The Not-So-Solitary Process of Becoming an Author

I have been writing for a while, but with my manuscript in the mail to an editor and an announcement to all my friends about the book, I am moving quickly from just being a writer to becoming an author.

For over a year, a large chunk of my free time has been spent researching, writing, editing, re-writing, and planning for the book about my year teaching in Colombia.  While I also occasionally go to a social gathering or two, get out to hike a bit (I do live in a national park), and religiously follow American football (go Seahawks!), I have been happiest being my anti-social self sitting in front of my (very tiny) laptop, typing.

I wasn’t trying to be secretive, but neither was I sure how to go about starting the conversation “oh, yeah, I am writing a book” without sounding like a pompous snob. 

And so even to some of my closest friends, the fact I have been spending my free time typing out book pages might have come as a surprise.

The main reason is that I was not sure if or when I’d actually be finishing something I’d be proud of enough to call a book and show to the world.

The other reason is that turns out it is pretty easy to be a closeted author.  If I was attempting to become the next Jimi Hendrix, for instance, I would bet my neighbors might have noticed something was up.

Writing is sometimes described as a solitary process.  And in some ways that is true – my introvert self enjoys the solitude of producing stories, of filling glaring white pages with sleek black letters.

But writing is never strictly a solitary or lonely task.  The last year and a half, I have turned old blog posts, journal entries, and memories into a manuscript and this process is anything but a one-person endeavor.  There are the friends and editors (those few I let slip to that I was writing a book), and let’s not forget the importance of writing to the beats of Juanes, J Balvin, and accordion-filled vallenato music.  Nor should we forget the company of a friendly mug of tea or crisp bottle of beer.

But there are others that keep me company while I write as well: the characters I write about.

Through writing this book about Colombia, I have been able to relive conversations with my students and colleagues in Colombia, and remind myself of strange incidents and quirks of the culture that I experienced back in 2011.  As I wrote about Colombia, I was kept company by my eighth grader Katia, my sixth grader Carlos, the school guard Ubadel, my Amazon guide and now friend Otto, and so many more I met along the way. 

These human beings who are now darting across the pages of my book as characters made the writing and editing process one far from a solitary task.

Fiction writers make this argument with a bit more difficultly.  Spending time with your characters for a writer of a novel is important, but also sounds a little strange when spoken out loud.

“That crazy lady is a writer,” they might say.  “She is just talking to her imaginary friends.”

But for me, a non-fiction writer of a travel novel, writing about my time in Colombia allowed me to whisk myself away to the land of my past, and sit yet again in Caribbean heat, sipping a fresh juice, chatting with Colombians about their country.

And because I know how my characters actually speak, I don’t have to go through the awkward process of moonlighting as a schizophrenic.

I enjoyed immensely getting to know Colombia while I was there and have equally enjoyed delving deeper into the country after coming back.  The third step in that process is getting to share that enjoyment with the wider world. 

And as an almost-author who is no longer a closet writer, I am excited to do just that.  Check out my page about me to learn why I decide to write the book, and peruse the site to find more about the book and Colombia.

As a writer, I will continue to live an introverted life and keep company with my characters, with Latin rock songs pumping out of my computer, and the occasional mug of tea.

But as an author-to-be, I am excited to be someone who can literally or figuratively invite friends over for a cup of Colombian café and talk openly about all the ups and downs of working towards my goal of publishing a book.

A goal that is inching ever closer.


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