That Second Book: To Write, or Not to Write?

Image: puzzled woman with a question mark stuck to her forehead.
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Today’s post is by Rachel Michelberg, author of the memoir Crash.


In my writing feedback group recently, I was complaining. Kvetching, my mother would say—the whiny, petulant kind of grumbling that’s really annoying for those subjected to it.

I was stuck—for blog topic inspiration, put-your-butt-in-the-chair-and-write motivation. Still well within the post-pub-honeymoon period of publishing my memoir, Crash, I had an excellent excuse so was heartily forgiven by my teacher and group-mates. It’s normal, they said. Give yourself a break. You’re in a kind of withdrawal, happens to lots of writers. (I wrote about that here.)

But it leads to a bigger, more existential question: Am I a one-hit wonder?

Not that Crash is a hit—yet—but it’s gotten a better response than I ever imagined. Is it a one-off? Or, as I’ve affirmed in so many interviews, do I really have a second book in me?

Writing a book is a herculean task. I don’t have to tell you that. This is a writer’s blog, I’m preaching to the choir here. Blood, sweat, tears, time, energy, and money—lots and lots of money. I suppose there are authors that just need a working computer, God bless them. Not me. I’ve lost track long ago of how many dollars flew out the door for classes, feedback groups, retreats, editing services. And that’s before a publisher accepted me. Since then, it’s payment for the hybrid publisher, publicist, social media coaching, contest entry fees. Yes, you have to pay to be considered for all of those book awards. Those little stickers for the book when you win? Those too.

Luckily, despite my kvetching, I’m in a comfortable financial place in my life so it’s really not about the money (though that’s always a consideration, isn’t it?). I can afford to follow my passion. But is it a passion?

I started writing Crash because I had one of those you-don’t-make-this-shit-up kind of stories, not because writing is a profession. I had no real idea what I was doing when I started. Do I really need to keep writing?

Who am I kidding? The real question is—do I, deep in my guts—my kishkes as my mother would say (don’t you just love Yiddish?), really want to write another book? Or am I feeling obligated, to please my friends and readers? Am I still that little girl wanting to make mommy and daddy proud?

No one’s pushing me. My husband would probably be relieved if I didn’t (see above, re: $$ and energy) but he’d support me. As I brood, a pro/con list emerges:

  • Pro: I have a career and some status as a voice and piano teacher and singer. I don’t need to prove myself or carve out an identity. Or do I?
  • Con: $$. Knowing how I work, I couldn’t resist attending retreats, conferences, classes, etc. Ka-ching ka-ching.
  • Con: The constant pressure. How many pages have I written today? I need to put my butt in the chair, but I don’t wanna.
  • Pro: A great way to avoid feeling like an imposter. Calling myself an author after writing one book feels…sketchy but acceptable. Working on a second? Definitely!
  • Pro: Feeling like a valid, relevant part of the author communities I’ve joined, not a has-been.
  • Con: Writing fiction. My idea for book #2, historical fiction based on fact, is terrifying. For my memoir, I was there. I didn’t have to make anything up, be truly creative.
  • Pro: Who knows? I might really enjoy the process.

For now, I’ll find some contentment in my vacillation. After all, Crash took me eleven years to write, so what’s the hurry?

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