Process of Writing a Book on a Contract

writing a bookWriting a book is usually referred to as being an arduous, long-lasting task. I had three months to write one. I had a contract with The Evergreen State College as a student to write a full-length book of poems. The delightful part of it was that I had no other responsibilities than to simply write poetry for three months. Commonly, individuals write books under considerable pressure from external and internal forces, induced by work, family, and personal hardships. I only had to deal with blank pages.

My method of writing the poems was somewhat original: I performed automatic writing, filling three regular student notebook paper pages with spontaneous text; I would then read through the writing and select the most poetic and interesting parts; finally, I would assemble the highlighted parts into stanzas and arrange them accordingly, sometimes editing along the way. This process created highly unique poems that in one way made sense, and in another, did not.

Besides using this method, I went to the college library almost every day to read loads of poetry. It was my understanding that I had to read as much as I could in the genre I was composing in. It was difficult to find poems and poets that I truly connected with, yet it is not always important to find authors you enjoy. You can gain an understanding from the bad, good, and mediocre alike. You take what you need from them and emulate what you find is desirable.

Long walks and talking with friends were appreciated, as one needs a mental break from writing and reading. If one does not take breaks such as this (weekends were not off days for me), one can start forming types of delirium. Writing is a rather solitary act that needs to be supplemented with social activity – and I do not mean typing a response on a social media platform.

When the three-month period had ended, I arranged all the poems into a manuscript, and edited them to the greatest extent I could in the time I was given. I created my own artwork for the cover over the course of the three months. That was maybe one of the most difficult parts of the project, as I was not trained as a visual artist.

When I handed in my manuscript to my consulting professor, I was fatigued in every sense – physically, emotionally, and artistically. She read the book and after giving it consideration, claimed that I would be a famous writer. I denied the statement immediately, saying to her that I should not be exposed to such praise, as it might delude the purity of my art.

As I look back at this experience, I feel that despite its odd poems that maybe no one will read, despite the professor calling my work “potentially famous,” it has handed me an irrepressible gift: a drive to write more with the same force in my own time outside of school. Since writing this manuscript, I have written 10 more manuscripts and have been published more than 50 times in journals, magazines, and books.

The experience also taught me the discipline necessary to complete an enormous, abstract task of my own will on a strict deadline. My other writing projects always seemed small in comparison with the gargantuan task of writing a full-fledged book in three months with all its editing, formatting, and last minute considerations.

In addition, I learned that the life of the writer–doing nothing except exploiting their entire being to that art–was not the profession I wanted to follow. I had too much love for music, mathematics, and being in contact with people to live that kind of life. I decided to become more of a renaissance man – focused on a myriad of disciplines simultaneously. The experience of writing a book under contract taught me that I wanted to be simply myself and not the usual caricature depicted of writers. I will continue to be a writer until my last days–but not the kind of writer that is projected in stories.


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