Old ideas leading to new people, new chapters and deeper ideas

10 Jul

This is a post from my Patreon, where I’m sharing semi-regular updates on the book writing process. You can find out more here: https://www.patreon.com/AmyGray 


I was so confident planning this book. No one else has written it, I declared, as I dismissed the surfeit of people writing parenting books in their first year of actual parenting without doing any reading beforehand.

Thankfully, I realised while planning my grant application that I needed to do more research. I knew there would be theses at universities I should pore over, academics to interview doing amazing work. I even approached one academic with a plan to have them review my work to try and catch any errors.

As mentioned in a previous post for patreon-mates, my linear self has been struggling with the need to write and research concurrently. It will mean some big editing later on, but is still manageable. So I write in the morning and read in the afternoon.

One morning, I wrote about the use of mother and father as noun and verbs. Satisfied I had found a great way to open the book, I raced off to the State Library to research a particular title before grabbing one book totally on impulse.

Have you ever read a book so exciting and close to your own project that your heart races from exhilaration and disappointment? I cringed! Cringed that I thought my ideas were so novel, cringed that my entire angle was not only not new, it was 20 bloody years old and cringed that my line about mother and father as verbs were in the book.

I texted a friend about my disappointment in myself that I hadn’t read this amazing book, that I couldn’t borrow this amazing book and that I hadn’t fucking written this amazing book. What the hell was the point in my writing this book if it was no longer original?

Later, I took on a small job teaching non-fiction to kids in a workshop. So many of them were too shy to share their ideas. They hadn’t clammed up, they were just too timid to read their ideas out to the group or thought their ideas were stupid or too similar.

These weren’t problems at all, I said, sneaking a look at their lists and pointing out their ideas were fantastic. There were ideas about stupid emails, the exotisisation of K-Pop, class warfare, scammers, food waste and why we hate popular people (which was my favourite article idea, even though it’s been covered repeatedly by journalists).

Not every writer had unique ideas – some doubled and their panicked faces would tighten and slack when we debated the different ways to cover them. Writers aren’t popular for their ability to write – not really, I said. Writers are popular for their ability to think. They observe the actions we don’t question and find the answers in research and thought that they then share. That’s what *can* set them apart.

I had a happy classroom again.

Drawing myself back into research as second hand books tracked down around the world began to trickle in, I felt that itch of discomfort again. There were so many books covering motherhood, some with nudges towards similar ideas I’d worked on over the years. Then there was THAT book.

I realised why I was cringing and angry at myself about that book: here was a book from almost 20 years ago that I considered so perfect but was unread. Why the fuck was that?

Because you can find almost anyone on social media, I quickly tracked down the author and contacted her, thrilling over her book. We swapped direct messages, and I told her of my astonishment her book wasn’t widley known or treated as an iconic feminist text. I shared in a later DM that I was angry with myself because I had shown the same ignorance of feminist critiques of motherhood that I was going to rail against in my book.

She was beyond gracious. She gave her blessing for the book, agreeing to an interview and shared research tips and author names.

The book? It’s still going ahead. It’s still going to touch the same spots but now, when I read her book, I don’t cringe. Instead I spot the areas to go deeper, areas to explore and find a fresh way to share my views, now suddenly verified by an amazing writer over in Europe.

You better believe the entire bloody book will be dedicated to her.


2 Responses to “Old ideas leading to new people, new chapters and deeper ideas”

  1. Duncan McPherson (@22ViewSt) July 10, 2017 at 4:12 pm #

    What’s the name of the 20-years-old-but-still-made-Amy-cringe book?


  1. The Future of the Written Word – Durrantelope - September 19, 2017

    […] exemplary of technology making writing more accessible. Writer Amy Gray also took exception, citing her experience of encountering a book she wishes she’d written. Her experience of the written word as the […]

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