So, it seems that after a mere 2190-ish days (or a paltry 6 years) I have finally written and published a book.
Yes it’s about cycling.
Yes it’s about cycling in a skirt.
Cycling in a skirt, solo, across Canada to be precise.
I’d like to clarify that I haven’t actually been writing for each and every one of those 2000+ days even though it does feel like it at times.
There have been many (many) days when I have been doing other things such as going to work, or riding my bike, navel gazing or eating way too many chocolate biscuits. In fact the actual writing part can probably be broken down thus:
30%: Percentage of time spent thinking I should be writing but not actually doing it.
30%: Percentage of time spent sitting down to write then getting distracted by Facebook, housework, food, cycling, squirrels….
5%: Percentage of time spent staring at a clean blank page entitled Chapter 1 and wondering how to start.
NB in the end I simply wrote the heading: CHAPTER TWO and started typing from there.
10%: Percentage of time spent actually typing.
As I’ve found out too the writing turned out to be the easy part. Once the words are on the page then comes the task of making sure that they are going to make some kind of sense to the rest of the human population.
This means proof reading, which in turn means cajoling/bribing/pleading with long-suffering friends to spend hours of their time wielding a red pen over your masterpiece. Because you’ve spent so long looking at these words on a page you become blind to the mistakes, bad spelling, tortuous grammar or just that bits only make sense in your head, not anyone else’s. A good 3-4 months therefore has been spent proofing and editing (and yes I am sure there are still a few errors despite all of this).
Finally, add in to the mix the publishing process itself with its minutiae of decisions on every aspect of the book’s mechanics which you know nothing about. Everything from the intricacies of indented and justified layout, to font size and choice to mirrored margins to cover design and the actual proportion of writing time barely registers at all. Incidentally, I now know way more about the differences between the tails of serif vs sans serif fonts than anyone could possibly need in several lifetimes.
Editing and publishing therefore have easily taken up the remaining 25% of the process/time.
It’s fair to say that, like the original bike adventure, writing the book has been an epic journey, a thoroughly exhausting, frustrating, emotional and uplifting one. However, the process of writing and publishing has enabled me to relive that time spent cycling across Canada and to process it in a way that was just impossible at the time.
Riding on my own day after day, from place to place across thousands of miles, my time and my energies were completely occupied with the basics of living; food, shelter, sleep, muffins. Life became very small. What it didn’t allow much time for was looking at the journey as whole, I was just too caught up on surviving in the moment.
Coming back to my notes a year or so later gave an opportunity not present before, to look at the journey in its entirety from a broader perspective, without the immediate feelings and physical strains present during and just after the trip.
It’s amazing too how easy it was to recall every aspect, even after so much time had elapsed. How reading just small prompts in my diaries, a name here, a plate of food there, a comment on the weather, could conjure back an entire scene including landscapes, smells, people, feelings and conversations. With the benefit of hindsight too it’s also possible to see the (many) mistakes and less that bright decisions I took, as well as just the sheer distance covered.
Writing the book has also enabled me to reconnect with a number of people I met along the way, especially those who gave me a bed for the night, much appreciated food and even more appreciated hope, companionship and courage. Writing about the people as much, or more than the places will always remain a highlight, as will the opportunity of being in contact with them again to discuss the book and beyond.
It’s also brought me closer to those people around me now, friends and loved ones who have helped to bring this project to fruition. The manuscript, once completed, actually sat mouldering on my my laptop for nearly 2 years, a combination of apathy and fear meaning that I did nothing with it.
So what made me finish that journey that I started so long ago, both cycling and writing?
In short, friends and loved ones.
- The inspiration of a septuagenarian friend who published her own first novel.
- The offer of another friend to proof read the manuscript.
- Help from an unexpected source to design the cover and format the photographs.
- Gentle (and tough) love and encouragement from those who are dear to me, with words, kindness, patience and cups of tea.
- Knowing we have but one life and (and in homage to those people I miss who are no longer here) we need to live it as bravely as possible.
So now the second part of the adventure is complete, or is it just beginning? The book, my story is now out in the world. I have a lot of nervousness about that, feelings of vulnerability both about sharing such a personal story and the way in which it’s written. But, stories are best shared and I hope that it at least entertains a few folk along the way and maybe even, on a good day, inspires one or 2 others to chase after those rainbows that they’ve always meant to follow.
How To Cycle Canada The Wrong Way is available on Amazon in both paperback and kindle e-book formats, see links below.