History of a novel
It all started with this silent retreat I went on in the summer of 2009.
Actually, the real story starts prior to that: earlier that year I’d been told I suffer from Fibromyalgia, a chronic condition that I’ll never recover from. Soon after my diagnosis, I decided to give up writing.
At that point in time, I had spent several years struggling with it, and I still wasn’t sure if I even had anything to say. Yes, I had a degree in Writing – with a capital W – from the Utrecht School of the Arts, but all that had really done was make me the harshest critic of my own work, ever. And I mean, if you know you’re going to have limited energy for the rest of your life, you’re not going to spend it struggling with something that might never turn out right. Right?
So. I bravely decided to soldier on in my copy writing business and hang up the writing dream. For a couple of months I worked, and slept, and I thought it was enough. And then the silent retreat came along.
It was horrible. I mean, it was wonderful, but it was horrible too. Because you couldn’t speak. And you couldn’t write. And you were encouraged not to read, either. I enjoyed the silence, but I also suffered from it. Then and there I decided: I need words. I need to express myself in words to feel like I’m alive.
I NEED TO WRITE.
Slowly, the contours of a plan began to emerge. I wanted to avoid my earlier pitfalls of perfectionism and self-doubt, so I cleverly decided to write something entirely unsellable. Writing in English would provide me with a challenge and keep my mind focused on the language, instead of on what other people thought of me. Besides, I’d always had a fondness for the English language and felt bold and daring experimenting with it.
Writing a novel in English, under a pseudonym, would be my secret after-hours project, my outlet, my private no-holds-barred venting cave. During the day I was a writing coach and copy writer. At night, I’d don my cape – or rather, cardigan – and become Regina Chapman.
On the road
The first four years after this decision were spent honing my craft, writing about eleven drafts of one novel and then banning it to a life on the top shelf, after all. They were also about finding my voice as a writer and organising my life around doing what I love – basically a constant balancing act between being ill, working enough to make a living, and safeguarding my time to write.
On December 26th, 2013, I started a new novel. I finished the ‘improved first draft’ – draft 1.1 – on December 31st, 2014.
Right now I’m doing rewrites and edits, which I hope to be done with by this fall. If everything goes well and all the stars align, I’ll be offering the manuscript to several agents in 2016! And most importantly, I’ll be doing it under my own name.
Thank you, Regina
My alter ego Regina Chapman has come to stand for overcoming self-doubt and doing what I love without holding back. The creation of Regina was a major breakthrough in overcoming my writing demons. So even though I don’t need her anymore, I’m still thankful for all she has done for me.
By blogging about my process and the challenges I overcome, I hope I inspire you to overcome your own challenges. And if you pick up some nifty writing tricks along the way, all the better!