My forever project. That’s what I’m now calling the work that has consumed the last four years of my life. What was I thinking when I started out to write a book, expecting that it was “The Year of my Book?” Naive as I was, I poured my heart and soul into the stories I wrote for the next year. And the year after that. Tales derived from the thousands of miles that my husband and I covered on our bicycle tours, along with the joys and the conflicts that accompanied them.
I supplemented my work with taking writing classes, reading books about craft, joining Lake Superior Writers, and networking with other writers. I grew as a writer, but knew it wasn’t enough. I decided to engage a writing coach, to get first-hand personal input on my efforts to write a book. Even as I packaged up my work to send to her, I knew what I had was just “a pile of content.” I relied on her to steer me through shaping it into a book. I spent the next six months working with her, and she delivered.
It has taken me another two years to put those learnings into practice. To whittle down my stories and turn them into a cohesive tale. One that goes well beyond pushing the pedals of my bike and explores the inner me that journeys through life. I’ve learned that the bicycle is the vehicle, not the real focus.
Less than half of what I first wrote remains in this new version. But so much more is woven in between those pages. I’ve delved into my past, dug into my innermost desires, scrutinized my motives and exposed my biggest failure. There were times when writing felt like therapy sessions. But I could see how it all began to weave together. I could feel it working. Maybe.
I feel as though I’ve taken it as far as I can on my own. I could spend months tweaking and fine tuning, but it would all be for naught if I’m not on the right track. I’m yearning for that professional guidance and tutoring specific to my writing, to my project. I’m ready for another check-in with my coach.
As I prepared for the October start to our next engagement, I looked back on the notes I sent her the first time around. Specifically, I read through an exercise focused on Why am I Writing this Book? I was amazed to find that my original reasons no longer hold true. My purpose has changed. The themes have shifted. The points I want to make are vastly different. I think it’s progress. I hope she thinks so too.
Yesterday I took my document to the printer and came home with 320 double-spaced pages. Nearly the same size as last time, but not at all the same inside. This time I’m willing to call it a manuscript.
I’m both eager and nervous to get my coach’s reaction to the transformation. I already know she will be encouraging. But I have no illusions that I’m close to done. I trust her to guide me from here and teach me the techniques and nuances that will take this to the next level.
My coach is still the only person besides me who has read this volume. I’ll keep it that way until I’m good and ready, until it’s good and ready. I know I still have plenty of work to do. So here I go again. Coaching round 2.
Molly Brewer Hoeg is a writer from Duluth, Minnesota whose memoirs and essays often focus on being active in the outdoors. She is a regular contributor to regional and national magazines including Lake Superior Magazine and Adventure Cyclist Magazine. She is currently is working on a book exploring the ups and downs of her life while bicycle touring with her husband. You can read about her adventures on her blog, Superior Footprints, https://superiorfootprints.org/.