There is an arrogance in writing a book. The author assumes others will be interested in her work. Otherwise, why would she write? This assumption weighs heavily upon the writer’s soul and bores a reservoir of self-doubt, ebbing and flowing with the tides of insecurity. It can make one a little crazy and explains the self-destructive nature of many creative people.
After my own self-questioning, I have decided to actively dismiss these insecurities. I post the following quote on the fridge:
The one thing all famous authors, world class athletes, business tycoons, singers, actors, and celebrated achievers in any field have in common is that they all began their journeys when they were none of these things. ~Mike Dooley
It alleviates SOME of my worries…but not all of them.
I start thinking about my book and choosing its guiding principles. As I mentioned before, I want it to be one’s go-to book for dealing with dating. I want it to be light, funny, uplifting, beautiful, and gift-worthy. I want it to be a page-turner, one shares with her friends. I decide it will be for women over 40. (Later, my chosen demographics soften as I meet readers in their 20s and 30s, who share some of the same frustrations.) I would love for men to enjoy it too. I figure they may be feeling a little discouraged as well.
I think about the illustrations:
In the introduction, I write about the craziness of Orange County dating with the “real housewives” and 50-year-old guys looking for their 20-year-old soulmates. I see myself as my reader’s designated driver, keeping her laughing during the ride. I draw a picture of a stereotypical spinster. She has glasses, frizzy hair, and is holding a cat. Another cat is on a cat tree in the background. (Cats will be big in this book.) It is a little scary how much she looks like me.
I write other stories. In one vignette, I compare dating, in the OC, to the African Serengeti. I have fun making it sound like a National Geographic special with the reader watching from a viewing booth! I also draw a picture of a hand “giving the bird” with its wedding ring finger. It is a little offensive but that is okay. Dating is a little offensive.
During this time, I am also teaching. I spend hours after school grading, tutoring, organizing, and planning for my classroom. The remaining time, I am working on the book. After a while, it starts getting to me. I feel lonely, isolated, and a little chunky. I figure I need friends and some exercise.
I search the online Meetup sites and join the Orange County Hiking Club. I figure I can get in shape, meet some new friends, check out the dating scene for writing ideas and have a little fun. I start with the short hikes but soon find all the adventure is in the longer ones. These hikes are populated by the monster hikers. With this group, you feel guilty falling because it slows everyone else down and at the end of the trail, the organizer is taking trophy pictures of injuries. These crazies have their heroes too. There is a gal who forgot her hiking boots and ended up scaling the ominous C2C (Cactus to Clouds) in sandals. This trail spans the Palm Springs tram route and continues to San Jacinto Peak. It is over 10 miles, one way, with more than 10,000 feet gain and I stand in awe of anyone who can complete it. There are pictures of her victoriously waving her sandaled feet in the air on the website. She is not the only one. There’s another gal who became stranded in a snow storm, close to San Jacinto Peak. She holed up in an old cabin, close to the top, for several days. Through her resourcefulness and rock hard determination she survived and became part of the local folklore. These people are the Bear Grylls of the hiking club and I want to be just like them. I want to be strong, bold, fearless, gutsy and doggedly-determined.
I go on these hikes and meet some fantastic characters along the way. I ask one guy about his social life and he tells me,” This is a hiking club, not a dating club.” Obviously, he has not been paying attention! There is the curmudgeonly guy betting me, “This group will never make it!” Another holds my hand during an especially steep trail and I think I am falling in love. I write about the princes and the frogs; hiking grit and how it parallels dating; and the character-revealing aspects of a tough trail. I draw pictures of turtling, peakbagging and some of the pitfalls of trailblazing. I have a lot of fun and meet some great people!
And then one day, my friend Michael takes it up a notch. He has secured coveted permits for the highest peak in the Continental U.S.: Mount Whitney! I feel like I have hit the lug nut lottery when he invites me to join the group! I enthusiastically accept his invitation, having no idea this adventure would open a whole new very frightening chapter for me, one I could never have imagined…ever….
Next week: Scaling Mt. Whitney and It Wasn’t Supposed to Be Like This
Eight years ago, my boyfriend and I were talking about the presidential campaigns of Barack Obama and John McCain. McCain had just chosen Sarah Palin for his vice presidential running mate and I voiced my concern regarding her candidacy. My boyfriend’s response: Let’s be real here. The only reason you don’t like Sarah Palin is she’s SO hot.
I remember thinking two things:
The idea was not entirely original. A close friend had mentioned an acquaintance who was writing a book about her dating misadventures. Of course, this person had the idea first and I did not want to take it from her. I was relieved when my friend reassured me her acquaintance was no longer working on her book. (She must have found a guy!) The field was wide open.
Writing and illustrating a book is an enormous undertaking so I needed to think carefully about whether I was willing to take it on. The pros were:
1.) Books had helped me enormously during difficult periods in my life. Years earlier, I had been in the midst of a very tough pregnancy and a friend gave me Dave Barry’s hilarious book: Babies and Other Hazards of Sex. This book portrayed the realities of pregnancy with cartoons of Lamaze classes, barfing, huge weight gains, and labor. It made me giggle and feel so much better.
I had a similar experience after a devastating breakup. I was bereft and became an insomniac feeling sick to my stomach most of the time. My only relief was reading the book: It’s Called a Breakup Because It’s Broken by Greg Behrendt and Amiira Ruotola-Behrendt. The chapters about psycho breakups and drinking-and-dialing made me laugh out loud and feel so much better. I must have read it 100 times.
I wanted to do, for single women, what these two books had done for me in pregnancy and heartbreak. I wanted to create a book about all the really funny parts of being single and make my reader laugh. I envisioned it as one’s go-to book after a really bad date. It could be a mini-vacay from dating reality!
2.) I looked carefully at the demographics and was encouraged by the numbers. There are now more singles than marrieds and with a 50% divorce rate providing new entries into the single column daily, my potential reader base was huge.
3.) I love writing and drawing.
4.) My cartoons had been published in the Orange County Register and miscellaneous newsletters. I didn’t totally suck.
5.) Twenty-five years ago, I had accomplished the impossible. My joke was published in Reader’s Digest. They had sent me a bumper stick reading: I found money, fame, and glory. Reader’s Digest published my story. If I could do that, I could do this. Right?!
6.) There were so many directions I could take this topic. I could make it as big or as little as I wanted.
7.) I would learn a lot and meet many new and interesting people.
8.) If the book did really well, I could affect change. Maybe I could create a greater acceptance for women’s choices. Maybe people would stop asking or thinking: Why aren’t you married? Or better yet, maybe the sympathetic looks would end at those high school reunions. ;-)
9.) If the book did REALLY well, I could give significant support for organizations like Rylie’s Angels.
10.) I love the idea of books. I didn’t want them to die away. I wanted to be part of their resurgence.
11.) And last but not least, it would push me to get out there and date. After all, how could I write about dating if I was not doing it myself?!
Next week: How does one go about writing a book?!