Procrastination in paradise: book-writing on board
Blog updates have been limited this year because I’m writing a book! Last year, Patagonia Books proposed that I write the story of my voyage. The timing felt right, and now that I am more than halfway through, I have mustered the courage to announce it here. It’s been a about 11 months since I started trying to write what I hope will portray my personal story of growth and transformation since I started sailing Swell.
Everyone has a different approach to creative projects. In my case, the process has taken me through a gamut of emotions and phases. I spent the first four months with a heavy sense of dread, haunted by acute procrastination and approach avoidance. It felt as if I was attempting to roll a boulder up a steep hill. For a while I just had to walk around it and look at it from all sides, think, fret, and finally take a stab at it. Once I finally got started and I entered a period of self-doubt. I would make a little progress, but didn’t love what was surfacing, so I was happy to be distracted by anything else that arose, like boat tasks, my Nat Geo nomination, the new website, local friends, surf, etc. Any momentum I had could easily be halted, followed by regression into dread once more. I’d have to hype myself up to get the boulder moving again, but there was always an excuse not to write. Whether it was too hot or I was hungry, or I needed to scrub the hull or clip my fingernails, there was always something else to do.
One thing I’ve learned through this process is that, for me, the activities that appear to be completely dissociated pursuits, are actually contributing to my creative process in their own mysterious, but important way. Keeping the balance of life must remain first priority, and so the floor must be cleaned, the veggies chopped, the dishes done, the surf surfed, and yoga practiced in order to sit down in front of the screen and have the words flow properly.
At the outset of the project I decided I would need a separate workspace from my usual little navstation/dining table/everything space, where I could leave the computer and all my journals and log books without having to put everything away every time. So I removed the wooden door to the head (bathroom) and my friend Simon helped me convert it into a temporary desk space in the forward cabin. We then found an old three-legged school chair in the local dump which fit perfectly into the miniature space. I loved it. There was more air flow up there, and I could look up and see the sky out of the forward hatch. Plus, it felt so official—like I had a real ‘office’.
I wrote there for a few months during the ‘dread phase’, but come rainy season, the hatch above proved to have a stubborn leak, so the computer and all the hand written journals and diaries were constantly in jeopardy there. No amount of caulking or covers would stop the ceaseless drip in the heaviest of downpours, and it wasn’t the time for a major hatch overhaul. Gradually everything that couldn’t get wet was moved off the ‘desk’, and soon the old door was piled with dirty clothes and salty surfboards, instead of pens and books and papers.
I migrated back to my usual spot in the middle of the cabin. Mornings and evenings, I could sit outside in the cockpit without too much glare on the screen. But after Amelia the Tropicat returned from her island sabbatical I knew I had to find a way to spend more time on land where she could roam while I typed. So we started hiking into the mountains with my hammock, and I soon found that the different scenery, and maybe the oxygen boost from the forest, proved superb for my creative flow. Kitty was thrilled, and I felt freer too, without her staring at me wondering when we were going to go do something fun.
The project took a hiatus to a few tropical storms, the lost cat, some epic swells, visiting friends or strangers, a love affair or two, and a short trip to see my mom and sister. Deadlines came and went, but I realized that i could not go faster than was the nature of living on the boat in a remote place where I have to cook all my own meals, haul water in jerry cans, and keep up with basic maintenance aboard Swell to assure our safety. But by and by I kept just tapping away at it, little by little. Then one day i turned the corner and realized I was truly enjoying the process. My friend, Tahui, helped me build a table and bench in the forest, using only the fast-growing Purau tree and its bark to lash it all together. With of view of Swell and the reef, I suddenly had the office of my dreams. Until it rained one day and my backpack leaked and I lost about last six weeks of work due to my computer getting wet!? Data recovery places want a fortune to get it off the damaged drive, so hopefully the second draft of the 42 lost pages will be better than the first. Everything happens for a reason, right?
As I have pondered and peered at the story line, read though my diaries and log books, I am amazed to see just how far I have come. I now see how all the difficulties appeared so perfectly along my path for my growth and expansion. Moments that at the time felt like the end of the world, are now part of the beautiful mandala that is my story. Realizing this has opened me to sharing more than I ever thought I would, mostly in hopes that other people will be encouraged to affront their own challenges and see that I am not some superwoman to whom destiny opened the door to a perfect sailing dream life. I attempt to show my faults, reveal my thoughts, and help people understand just how challenging and rewarding following your dreams can be.
The new spot has worked wonders on my productivity and I look forward to long hours in the forest—typing, doing yoga when my body needs, and cooking uru or heating tea on the fire. Except on rainy days!! The project has taken on a life of its own now and I feel as if I’m just the conduit. By adhering to what has gotten me this far, I’m doing my best to let what feels right be the guide.
