Discover more from Letters by Deepa
No. 22 | First draft, done!
From exhilaration to exhaustion, plus some exciting news.
By now, this is old news. But I still want to share it with you.
I finished the first draft of my memoir!
At 5:47 p.m. on Tuesday, March 8th, over a year and two months after I started writing, I drafted an email to Nina, my coach, attached the Epilogue, and hit send. The familiar electronic whoosh was a fanfare of triumph. It hit me: I did it. It’s done.
Exhilaration flooded my body. I fired off messages to my husband and boyfriend, swept up my laptop and flew out of the office. The sunset blazed pink and purple as I flew home on my bike, fireworks in the sky for the celebration within me.
I felt as though I could conquer the world. In fact, I felt as if I just did.
The next few days were a giddy parade of congratulations: lip-licking cocktails at our favorite place, a boozy midweek brunch, a Friday afternoon drive to the beach. Wine glasses full of sparking gold, delirious twirling under rainbow strobe lights, long walks on sun-drenched dunes.
I felt radiant, full of laughter and life. I was free! I could finally pick up all the neglected pieces of my life. I had time for my family and undivided attention for my loved ones.
I could have coffee with the friends whose messages I’d left for months. I could Marie Kondo my closet. Clean out my daughter’s room. Organize my desktop.
Declutter every single drawer in the house. Catch up on my Substack and Instagram. Take on commercial copywriting gigs. Replenish my depleted bank account.
I obsessed over my draft like an exhausted mother besotted with her newborn. I rendered it into various files, formatting and reformatting like a maniac. I gazed starry-eyed upon my own words loaded into my Kindle, where it looked like… a real book.
I sent the draft to my four biggest fans, the only people in the world apart from myself and my writing coach who would ever see this book so raw and naked. Husband, boyfriend, best friend, sister.
I trusted them to be honest with me if it was any good at all, and if not, to gently shepherd me towards the idea of printing a nice copy for my bookshelf before letting go of my impossible dream of becoming an author.
To my utter relief, they did not.
I promised myself a month to rest, to forget everything I’d written. Then I’d start editing and rewriting. In that month, I envisioned myself a whirlwind of activity, a force of productivity and purpose.
I would build my own personal database of literary agents and publishers! I would devise a bulletproof content plan for daily Instagram posts and weekly newsletters! I would formulate a clever strategy for growing my subscriber list and social media! I would answer emails! I would start making money again! I would not only build my author platform, I would erect an unshakeable temple to my personal brand!
Then I crashed.
I can’t say I didn’t expect this. Wiser writers had warned me. I knew, logically, that writing a memoir was an exercise of rip-your-guts out vulnerability. But I did not realize its full, visceral reality until I had actually done it.
I poured everything I had into this first draft and was left depleted. Raw. Exhausted.
For the first time, the thought of writing—emails, Letters by Deepa, Instagram captions, anything—made me want to throw up. There were days when I just wanted to sleep and sleep and sleep. Petty annoyances, unfolded laundry and unread Whatsapp messages reduced me to tears.
Even my body seemed to have had it. I broke out in tiny red spots, whose cause I still don’t know, all over my body. I developed what seemed to be rosacea on my face.
Yet I kept on working. I wrote about cars of the future and came up with names for sex furniture and water-based lubricant.
I couldn’t seem to slow down, even though all I wanted was to run away and be left alone.
In the end, the only thing that helped was to run away. Alone.
Five days did for me what five weeks could not. No one to answer to, care for, or consider. No schedule, agenda, or responsibilities. Nothing to accomplish or prove.
As soon as the aircraft rose above the clouds, my mind began to clear. Between the gentle warmth of the Portuguese sun and the icy shock of the Atlantic Ocean in mid-April, I came alive. By the time I had landed, my face was clear of rosacea.
In the calm activity of my days and the quiet solitude of my nights, I found the space I needed. When that space appeared, so did words and ideas to fill them.
The four-week break I promised myself has turned into six. Now, those six weeks are up. With energy and equilibrium replenished, I will begin revising my first draft this week.
I have 14 months’ worth of untouched notes from my writing coach, plus the feedback of my four biggest fans. Paragraphs are moving around like puzzle pieces in my brain. I see not only words to cut and sentences to refine, but bigger questions to ask, deeper places to go, and tougher decisions to make.
I have 10 weeks before the summer holidays. Ten weeks to revise 14 chapters, an Introduction and Epilogue. Also to write a synopsis, nail my pitch, perfect a query letter to agents, and revise, remix, and rewrite my manuscript as best I can.
It’s ambitious and daunting. Distractions are already streaming through the window like summer sunshine. But I know what it takes now. I’m ready.
So what’s next?
Between April to July, my focus will be on the process of revision. I’ve been toying with the idea of sharing that process here.
I know it’s a long journey from first draft to final book, with many changes in between. Chances are, a lot of what I have now won’t even make it into the final manuscript.
So I’m thinking of sharing raw, unedited excerpts with you, my subscribers. I just haven’t figured out how—audio posts maybe? A sneak peek and discussion thread for an intimate audience. Kind of like a… pre-book book club, just for us.
Would you be interested? Would you be willing to support me through the process of revision by paying a small amount for unpublished memoir content, if I put it behind a paywall? Or should I keep it free for all subscribers?
Suggestions, ideas, comments? Write me. You know I’m all ears.
If you’re in Amsterdam and Utrecht, mark the dates: May 6 and June 25.
More exciting news: I’ve been invited to read excerpts of my memoir at two thrilling in-person events this spring. I still can’t believe it! More details as they come.
Finally, if you have an iPhone, you can now opt to read my posts on the new Substack app. It works just like a reader. This really helps declog your inbox if you’re subscribed to more than one newsletter on Substack, like I am.
Here in Amsterdam, sunshine has returned to our days, remaking the world and filling it with color. Spring sings on every newly green bough and in every bright blue morning, in the belly of every upturned bloom and the radiance of every sun-kissed face. My heart can’t help but sing along.
See you in two weeks!