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Reflections on Month 1 of Writing Draft 1

I've been in Spain now for over a month after moving from our home for the past three and a half years in Southern California. My husband and I spent three nomadic weeks and 3,000 miles making our way back to our home state of Michigan, sleeping in our teardrop camper in Cracker Barrel parking lots, windy rest stops, and middle-of-nowhere campgrounds.

I got a taste of digital nomadism as we hooked up Starlink for the first time and I worked from our cozy little table while watching javelinas run by outside against a backdrop of mountains. It reminded me of an office job I once had where we’d all put up prints of similar majestic landscapes in our windowless rooms, dreaming to be free.

After a brief stop in Michigan, we then came—somewhat breathlessly—to Spain and are here for three months. With our lives completely upended, I’d suggested we go to The Stone Boat, a magical pilgrim and self-retreat house I'd stayed at last summer on my Camino de Santiago pilgrimage. We could take a minute to breathe, and what did he think of walking his own pilgrimage? “That sounds like a good idea,” he'd said. So here we are.

But for him, to be clear. I’ve got no more steps to give after the million or so I took last year, but I am continuing on with the digital nomad journey while working on my second book about my grief pilgrimage.

It’s every writer’s dream to have a quiet little house in a remote village with a wood-burning stove to warm you, some soft candlelight to write by, and puffy snowflakes falling on the ruins just outside your door to gaze at while you choose your next words.


Well, yes and no.

While there is nowhere else I’d rather be and nothing else I’d rather be doing, that does not mean any of this—trying to write a first draft of a memoir—has been easy or pleasant. 

From before I began my pilgrimage, I'd been writing about everything. I wrote as I walked. I wrote when I came back. And when I decided to try and write a book about it, I started taking notes and did a lot of pre-writing and even eked out a few scenes.

I had over 70,000 words before I even arrived in Spain, but they were just that: words. Not a draft, not a book, but a start of the sense-making of it all. Sources and ideas. After a month of working on the actual draft of a memoir though, it made me think of what President Kennedy said in 1962:

“We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”

While it’s slightly obnoxious to compare my attempt at writing this book to going to the moon, I stand by it because this month has felt unlike any other journey I’ve ever gone on before.

I am in deep space. I have left this plane of existence. I am floating in the great unknown and possibly getting sucked into a supermassive black hole.

Last year, I didn't walk because it was easy, but because of its inherent difficulty (among other reasons) and how getting through it would allow me to grieve and process and transform into a truer version of myself. So far, this is also proving true for the first month of writing. It's included many journeys into the past over and over and over again in a way I didn't expect.

I have time-travel whiplash.

I have a few posts on all of this, which I'll share here over the next week, but for now, here's what flew out of me when I was trying to capture the essence of this first month if you're up for the ride.


If writing is getting into your car with the goal to drive from point A to B, memoir writing is an epic cross-country road trip where you have a dozen breakdowns, run out of gas on the regular, and endure terrible storms and road conditions. 

You discover the way is full of potholes that shake you to your core, rattle your brain, and puncture your tires. After replacing your third one, you find the way is blocked with construction that brings you to an abrupt halt with no warning after 200 miles of cruising (which had been such a relief because it’d taken you ages to get into that beautiful flow state in the first place). 

And then, suddenly, you have to go back to your hometown, again and again and again. You'd stopped once for a good long visit as you made your way across the country, thinking that was enough, time to get going now! You’ve got somewhere to be. And yet each time you get to the next state border, the distant past calls again, you forgot something, dammit, so you turn around and go back. You’re running out of gas. 

Soon, you’re so weary that you forget to change the oil and your car sputters to a complete stop one day in the middle of the desert. You get out and look around and see how very alone you are. There’s not a soul or living thing for miles in any direction, just the hot dry breeze like an open oven door in your face. A tumbleweed rolls across the scorched pavement, and a hawk cries out from above as it circles, waiting for you to give up so they can pick on your bones.

Screw this, you think, and you grab your day pack and stuff it with all the food and water you can carry. You throw your sun hat on your head, slather on the last of your sunscreen, and carry onward. You move towards your destination in the blistering sun as though your life depended on it because it does, really, in the end. If you ever really had a choice in this, you wouldn't be here. You'd be doing something nice and simple, like making stamps or inventing colors, but the Call is too great and you can’t ignore it. It’s blinded you to all else, so you set out once more by foot and just keep putting one foot in front of the other. 

Despite your parched tongue and the third-degree burns you sustain and the blisters that gather on your heels, you keep going. Why? Because you trust this path more than anything else. Because your why is a fuel you will never run out of.

So yeah, it’s been like that in this first month.

In the next post, I'll get more specific in case not all of that was super clear, but I'm curious if this rings true for any other writers out there, or if you’re mourning the time you’ll never get back from reading about a car metaphor? 

What about you? Tell me about your journey. Share your ideas and advice and resources and voice and thank you for being exactly you.


PS: let's write together on April 20th!

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