As I continue to work on You Will Not Be Forgotten, each Wednesday I am going to post about something I’ve learned in the process of writing this book. Maybe it will be something about myself or about slavery or about history in general; I’m not sure. One thing I do know is this – writing this book has changed me in more ways than I will probably ever know. I hope you’ll check in each week to see what I’ve discovered in the process. I hope you’ll share your thoughts, too.
I like that my cheese is called a tome, because making a cheese is somewhat like making a book. Both take raw materials from the world and transfigure it into art. Both are the products of rumination – animal and human. When you make a cheese you do a little work with the milk and come back later and do some more, and wait again. It takes months to make a cheese. A book takes even longer. You can’t make either in one go. Time is the essential element. Time cures the imperfections, one hopes, in both. — Brad Kessler
This book writing thing takes a long time, longer than I thought it would, longer than activities like NaNoWriMo allowed me to believe. 18 months now. That’s how long I’ve been at this.
Maybe there are some people who can write a book flat-out, revise it once, and put it to press. I am not one of those people. I need that rumination that Kessler speaks of. I need time to sit with the subject and let it embue the little crevices of my ideas and feelings with new information and perspective. I need to write and then sit and write and live a day and write and walk and write and wait. All of that between writing time is as essential as any of the writing I do. It’s the fermentation, the aging of my ideas. This time is what gives what I have to say substance and clarity.
I don’t want it to take a lot of time. I want to be able to barrel through the remaining 12 chapters of edits and just get them done. I want to have this book out in the world because I want others to know about these people, first and foremost, but also because I want people to see me as an “real writer.” I know I am, but I grow weary of the questions about what I’ve published and the ingratiating smile when I list my essays and magazine articles but no book title. I want to be able to move on to a new project. I want to be done.
But book writing does not work this way, at least not for me. I still need to ruminate. I still need to ponder and reflect and spend a half-hour looking at one paragraph.
When I remember these people – Gruff and Minerva, Cato and Dilcey – when I settle myself into the place where they are the most important, then, then I can wait. What is another month of editing when these people waited decades for the freedom to just walk where they wanted?
Do you ever get impatient with your own writing? How do you manage that impatience?