A Letter To Myself

Dear Kevin,

Sup, friend!? That was a pretty nice Memorial Day weekend, wasn’t it? Yes, I know you were technically “working” but, really, how much work is it to cover a sailing event on Nantucket? No, you’re right; it is kind of a pain to write things down longhand, especially when it’s windy. I think that’s valid. Totally.

Anyway, now that you’re (relatively) tan and kind of hungover energized, I thought I would take this opportunity to offer you some advice that you can utilize over the next few weeks: Finish your %$#@ book, already.

I know that there is always going to be a down period following an intense bit of writing. And yes, I know that you spent those last few weeks of your MFA life drowning in a seemingly ne’er ending cycle of thesis re-writes, Robert’s American Gourmet Chaos Snack Mix and spur-of-the-moment sneaker purchases from stores in Sweden. But that was like over a month ago, right? And it doesn’t seem like you have THAT much to do to finish. Start the book with a fresh chapter. Make the narrator do more rather than just narrate. Delete chapters 3 and 4. Get something romantic going in the middle with that girl who started out as peripheral character until everyone seemed to dig her. If the movie Romancing The Stone taught me anything, it’s that people love romance! And hard-to-get stones, apparently. But now I’ve lost my train of thought. Where was I? Oh yes: just start writing again.

There are a million excuses for you to put this off, some of them even valid. But I’ll tell you a little story, Kevin. Writing a book is like training for a marathon. What’s that? No, no, I’ve never run a marathon. Bad lower back. I don’t see why that matters. The point is this: it’s very hard to begin. You think, “Oh God, how could anyone ever run 26 miles? I can’t even name things that are 26 miles away, let alone run that far. Plus I have this bad lower back from playing soccer in college.” But then you say, “You know what? Maybe today I’ll run a two miles. Just two miles.” And then you run it and it wasn’t so bad, so you begin to do a little more and a little more, until all of a sudden you’re running 13 miles a day and not even blinking.

The same thing happens with writing a book. You say, “Oh ew. How can anyone even come up with an idea that takes place over 300 pages? I don’t even want to read 300 pages. And I’m a professional writer. I’m going to pout then get an Apple-Mango smoothie.”
But then you start to write a few pages or a morsel of an idea, and next thing you know, you’re doing five pages a day, and then you have something that kind of looks like a book, assuming you would just get rid of chapters 3 and 4.

The key, though, is to see it through. The more time you spend away, the less easy it is to return to the point where you feel comfortable. Like running. Take a month off, then try and run 13 miles. Guaranteed stress fracture. Lose-lose.

So Kev, please. Just finish the book. Finish it. Finish. It. Then I promise I’ll stop waking you up in the middle of the night and making you feel guilty. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to watch Lost online. I would invite you to join me, but I think you have something to do.

Most Lovingly,

Kev

PS- Here’s the video California Love from the magical year of 1996 (new time period!). Tupac and Dr. Dre know how to keep it rocking, probably bc they’re in the Sunshine state where the bomb ass hymns be.

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13 thoughts on “A Letter To Myself

  1. ML Smith

    ML Smith Collaborator Wanted…No…Needed!

    Looking for a writer to collaborate on a novel, "Particles of Discontent." Theme: More than just an "oops" type blunder when the Hadron Particle Accelerator finally fires up its neutrons at full speed…the consequences.

    This is not a "black hole" situation, where people are floating in a void with Disney characters and fragments of Al Fanken’s brain. More toward a seemingly inexplicable "shift," that causes protagonist and others to slip in and out of various times and places. For example, protagonist notices that Secretariat is not listed in the American Racing Manual…and he edited it!

    Hellooo out there. Anyone with a mild case of chronic brain syndrome would make a perfect match.

  2. Kristan C.

    "Or I should say rewriting. … is at, rewriting what I’ve got."

    You know what I need to learn, Gen? Is how to actually rewrite. We discussed this in my writers group, how rewriting is often just a fancy word for "superficial line editing". I’d like to see the journey reported on this, too.

    Great analogy with the marathon, though I disagree with the part about how one can all of a sudden be able to run 13 miles without blinking an eye. Even if my eyes are not blinking, they’ll surely be watering in pain. 😛

  3. Kevin Alexander

    Tom’s "Stroke you layabouts" made me do that thing where you laugh in real life and not just in words typed via the computer. As did Genevieve’s lonely comment. As did Jordan’s "juice shakin" ditty. My point being: stop being so damn funny in the comments.

    And good luck to Christine in her months before entering the glamorous world of the MFA… just remember that the first workshop is always the worst, and then it’ll get easier. Unless you’ve got that chick with the beret and the serious anger issues in your class. Then every workshop is the worst.

