Where’s the Book and Did You Really Write One?

Dear Friend,

Should all acquaintance be forgot, allow me to reintroduce myself in the New Year. I am Derek Kessinger. I hope your holidays were wonderful. This is my latest newsletter as I continue my year as an Experience Institute student.

What do you do when your plans lay discarded on the New York City sidewalks like crumbled umbrellas? Here’s a piece on my first term in NYC:

Term 1: The Write Umbrella

Have you ever tried to create something, but struggled with your process? We all work in different ways, but I think I have a little insight. So let me address the question… I leveraged my work to bolster my own creative habits. First, I told people that I was going to write 50,000 words. After sharing my goal, I had to either write, or risk disappointing my confidants. I played against my own need to please people.

I never found an easy, secret writing formula. Paragraphs did not organically sprout after I planted the seeds of my first few words. In fact, the last few days of my project were the most difficult. Despite frustrating moments, I’m glad I completed a challenging project without shortcuts.

Throughout the month, I tried to simplify my process for the most consistent results. My first task each morning was to sit down with a cup of coffee and write 2,000 words. The day was a success as long as I sat down and avoided distractions, even if I struggled to write. Just remember, the first draft is not the final edit.

I struggled through days of feeling isolated and lonely. These feelings sometimes endured despite a trip to a place full of people, such as Times’ Square. In the trenches of writing, I felt attacked by my own thoughts of ineptitude and doubt. In hindsight, I am able to see my growth through the month. I now know I have better days when I write in the morning.

Just like most things in life, we become what we spend our time doing. I became a better writer by writing. It can still be a struggle. Some days the writing process feels like this Avett Brothers song:

Ten thousand words swarm around my head
Ten million more in books written beneath my bed.
I wrote or read them all when searchin’ in the swarms
Still can’t find out how to hold my hands.

And I know you need me in the next room over,
But I am stuck in here all paralyzed.
For months I got myself in ruts,
Too much time spent in mirrors framed in yellow walls.

The book, after its first draft, is a jumble of images and characters, but I can share a few themes:
  • Ulysses S. Grant and Frederick Douglas discuss modern day New York’s sovereignty.
  • The main character tries to find his footing in the city before meeting a Central Park tree sprite named Johanna.
  • A Coney Island circus boss leads an army of mischievous men to create chaos in New York.

My first goal was to write the book. Now, the editing process is underway. I’m now exploring pieces of this novel’s world that I glossed over upon first telling.