As I reflect back on this task of writing the book, a couple things are coming clearer to me:
First, you cannot learn to write by reading books; or rather, you can, but in the end it’s the practice of writing that teaches you—looking at what works and what doesn’t, trying new things, throwing away much of the work as it evolves.It’s intensely frustrating to me because there are no shortcuts—I’m used to reading up on stuff, learning the rules, and then rapidly coming up to speed. Here I have to learn as I work, and it’s a slow process. I get frustrated with my own inability.
Second, as I write and learn, much of the previous work becomes outdated. I’d like to think that this is just a temporary phenomenon, but according to Annie Dillard, it’s not. Writing evolves and you have to be willing to let it evolve, redo, rework as it happens. This is also intensely frustrating because I’m used to fiber arts, where you plan out a work, let it evolve a bit, but you never have to go back over and over and over something you thought was done. Fiber arts is a much more linear process than writing is.
Third, I really need to stay close to the subject. It’s hard for me to keep the experience “fresh” in my mind—I need to look at photos and read through people’s blogs and remember the enthusiasm people bring to the Ride. Right now, I’m mostly writing about the challenge—I need to remember to write about the fun parts, as well. I’m not quite sure how to do that, but I figure that, like everything, it’s going to be a matter of practice.
Mostly I’m frustrated because I know so little! I thought I understood writing—I’ve been writing all my life—and it’s terribly discouraging to find out that I don’t. Or rather, that I know how to write, but writing a book demands more skill and more understanding than I’ve ever had to develop before—and it’s a much slower process than I was hoping for. It’s really too bad that you can’t just read a book and instantly be able to write.
But writing is really rewarding. It addresses a frustration I’ve had with fiber arts, which is that it really is a limited medium of expression—especially with handspinning, 90% of it is execution and only about 10% of it is creativity. With writing, every word is creative, every word involves a decision about what to use in that one sentence, it’s a totally free expression. I love that, and it’s that which is really keeping me going. Huge challenge, huge reward, much interest.