I didn't write a single article for my blog for nearly 6 months this year. As it turned out, I spent 3 months traveling around Europe in a fun but in many ways ill-fated voyage. And after that, I was busy writing a book about that very trip.
I have few illusions about my writing ability- I am a decent writer, probably better than most, but certainly no Shakespeare or even a Stephen King. And the idea of writing a book always seemed so... presumptuous. As in, if you're going to write a book, it had better be a damn good book, about something important.
During the trip in Europe a friend mentioned offhandedly that I should write a book about it because it was such a great story. That was thanks mainly to a sequence of crazy, absurd events that transpired. But her comment must have planted a seed in my mind- I don't remember thinking about turning the trip into a book before that. But by the end of the adventure I was determined to write the book. I didn't really ever make a conscious decision to do so, I more just had a raw, overpowering feeling that I had to write it. For myself more so than for anyone else.
That begs the question, why try and publish it if it is just for myself? And, why did I feel so compelled to write it in the first place?
There are a few interrelated answers. First, if I'd never intended to share it with the wider world, there would have been no reason or desire to edit it, shape it, and improve it. Writing requires clarity of thought, but as I've found with the book I wrote, that clarity of thought sometimes only comes through after the fifth revision, after struggling and cajoling and fighting with a passage or paragraph for hours, knowing that others will be reading it and it can't be sloppy like a private journal entry might. Indeed, the book's been revised and edited a half-dozen times, and at this point I am just waiting on friends and family to read through it and give me feedback on what can be improved, what is good as-is, and most nerve-wrackingly of all, if it is a good book, interesting and nice to read.
Second, being presumptuous or not, I think it is an amusing story that others might enjoy, even if no one other than my friends and family decide to read it (though considering how hard it is to find someone willing to read through the drafts to give me feedback, I wonder even about that!). And I tried to make it the kind of book I'd like to read. What I mean by that is, if I wrote it well enough, it's more than just a travel memoir, but also a bit of an essay on travel, identity, and inspiration.
Third, and importantly for me, is that this is the first big self-initiated and self-directed creative project I've ever set out on and seen through to its end. The realization shocked me when I had it earlier this week, but it is true. Every other major creative endeavor I've undertaken has been at the behest or initiative of others: parents, teachers, professors, employers.
I take pride in having spent a great many years, and much effort, turning myself into as much of a self-starter as possible. Whether by nature or nurture, I was not born that way. So the very act of writing a complete, 300 page-long book, editing it, revising it, and (hopefully) self-publishing it, is a huge milestone for me. I needed to write the book. I decided to write the book, and I did so. It took a month's worth of long days filled with frenzied writing, and many more months of protracted and painful editing, and there are probably more months of editing ahead. But I don't, and didn't, have anyone looking over my shoulder, dangling a carrot or shaking a stick, to make sure I wrote the book. And the more time I spent hammering away at the rapidly blooming pages, the more it seemed like what I was really hammering away on was myself.
In some weird way, writing and finishing my book felt like a rite of initiation into something that I'm not quite sure what to call. For lack of anything better, let's say that I feel initiated as a self-starter and self-driver. It is a pleasant feeling.
Fourth, and finally, writing this book has helped me not only feel comfortable with writing, and with my writing, but also realize that writing is one of the few things I truly and deeply enjoy. While I always knew I wanted to write, a deep-seated writer's block prevented me from ever taking that idea seriously or even getting around to writing something beyond personal journal entries, let alone something others might read one day. Writing this book has opened the floodgates, as it were: I have several more ideas for what I think would make interesting books, and have already started on a second project. In fact, the research I was doing for the second book was precisely what sparked the idea for this piece, the realization that the first book was my first self-directed and self-initiated creative project.
So that is why I am writing a book. It has been a humbling, exciting, anxiety-inducing experience, and one I wouldn't trade for anything in the world.
Dillon Dakota Carroll
...sees much and knows much