It’s been a while coming. If all goes according to plan, though, I will receive a hard copy of my copyedited manuscript in the mail today. A two-hundred page book that just needs a few more edits before becoming an advanced reader and then a real live book on the shelves of bookstores.
The plan was to write my book in about ten months. The plan was to hand into my publisher, HarperCollins, a finished manuscript about my year-long 100 Thing Challenge a couple weeks after my simple-living project ended in November of 2009. When I missed that deadline by a month and even then didn’t have anything like a completed book, it got real discouraging.
In retrospect, I don’t know what possessed me to suggest I’d finish writing my first book in ten months. I had a full-time job, a two-hour-a-day commute, three daughters, one wife, nine pets, and, well, the 100 Thing Challenge to live out. Oh sure, there was plenty of time in 2009 for me to dream up fifty thousand coherent words.
I recently found some consolation in a passage from Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life that my wife read to me the other night. Dillard says that it takes between two and ten years to write a book. Most full-time authors, she claims, write a book every three years. Fine. So with some pain and suffering, and with excellent help from my editors, I managed to crack out my first manuscript in about sixteen months. Of course, I am not comparing what I’ve done to anything that Dillard has done. She’s a remarkable author.
It feels nothing short of a miracle that I am close to publishing my first book. A memoir of sorts. A short breath in the long-winded narrative of authors who have sought out and written about simplicity. I believe in the supernatural. Don’t get me wrong, it seems that book publishing requires some otherworldly intervention, or else books would never get thought up by authors or picked up by acquisitions editors. Of course, is this creative inspiration our reflection of the Divine Image, or does it stem from other powers and principalities? Only time and reviews can tell.
With regards to the time it takes to write a book, I have discovered no formula. The chapter of my book that received the most praise from my editor was outlined one night before bed and written the next day. That chapter will go to print with remarkably few edits. Other chapters, too, were conceived in a night, but then came out like birthing triplets, sideways. Still other parts of my book were thought up over months of contemplation and written down across more months still, like a challenging hike that you don’t regret that you set out on, even though you still have many miles to go.
So time has not been the most consistent factor in my writing experience. Time has been there always. At points exerting itself. At points quietly giving me its blessing.
An author has time to write a book. That’s that. But I found other factors more important than time when writing about the 100 Thing Challenge. People, for example. Who can write a book without other people?