I’d always wanted to write a book. It just sounds so cool: a BOOK.
Even better: “MY book.” Still better: “Have you read my book?”
But there was an obstacle in the way. Writing it. Books take a lot of pages, in case you hadn’t noticed.
Back in college, a 6-page paper was a serious writing project. It took a lot of research, writing, and re-writing to get to that number.
In my senior year, I wrote a 10-page paper one day almost by accident, and the teacher accepted it. “Wow,” I thought afterwards. “I just wrote 10 pages. ME!”
I learned that writing a book is a lot like running a marathon. Sure, 26 miles SEEMS like a lot, but once you can do 13 miles, the numbers stop mattering so much.
That probably doesn’t help if you’re a beginning runner. When you start running, it takes all your strength just to get to the 5- or 10-mile mark.
Beginning writers face the same mental blocks. If they strain and ache just to get to 5 pages, then writing 26 pages seems out of the question.
But if they write 5-page papers over again and again, it becomes easier. Suddenly, it seems possible to double that number. A 10-page paper pops out. Yet another mental barrier down.
The next big mental barrier is the 100-page mark. I was in college when I broke that number with my senior honors thesis.
I’d cheated: I merged papers from 3 separate courses, which took a semester apiece to write. All in all, those 100 pages represented a YEAR and a half of work. (Which seems completely CRAZY to me now. That’s 7 weeks’ worth!)
Back then, all that mattered was the page number on that last sheet of paper. One HUNDRED pages. Nearly a book’s worth.
So I was ready, after graduation, to start my big novel. I had a literature degree. I knew I could break the 100-page mark. I set off on a summer job armed with my laptop and big plans. I told everyone I was writing a book, and they responded, “Really? That’s so cool. Can I read it?”
Which brings me to another reason that people write books. We like the accolades.
People are impressed when they learn you’ve written a book. They react the same way as if you told them you’d run a marathon.
I liked being known as someone who was writing a book, but I also knew that I had to live up to that statement … or end up a hypocrite.
“Yes, I’m writing a book.”
“Can I see it?”
“Actually, I’ve just got the first few pages done. I’m planning to get to the rest of it sometime next month when I have more free time…”
Because, you see, you can start off writing a book with all the best intentions, but then your enthusiasm wanes just as quickly. You’ve got a life; you’ve got other things going on. The book becomes a distant dream, only remotely connected to the words on the computer screen in front of you.
You DO want to write a book, but the idea of writing the book appeals more than the drudgery of typing away on your lunch breaks.
And that’s what I discovered. That “book” I started that summer still sits in some forlorn archived folder on my computer. It’s just a couple of quick sketches, random anecdotes. A stillborn baby that never had the chance to cry.