To see video from Kelsie’s travels check his Pied de Vent post and to follow his other adventures just search “Curds and Eh” on the Cheese and Toast home page.
I find that the hardest part of writing a book is… writing. This summer I spent 3.5 months traveling across Canada. I visited 120 cheese makers to research content for my upcoming book about Canadian cheese. Planning the trip was easy. Getting time off work was no problem and the actual research and traveling was a blast (and delicious!). But one thing that I find difficult is writing. At times it’s even painful and depressing. It’s frustrating because I know what I want to say but how do I express my thoughts in a way that others would find interesting? I’d love to sit down with every potential reader of my book and have a conversation about Canadian cheese. I’d explain the intricacies that excite me and the stories that fascinate me but alas that approach isn’t very realistic.
Don’t get me wrong though, I’m enjoying writing. I’ve never written a book before and I love stepping out of my comfort zone to do something new and learn. As a bonus, I get to relive my summer adventure all over again.
After 3.5 months on the road I returned home and sat down at my computer with notebooks full of facts. Unfortunately most readers probably don’t want to read a book consisting of bullet-point cheese facts. If that were the case I would have finished writing long ago!
About a month ago I returned to my job as a cheesemonger at Sobeys. I claimed that I’d write the book in the evenings and on my lunch breaks. Easier said than done! Weeks went by and I barely lifted my pen. It turns out when working full time I need a bit of down-time to relax and not write a book.
When writing at home my day tends to stick to the following pattern: Check Facebook, do household chores, check Facebook, have a snack, exercise, check Facebook, play the guitar, and then check to see if words magically appeared on the page I was working on. I get distracted easily.
To write I need a day free of commitments and I need to be out of the house. I’ve taken this week off work just to focus on writing. Lately I’ve been spending lots of time at Revel Caffe drinking coffee and writing away. I bring along a pen and paper and set up my computer on the wooden bar that used to be a bowling lane. I face an old brick wall and zone out in the buzz of conversations. It’s one space where I can free myself of distractions and just write. The library is my second favourite place to work but I find the quietness turns every sound into a distraction.
I love working under pressure. No pressure means no work gets done. Tight deadlines mean I’ll focus, stay up late writing and get it done.
Recently I hired on a graphic designer, David Kopulos. Perhaps the best thing (so far) that has come out of hiring David is that I now have deadlines. I need to have the final edited text to him by the end of April. That sounds like a long way away but I’m looking at it as 3.5 months to finish writing and 2 months to complete the editing. I’m sure I’ll be writing and editing my Canadian cheese book up until the minute that it’s due.
Another obstacle is that I keep revisiting the same chapter over and over again. I’ll rearrange it, change a few words and spend hours tweaking it. When is it ok to accept the writing the way it is and move on?
Sue sent me this quote by George Orwell:
“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”
Does that mean cheese is my demon? I’m ok with that. 😉
I never claimed to be a writer. I’m just a guy that loves cheese.
My question to you bloggers, students and writers of all forms is what helps you write? How do you transform your ideas and thoughts into a form that others hopefully would want to read? Any tips or thoughts would be much appreciated!
(Sue says she thinks Kelsie is a great writer. And sounds like he’s got the procrastination skill down pat…..)
13 responses to “Curds and Eh 9: On Writing (a Book about Cheese)”
Make time to write every day, even if for only half an hour. It’s about habit-forming. Those regular Facebook sessions? You know what to do with 99% of them. Turn the time into writing sessions. Also, I would set yourself personal deadlines; they quickly feel like actual ones and I tend to stick to them. I’m on the other side of the Atlantic, but still, a book about Canadian cheeses is intriguing. Make sure to put in some cheesy anecdotes, or even a reference to cheese in literature. Just think of the fun you’ll have researching that!
Hi Flying Scribbler,
Thanks for your kind words of support. I totally agree with you on the need to turn those FB sessions into writing time. Imagine how much I could accomplish! Everyday I’m trying new ways of focusing my energy into writing.
It’s interesting that you mention cheesy anecdotes. I find my writing on Cheese and Toast is quite anecdotal but when it comes to the book I’m starting with facts and trying to turn them into stories. I’ve recently realized that’s a difficult way to write and I should probably try doing it in the opposite order.
I’m looking forward to reading more about your travels.
I find writing a painful process too. Things that have helped me include lots of time to contemplate and then setting myself a focal point and committing to writing for 15 minutes whatever comes to my mind. Once I get started things typically flow. I morph it later. Sue – you also have a delightful conversational and playful style. Maybe writing it like you are sharing your journey with a cheese loving friend would help your process.
