I remember the summer of 1981, when I found myself sitting on a beach in the Seychelles, waiting for a flight to Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania. It was a moment of pure boredom that sparked an idea – the idea of writing a book about my travel experiences. Little did I know, it would take me five years to finally set my thoughts in motion.
The Unpredictable Writing Process
When embarking on a new book, I never fully know what to expect. Some stories seem to effortlessly flow from my fingertips, as if they were meant to be written. Other projects, however, become a constant struggle, each sentence and paragraph feeling like a hard-fought battle. These are the books that require extensive revisions, sometimes even being completely rewritten multiple times.
Interestingly, the difficulty I experience while writing has no discernible cause. It is not dependent on my own preparation, the circumstances of my life at the time, or the complexity of the story I have planned. Some books are simply easier to write than others. All I can do is dive into the process and see where it takes me.
The Fear of Autobiography
As I contemplated writing an autobiographical book for the first time, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of trepidation. It was a project I had been putting off for quite some time. In fact, one of my New Year’s resolutions for 1986 was to finally start working on it. And so, on January 5 of that year, I summoned the courage to begin, before allowing my nerves to get the better of me.
A Different Writing Journey
Travels followed a different pattern compared to my previous works. Normally, I work in short, intense bursts, completing a manuscript draft within four to eight weeks. I then set it aside for several months before diving into another round of revisions. After a few such revisions, the book is either ready for publication or deemed fundamentally flawed and left behind forever. However, Travels unfolded at a different pace entirely.
The first draft of this book took me a whopping six months to complete, longer than any book I had written before. Progress was slow yet steady, but surprisingly rewarding. With each chapter’s completion, I felt a sense of relief and even elation, as if I had been freed from a burden I didn’t even know I was carrying. It was invigorating, giving me the confidence to tackle more challenging episodes. As I continued writing, Travels evolved to become more explicit and personal than I had originally envisioned.
The Uncertainty of Writing
One of the peculiarities of writing is that you cannot fully trust your subjective sense of how the work is progressing while you’re in the midst of it. Sure, you have feelings about your own writing, but those feelings are constantly shifting. I often oscillate between wild delight and deep discouragement within the span of a single day.
Throughout the years, I have come to learn that most of the strong emotions I experience while writing are likely to be misleading. The sections I initially adore, the ones that make me laugh as I bring them to life, often turn out to be superfluous when I revisit them months later. Conversely, the paragraphs I dislike while initially writing them, the ones that seem awkward or obscure, often reveal their true value upon a later perusal.
The Journey Continues
As I wrote Travels, an overwhelming sense of elation began to pervade my thoughts. However, I couldn’t help but feel a hint of skepticism when I revisited the first draft in the spring of 1986. To my pleasant surprise, I found that I still liked most of it when I started the revision process in early 1987. Of course, there were chapters I disliked, which are now removed. There were moments of confusion, which I have clarified. And there were instances of excessive length, which I have shortened. Additionally, one chapter was omitted due to legal concerns, and I altered many names for similar reasons. But even after all the changes and subsequent drafts, I still genuinely enjoy this book. My hope is that you will too.
So, join me on this extraordinary journey as we delve into the stories and experiences that have shaped my life. Let the pages of Travels transport you across continents and through the depths of my personal reflections. Let us embark on an adventure together, where each turn of the page reveals a new revelation, a new connection, and a new understanding.