I’m getting a chance to catch up on errands, long dinners with friends and family, and the myriad other tasks that I left undone while I was away.
But still, as they say, you’re only as good as your next book. And so I dive headlong into the process. And strangely, I feel gleeful about it. Probably because I understand the process better than I did last time around. And most definitely because I know I can do it now.
If things had gone according to the ideal plan that I had set for myself, I would have finished the next book proposal last fall–during that quiet moment between page proof and finished book. That obviously didn’t happen.
I spent three months researching the topic that I thought would be the next book: a biography of a very well-known 19th century French doctor, Louis Pasteur. Pasteur’s life is interesting and, of course, his discoveries impact our daily lives still now. I brought in an undergraduate research assistant to help me cull the 1,000s of articles and books already out there on Pasteur. I started to structure the book narrative, though scribbles and random brainstorms.
In the end, I decided that I really didn’t feel like I could live exclusively with Louis for several years. And that made the decision for me. I couldn’t write this book. Back to the drawing board.
I know that some authors worry that maybe their latest book is the last book they have in them. Definitely not the case for me. Research and writing are in my blood. I can’t imagine not having a large project on my plate.
But the biggest dilemma that I faced was not the topic itself, but rather, whether I was willing to let the next book take over my life, as the last two had. To be honest, I spent weeks after I finished the Blood Work manuscript putting my daily life back together again. To write that book, I literally went underground; I forgot to shower; I forgot to eat. The only time that I would snap out of the book-writing stupor was to spend time with my daughter in the evenings after school. And still then, it would take me some time to make the mental shift. (I’ve written about that here.)
My biggest question as I was sniffing around for another great book topic was: How can I write this book and still have a real life? And if I didn’t think this was possible, was I being fair to myself and my family?
In the end, I feel pretty good that I’ve put some new strategies in place to make sure that I keep a good balance between writing and my world. I’ll talk about that in another post (heads-up: it includes an iPad and apps.)
And to my delight: I have settled on a topic that I’m so fascinated by and one that I know that I could spend the next two years researching and writing about. So I’m keeping my fingers crossed that my editor will love the topic too.
I can do this.
In closing, I’d like to share a quote from fellow Nashvillian Anne Patchett on writing the next book from her All Things Considered interview this weekend: “Every single time I’m writing a book, I get to a certain place where I think, ‘I cannot do this. I can’t pull this off. And the only thing that keeps me going is the knowledge that I have always pulled it off before.”
Wonders & Marvels readers: Does any of this sound familiar to you? Have you finished a project only to dive right back into another? What obstacles do you face? How do you handle them? And if you’re a writer, I’d also love to hear about your strategies as you get back up on the horse.