I am really looking forward to buying your book!
Carie Lee Watters
Springbank Cheese Co. Calgary
Hi Carrie Lee,
You’ve got some really good points. Once I actually get started the words seem to come a lot easier and after 15-20 minutes I just don’t want to stop. The trick is actually getting started.
I’m so excited that you’re looking forward to the book! Hopefully next year at this time I’ll be in Calgary to promote it and we can finally meet.
All the best,
Everyone is different so don’t feel like there is a right way to do it. I did 2/3-3/4 of the writing of my book on week-long vacations and the rest on off-days (I managed to schedule myself for 4-day weeks at work) but doing it that way took a couple of years. I also unplugged (I had ethernet at the time) the internet during those times, making notes for things that needed to be researched later.
I got up early, wrote new stuff until noon-1 took a couple hours break and then went back and edited the previous day’s work in the afternoon. I often met friends for drinks around 7 or 8 so I didn’t go completely crazy.
Do you have a contract? Or are you writing it all before trying to sell it?
Thanks so much for sharing your experience! It’s great hearing about what goes on behind the scenes and hearing how others write.
Tomorrow I’m heading back to work but I’m so happy with what I’ve written on my week off. I can’t wait until the next week that I can dedicate to writing but it’ll have to wait until Christmas.
I actually don’t have a contract with any publishers or distributors. I’ll be self-publishing the book and looking after some of the distribution myself. It’s crazy, I know!
Thanks for your support! Hopefully we can meet over cheese and beer sometime!
All the best,
Kelsie! It will get easier. You’ve done well to work around the home-based distractions by writing elsewhere and setting dedicated writing time. Also remember that any time spent working on your book- no matter how little or a lot that you write- moves you forward. Not every day will be a superstar writing day so give yourself a high five for getting out the door and doing it. This is in itself an accomplishment 🙂
Writing without deadline is sometimes the hardest thing for me to do, too, so good to hear you’ve got David to add some heat. You’ve probably got a framework for your book- think about it like you’re filling in the holes, and think of the holes as stories. You’re not really writing a book, you’re writing stories, so just write down those stories in your voice. This way of looking at it deflates the pressure of writing a book, right? You’re a great story teller- you have a solid sense of narrative and your personality shines through- we see that in your blog posts here. And it will be more fun for you to write if you’re writing stories off the cuff, and so the creativity and your natural conversational ease & tone will flow easier.
I find I have to be careful about over-editing a section to get the writing perfect- I try to stop myself when I realize I’m hammering away at a paragraph for too long. Don’t worry- you’ll come back to it and get it just right on the second pass with fresh eyes ;).
Good luck! Keep us posted!
Thanks Johanne! I hope you know that your comments (and everyone’s comments here) totally made my day. I’ll be rereading and referring to your comments as I continue to write.
Speaking of the framework of the book though, I’ve written out a detailed outline. It’s so rewarding crossing out completed sections!
All the best,
You are headed in the right direction by going into the Revel Cafe. I often work in cafes where the distractions of home aren’t there. You set a specific amount of time aside and you know why you are there, so it is easier to get down to brass tacks.
Thanks for your continued support Elaine! I bet there’s something in coffee that stimulates writing!
The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of your pants to the seat of your chair.
Hi Kelsie – Glad to see that your book is on the go – don’t despair, the passion is in you, and not only the passion for cheese. What you did this past summer is wonderful, and not too many young people like you would have had the courage to drop everything and undertake the journey you did. So just think about that when sitting down to write – even if it’s just a few lines at a time. It is good that you hired someone – you now have a deadline. I personally prefer to work under pressure, that’s when all the writing comes out on paper. Good luck and leave FB behind you a little.
Kelsie, You say you wish you could sit down with every person and regale them with your tales of cheese. How about play-acting that scenario with a recorder, then transpose those words onto the page? There is a great little tome called “Write like you talk, only better.” Here’s a link to the website of the woman who wrote it: http://www.stickycommunication.ca/book/preview/ I’m a graphic designer not a writer, but I also know a lot about procrastination. Personally, I would cancel my facebook account if it was that much of a distraction. If you think you can handle it, perhaps try to schedule one part of the day for facebook (not quite as drastic). Good luck. I’m sure your book will be fabulous. I can’t wait.
Teri, RGD emeritus