9.39 Balance Restored

Let me tell you, it’s so easy to write a book. Everyone should be doing it, all the time. I would say they should write books all day every day, but then again, there’s no need to spend time in this way because it’s so easy. Really, all you’re doing is stringing a bunch of words together to form sentences and paragraphs and chapters. What’s so difficult about that?

I am kidding, of course.

In my case, with the release of my second novel, Dreams of Being a Kiwi, it is something I’ve been working on and off for almost twenty years. Twenty years. Until I wrote it down, looked at the words typed out on my computer screen, I hadn’t really put that much thought into it.

For the second time now, I got to the end of the edit, and just wanted to finish it and get it out. What seemed like a great idea at the beginning, that kept growing through the writing process, had now been picked through so many times and so painstakingly, that it felt like it had come out of someone else’s brain. Someone far more intelligent than I, a person who is creative and thoughtful. Most definitely not how I feel at the tail end of editing.

Dreams of Being a Kiwi is about a person with mental health issues and how they travel halfway across the world to find some peace. The story was inspired by a trip I took to New Zealand twenty years ago. I had written a lot up to that point, but nothing substantial, mostly in film and television. I started writing something that I soon recognized as a novel, and since the trip was so profound, New Zealand was the perfect setting. Little did I know that all these years later, I’d finally get it out into the world.

After I finished the first draft of the manuscript, I put it in a drawer, sure it was going to get very dusty. Lots more things happened, and eventually I published my first novel, The Walking Man. I kept returning to Dreams of Being a Kiwi though. Something kept drawing me back into that story. Every year or so, I’d do a little bit of re-writing, but nothing beyond that. Finally, over a year ago, I picked the manuscript back up after some neglect, and read it like it was the first time. I still saw something in it and finally committed myself to finishing it.

Vicious, I cut the shit out of the almost 600 page manuscript. Changed a major character from a man to a woman. Re-wrote and re-arranged chapters. Things were going well, and then the summer hit. Something happened. The lines between my life and the book began to blur. The story is about mental illness, and I started to feel as though I was losing my mind.

I went deep into the story and it was affecting me on a personal level. I had to admit to myself that although this was a work of fiction, it was more truthful than anything else I had written up to that point. I needed to get through it to the end. I needed to feel the challenging parts of the book, but also feel the redemptive aspect. What I really needed to do was to let it go. To find a way I could be happy with the book or end up still working on this manuscript for another twenty years.

The book is imperfect, but I am proud of it. From start to finish, for better or for worse, it is a product of my creativity. I found my life almost completely out of control by the end of this past summer. I needed something that I could point to in order to snap back some form of balance. I did everything - the writing, editing, cover design, layout - but it wasn’t until I received a physical copy of the book to check the printing. It looked like a real professional book. It is a real professional book. Until I was holding it in my hands, I hadn’t realized all the years and work put into this. How a part of my life the book had become. How unbalanced my life had become.

The balance had been restored. 

Paul Dore