How does it feel to write a book?

Last year I finished my first book, called Feminisme – een nieuw begin (Feminism – a new beginning). Since then people have asked questions about the writing. How did it feel to write it? How does it feel to have finished? My writer friend, working on her own first book, was watching me closely to see what would happen, how this would change me.

So how does it feel? Let’s talk about the writing process first.

Writing the book

I had a tough time writing this book because I had a tough time in my personal life. Struggling with depression didn’t make it easier to write but I somehow never stopped writing. My dad died, a year before, which made a difficult time even more difficult.

Maybe writing was a way to deal with these things. Maybe it’s really something you are. You are a writer, so, you write. Writers write not because they can, but because they can’t not write. We need food, water, air, and paper (virtual or otherwise).

So writing the book was a tough go for a long time. There were great moments of finishing a chapter, of being able to write quickly, of being able to write well. And there were moments of soul-crushing slowness, inching through a chapter, one word per hour, completely lost. It felt like wandering a desert.

And yes, I could recommend it to anyone. Get to know yourself better. Engage in conversations with other writers, some alive, some dead. It’s a worthwhile endeavour.

Near the end it got better. Chapters were getting finished, proofreaders gave feedback, everything was evolving nicely. I made the mistake – or not – of holding off on writing the last chapters. The book took me a while. Say four years, off and on, not full-time. In the final year I witnessed the devastation of right-wing politics that were seizing Europe, the accelerating neoliberal attacks on our lives and the refugee crisis and camps throughout Europe. That reality changed the book. I felt I could finally finish: I knew what to say and how to say it. However, by then the deadline was looming. So I wrote the last two chapters quickly, spending lots of evenings with wine and lots of afternoons with my writer friend, without whom I might never have finished.

Quickly, but not easily, because I felt I was struggling against an invisible barrier: my own feelings. Can I finish this book? Can it be good? And so on. That was actually the hardest part.

After the book

I’d written a master’s thesis before, so I expected to feel weird finishing the book. But at first I simply didn’t get that it was actually finished. It was only two weeks later, as I was creating packages – there were a lot of pre-orders of the book and I was swamped at first – when it suddenly dawned on me. I saw a stack of packages on my table and then, finally realized ‘O wow! I wrote a book!’ and that was a really happy occasion 🙂

So, as I said before, I’d definitely recommend it, even if it’s so tough to write.

E

 

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