SO without further delay, I return to task!!
TROPICAT UPDATE***For those of you curious as to how my relationship with Amelia the Tropicat has evolved since her return…all i can say is, Wow!…what an amazing experience it has been. In order to keep her feeling like her free and wild self, we continue taking land adventures, although each time I realize that she could decide to run off again at any moment, making each time we go ashore an amazing venture in trust. There have been at least a half dozen moments where I thought she was gone and I would have to launch the search efforts again, but each time she teaches me in her own way what she needs and likes, and we grow. I often end up sitting for an hour in the dark somewhere being bitten by mosquitoes because she’s not ready to come out, but in those times I’ve learned how to calm myself down, and connect with her through meditation. I first learned this meditation from my Animal Communication friends Jonquil and Thom’ s website when she had gone missing. The more I do it, the more she comes through louder and clearer in my mind, it’s so wild! So thank you, Amelia, you constantly keep me in check and have helped me expand my own borders of what I believed was possible. As I write this she is splayed across my arms in a deep sleep.
AnneSeptember 11, 2015
I really enjoy your updates. It interrupted my writing for a bit. ;-)
Keep them coming,
StellaSeptember 11, 2015
Wow! you and Amelia the tropicat are living a life of wonderful experiences and freedom. A lot of people would give everything they had to live like you. Good luck with your book.
JakeSeptember 11, 2015
Right(write) on Liz!.I look forward to reading your book.
Captb (Doug)September 11, 2015
Thank you for sharing all you have experienced. Your latest post is awesome. I will buy your book and gift it to my
Close sailingfriends !
I think you have found your life’s path, I’m working on mine. It’s fun, it’s tiring, it’s crazy, it’s full of love, it’s full of pain,
Yet one must move forward with hope and dreams! Just did single track mountain biking for the first time :) I’m a Tri guy.
Of course, I wish I knew what I know now 30 years ago… :) better late than never!
I know in my heart, I shall be one the sea again. Right now I’m in the woods in Maine, listening to the rain, Adele plays
As I write. My home, latest project is almost done :) . My Triathlon season (age grouper) (that’s not the fish) is almost done,
And I’m about to visit family in France for 2 weeks and sail out of La Rochelle:)
My 1st ss check in the bank ha ha. Age is of the moment. Health, happiness, family, and friends, are all equally important.
It that basket, of course is mindfulness.
With love and admiration,
CraigSeptember 11, 2015
I started reading your blog when I was back in Seattle planning my sailing trip from the comfort of my couch, years ago; now I’m in Fiji, on my own boat and find myself in a similar situation (I write software, which can be surprisingly creative…) I’m looking forward to reading your book. ps. one tip on the dinghy – bleach. If you have a squirt bottle, fill it up with the local bleach, and apply liberally, wait a few minutes and the algae will be much easier to get off. It’ll make for faster rowing/motoring around!
Captain LizNovember 10, 2015
Hi Craig, sounds like an awesome job for a cruiser! I try not to use bleach on my dinghy for its adverse effects on the sea life around my boat. but thank you for the idea…enjoy your adventure amigo!! :D liz
jagdeeshSeptember 11, 2015
hi Liz …. u have an hectic schedule …and still making time ……focus on the project……surely that would be a huge success…… yeah these distraction’s r common……… when u r in open and have to do everything on u r own ………I wish I would have been there helping u ………..feeling that I’m missed out…….
jagadish.teluSeptember 12, 2015
Hi Liz ………….though u had hectic schedule making some time…….focus on project and it would be huge success …..as u r in open distractions are common and doing everything on ur own……..feeling missed out ………
Captain LizNovember 10, 2015
Thank you Jagadish…always happy to have your support!!
jagadish. teluNovember 11, 2015
yeah…….and me too ………hope u r enjoying …Liz
laura warburtonSeptember 27, 2015
Just discovered your amazing adventure .. looking forward to more blog posts and your book!!!
LeeSeptember 28, 2015
Wow Liz, I just found your story this morning. I am excited to follow you over the following months. I had friends from college who spend 3 years sailing around the world with their children. Always loved their story. I have read his books several times. I am looking forward to your book. Have a safe and peaceful journey.
OceanOctober 2, 2015
Hey there Liz,
I am so excited for your book and just wanted to thank you for your bravery and vulnerability in the undertaking! Yes, I’m just thrilled with the anticipation of inspiration/motivation/honesty! All the best and take it easy! – Ocean
Captain LizNovember 10, 2015
Thank you Ocean!!
