out.  Fast forward a couple of weeks.  I woke up in the morning, needing to get ready for work when an idea struck me, one that wouldn’t let go.  I suddenly realized what Heather’s point really meant and knew that we should again shift how we were writing this book.  By ten am, I was texting Rhonda begging for a conference call causing us to start all over again, requiring us to throw out some of the new chapters we had written.  (I’m sure that Rhonda wanted to kill me that day and days after!  Thank goodness, we live far away from each other!)  I have to believe that Heather’s feedback festered in my brain until I knew what needed to be done.  I thank her for that (assuming that the third version is the best one!).

Second, I also have to thank my brother for feedback on some chapters, too.  It wasn’t easy for me to ask him since he is much older than me and I never felt equal to him.  (He points out his Ph.D. a little bit more than I would like, sometimes!)  That said, his feedback gave me confidence that we were on the right track.

Lastly, I have to thank my parents.  Their unwavering support and confidence in my abilities helped the most when I was struggling with a part or a chapter.  I know that a lot of people think they have the best parents but I know that I really do.

Now, we wait for feedback from the publisher and focus on having some fun.  I hear some Duran shows are in our near future!

-A

2 thoughts on “My Heart It Screams: The Book Writing Process”

  1. First of all: my big and warm welcome back to blog. I missed my Saturdays walks in and stops by on here to show my support when due and my feedback.
    All support on the book.

    Now you both deserve to have fun as music fans.
    Just welcome back, … the music’s between us!
    .

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