    And Baby Girl H: Like you, I too hope to one day meet someone who has participated in coxing, but only someone who knows what it’s like to compete at the (second) highest level. And let it be known that Tom’s term "Kevin Alexander, coxswain of literary greatness" is now being considered for the second of several upper back tattoos–the first obviously being a detailed recreation of the Native American Figawi Symbol with the term "Where the Figawi? LOL!" printed in Georgia font above.

  4. Baby Girl H

    I don’t know about the writing. I think you should just finish it Kev. But I can’t explain the excitement I feel that the comments have turned to discussing coxing. It’s truly the most unique position in all of sports. And I hope to one day meet someone who has been successful and can share all his/her glory…

  5. Jordan

    Don’t worry about the book. There’s nothing like a little East Coast/West Coast/Chris Tucker/Women in Slavery tune like California Love to get the juices shakin’, Mama.

  6. Mindy

    Kevin, the letter to yourself was not only plain out funny, it was a much needed reminder (similiar to Tom’s sentiments) of what I need to be doing. Question: what is wrong with chapters 3 and 4 that they both must go?

    And Genevieve, your ROW! comment made me laugh out loud. Thanks for the added chuckle.

  7. Tom

    Suddenly, thanks to Genevieve, I cannot help but picture Kev seated at the bow of a skiff, flower pot in hand. He sniffs it lazily, perhaps a bit dreamily, as he admires his new sneakers. Now and again he gives a distracted look to a group of red-faced, panting young men who are dipping into the ink about them, pulling for all their worth using not oars, but giant fountain pens. "Stroke!" he cries, "Stroke, you layabouts!"

    Kevin Alexander, coxswain of literary greatness.

    Lest it be thought that I’m making fun of Kev, I’m not. It was just a funny picture, and then I had the opportunity to use "coxswain" in a sentence, and, well, you just can’t let something like that slip by.

  8. christine

    Hi Kevin! I love your blog particularly because I went to undergrad in Boston and am getting ready to embark on my MFA journey starting this fall (scary). Oh, and also I have a fine love of procrastination and put a lot of time and energy applying this love to finishing my book as well. I feel your pain. Thanks for the amusing posts!

  9. Genevieve

    Cool, Tom! I agree with the Lao and Stacey, any progress is to be celebrated. It was my babies’ first steps that were the most exciting. But I get frustrated too if I only get, like, a broken 45 minute stint of writing. Or I should say rewriting. I’m at the same phase that Kevin is at, rewriting what I’ve got.

    to Kevin’s responsible voice: You seem to have good self-discipline and perserverence. Keep kicking Sneaker Buying Kevin in the ass! Or maybe not, depending on the harshness of his brand new sneakers. But you get the picture. Imagine that your creative genius is in a galley and you must be the one to yell, "Row! Row, damn you!"

    Oh, and since I haven’t mentioned one in a while, this was my favorite part of yesterday’s blog, "If the movie Romancing The Stone taught me anything, it’s that people love romance! And hard-to-get stones, apparently." Yesterday’s blog…that sounds so lonely.

  10. Tom

    Yep, this a good (and thoroughly annoying) reminder of how the job needs to be done. I think Stacey is going to emerge as the consummate Back to Basics voice. There’s nothing for me to add that she’s not already said very well.

    On the up side, I should add that I did actually write something yesterday. It was only for about an hour, but there are more words on the page today than there were yesterday. I’m not sure how many steps that equates to in my marathon, perhaps half of one, but as Lao Tzacey has said, it’s a beginning.

  11. Stacey

    Kevin, nice comparison of writing a book to running a mile. It’s hard to start, but once you finally sit down and pick up a writing utensil or a keyboard, it’s hard to stop. Last year, I would always sit down and try to start writing a book, but I always would give up because I would always get a better idea for a book, and then I wanted to write that rather than what I had already planned to write. I’d also get frustrated thinking of all the successful published authors out there, and I’d trick myself into thinking that I shouldn’t even try because I’d never be able to write they way they can. But I’ve moved passed that stage of self-doubt. Now, I’m about half-way through writing my book, and I’ve established a daily routine. I just take it little by little. Lao Tzu once said, "The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."

    Marvelous idea to write a letter to yourself! The only time I did that was last year in English class. My teacher had the whole class write letters to ourselves and she she kept them. She said that she’d mail them to us when we graduate high school. I wrote a list of the things I want to have done by that time, the first one being to have my book published.

    Good luck finishing your book, but even more than that – appreciate the last of your journey instead of just the gleaming light of the final destination. I’m sure you’ll miss working on your book, just like a runner would miss continuing those 26 miles. Or maybe not. 🙂

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