DerekOctober 8, 2015
Steven Pressfield, author of Do The Work and The War of Art, recently put together this list on Henry Miller’s advice for writers, it’s good.
– Work on one thing at a time until finished.
– Start no more new books, add no new material.
– Don’t be nervous. Work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is in hand.
– Work according to program and not according to mood. Stop at the appointed time!
– When you can’t create, you can work.
– Cement a little every day, rather than add new fertilizers.
– Keep human! See people, go places, drink if you feel like it.
– Don’t be a draught-horse! Work with pleasure only.
– Discard the program when you feel like it—but go back to it the next day.-
– Forget the books you want to write. Think only of the book you are writing.
– Write first and always. Painting, music, friends, cinema, all these come afterwards.
Enjoy Liz, I am sure it will be awesome.
Captain LizNovember 10, 2015
Kathy moffittOctober 22, 2015
My friend Jamie Collins shared an article about you on Facebook – that led me to your website. I just read your blog about the book you are writing and you really inspired me! I have been trying to write every morning and a few minutes at night to wrap up my thoughts. When I write it slows everything down in my head and my true feelings emerge and wisdom I didn’t realize was in me comes out about whatever I am writing about. Thank you for sharing it really inspired me – I will be checking in to get caught up on what you are sharing! Wishing you many happy times ahead!
Captain LizNovember 10, 2015
Yay that’s wonderful Kathy!! Keep at it!! all the best, Liz
KarolinaOctober 30, 2015
Just yesterday I read one short article about you in czech magazin called Lidé a Země. I became your big fan immediately, what a great ocean&surf adventure!
Good luck with your book, can´t wait for it.
BruceNovember 6, 2015
Congrats on your book deal. Look forward to the read.
Both emails we have for you (from a long time ago) bounced. Was curious who did your web design? Ours is in terrible need of a face lift.
Bruce & Alene
P. Tiga, Malaysian Borneo and missing the Pacific!
Christine QNovember 10, 2015
Thank you so much for sharing your journey. I dream of the life you are living. Maybe it’s not all that crazy after all , lol. Good luck and be safe :)
TitiDecember 2, 2015
Dear Captain Liz!
What a great journey. I tried to make a Wharram worthy of leaving and left it to others and now wave a 21 ft, actually almost ready to leave. I am procrastinating on repairs and maintenance. Already a second relationships is breaking, because she’s not boaty. Maybe we can motivate each other by mail to act right and write.
TessDecember 22, 2015
Hi Liz! It was a treat to meet you and Tahui the other day. Thank you again for the safety of your dinghy – that rip was something else! I was hoping to meet up with you again, to show you the Makka Ho stretches – if you don’t know them – to include in your yoga routine – they open all the meridians and keep the channels flowing nicely. But good girl for being focused on your book! I plan to try surfing that left again on the south swell, next July hopefully, so I’ll see you then :) All the very best with your book, I know that it’s going to be as beautiful as the person that you are!
ShelbyDecember 28, 2015
I will happily buy your book Liz! You are an incredibly cool and inspiring person. Bon voyage from Montréal, Canada! (we’re freezing!)
nicolettaApril 26, 2016
Hi Liz! where are you now? Your last post dates December 2015. Is Amelia still with you?I didn’t cath the name of the island where you lost her and where she lived wild for 42 days…
I’m an italian journalist and I’d like to write about your story.
thanks a lot
JoeMay 21, 2016
Hi Liz, have no idea how you inspired me.
When I see what you do, I truly believe this is somehow what I want to do. I believe I did my equivalente journey when I worked alone on my projects for 7 years. It’s not the same, but it’s related. The way I see it is that I was living my life in my own terms, had to fight against procrastination, had to fight against myself, my routines, my laziness, my restlessness sometimes. I had to learn how to rule my own life and that helped me a lot in what I’m doing now. I’m really proud of all that process. The bad side of it is that I’m missing that life a lot and your adventure is kind of knocking on my counsciousness, making me rethink wether isn’t already time for a new adventure alone following my guts and feeling instead of the stress of a calculated, safe, fully-demanding and highly stressful life that makes you feel you are living for a better future (better you, better career, better pay or whatever) that it’s never close enough, running towards something and never stopping to fully enjoy yourself and the love around. If you finish your book, I’ll buy it for sure. I’m really curious how you fought against the loneliness, specailly at the beginning. That inevitable void. I passed something like that on my period as a freelancer, but I think your case might be more extreme. I wonder how difficult it was and how you approach it.
You are definitely a very lovely person, I’d love to be in touch. Im already following you. Here my instagram: @oriolrgb. Cheers and best wishes wherever you are!
Captain LizMay 29, 2016
THank you Joe and best to you in the pursuit of your dreams!!!