For the past month, I’ve been writing a book. Except that’s a lie. First of all, I’ve been working on this book since spring, though it was only in the past month, with a looming deadline getting ever so closer, that I have given this project the full-time attention it deserves, at the expense of all other work and my quickly shrinking savings account.
But that’s a lie too, because while I have tried to devote at least eight hours of each day to the book, I also managed to practice for and play a concert, take on a few unavoidable freelance jobs, go to Berlin for a weekend (though I did take my computer and work with me), and play far too much Civilization V.
Here’s another lie: I’m actually only writing half a book. I’m responsible for exactly 25 of 50 chapters, plus the editing of the whole and making it into a stylistically coherent, readable work. But I’m actually writing only half the words that will eventually be published.
Luckily, I have learned some valuable things in the process of half-writing my half-book. First of all, the second you tell someone you’re writing a book, you receive far too much undeserved credit. I’ll take the congratulations once I finally finish the damn thing and see it in my hands, though even then I’d rather wait to see if anyone besides my mother buys a copy.
Second, I completely understand how so many people can successfully finish a book for NaNoWriMo - they’re writing fiction. It’s relatively easy to spew out 50,000 words from the top of your head, and if you’re good, those words might even be worth reading with some polish. However, I learned that non-fiction takes an ungodly amount of time to research, so while I’ve written maybe 10,000 words in the past month, I’ve easily taken twice that in notes and read ten times that as background research, and I’m not even close to done.
Also, try as I did, I found it impossible to disconnect from the world. I wrote a long message on Facebook and proceeded to stay off… for about a week, or until I needed to communicate with someone whose email I only have on Facebook. Or until I needed to promote our concert. I tried to stay in as much as possible, yet I still managed to see my friends and have a few beers (though fewer than usual, at least). I tried to immerse myself in nothing but my subject matter, and I still failed at that - though that turned out to be a good thing. During the past month, when I needed a break or was on public transportation going to or from the cafes and library I spent most my days in, my “fun reading” was Guns, Germs, and Steel, a book I always meant to get around to reading (this is next on that list). It turns out that reading about world history and human movement at the same time I was researching and writing about Polish history and the movement of Poles greatly helped with putting things in perspective.
I also learned that if you have an understanding publisher, deadlines are thankfully flexible - to a point. Because one way or another, I have to finish this thing before my savings run dry, before my friends get sick of hearing about it, before the holidays and the inevitable massive distraction that time of the year will bring. So off I go, back to it again.