For real, guys. I’m finally making it happen. I’m writing a book. And since working on the book is exactly what keeps me from posting blogs as regularly as I intend to, I figured it’s high time I confess.
The book is a collection of travel stories. They’re all true. Most of them took place during my 20s and early 30s. The uniting theme is that every last one of them happens while in motion — while I’m in transit from point A to points B, C, D, and onward.
You might here interrupt: “But aren’t you terribly old now? Like in your 40s?”
Why yes, and thank you for pointing that out. I’m 43. But there are a few facts and circumstances that have come together to mean that 43 is exactly the right time to be working on these travel stories from way back when:
During my 20s and early 30s, I had a shitload of free time to use for traveling. I drove cross-country a bunch of times as I moved from place to place. I became mildly addicted to taking intentionally long solo train trips: Los Angeles to Minnesota. San Diego to Oregon. New York to Los Angeles. I traveled Europe by train when I was 20. Every place I lived and traveled, I found amazing friends willing to find wondrous adventures with me.
It seems I was a fairly excellent documentarian. I have a sizable stack of old journals (see photo), a stream-of-consciousness rainbow of partly intelligible memories and ideas. Stuck between the pages of the journals are priceless bits of paper with more notes, including one envelope in particular bearing the all-important quote, “She’s a wart on my hand.” (Trust me, this is legit important. You’ll see.) I have file after file bearing old versions of all these travel stories, transported time and time again from one outdated computer to the next. I have photos and videos that help to fill out and bring back the stories. (Here’s the right place to insert a vociferous and heartfelt shout-out to Walker and Jess, without whom my India and lost-in-the-woods stories would be far less well-documented… and without whom those trips would never have been the grand adventures that they were.)
I’m a better writer now. Go figure that practice, while not at all making perfect, does make you better over the course of 20+ years. It’s been delicious to watch myself transform the sentimental drivel, overlong paragraphs, and overly self-important ideas of my younger self into stories that don’t make me groan. (Well, mostly. I admit I’m still working out some of the groans.)
I finally gave myself permission to let my own writing be important. This past year, I learned first-hand the inescapable truth that the freelance life really does ebb and flow. When I finally released myself from what I’d initially felt was the daily necessity of self-flagellation for my Lack of Financial Performance, I was able to give myself permission to focus on my own writing. Sometimes, I even START my days with it, so that my clients aren’t necessarily getting first dibs on my brain. It feels a little glorious. And it feels like I’m finally getting somewhere.
My husband is totally awesome. If John weren’t willing and able to bear the bulk of our financial burden, these stories would still be moldering, and I wouldn’t be able to invest so much of my time in making something of them. He encouraged me to pull all my old drafts off the dusty Dell laptop I’d been storing in the garage. Literally. One evening he brought it inside, brushed it off, and said, “Do it.” His ongoing trust and support are everything.
The things that happened to me in these stories? Borderline unforgettable. While my aging brain can’t necessarily tell you what I did two days ago, I can remember the details of some of these stories as if they happened two days ago. Some of that shit be cray-cray — not to mention transformative for me as a woman and a traveler-of-the-world — and that’s exactly what makes for a good travel story.
My stories are nothing brilliant or world-changing. But I aim to make the collection something I’m proud to submit. Hopefully, in six months or so, I’ll be ready to start the process of finding a literary agent. And from there, who knows?
All I really know: I’ve been saying I wanted to publish a book nearly my whole life. To publish a book, one needs to bother writing one in the first place. If I can achieve that much, that’s pretty damn good.