Book-Related Meltdowns and Other Life Updates


Lauren in a hammock

On New Year’s Day, I realised I wasn’t going to meet my deadline.

I’d approached my book with the best of intentions: I was going to document the writing process through a series of blog posts; I was going to remain active and post once a week; I was going to continue with my freelancing; and I was going to finish the final draft of my manuscript months in advance. What it came down to was that I didn’t want to let you guys down. I didn’t want the site to become a graveyard full of monthly summaries and silence. I wanted to continue with what I’d always done, just with a couple of extra hours of book writing thrown in every evening.

I signed my publishing contract in September, a few weeks into a two-month stint in Chiang Mai. I even managed to finish my first draft a few days before I left. 80,000 words in two months. 80,000 clumsy, awkward words that were so terrible I wouldn’t show them to anyone. But it was fine. I had plenty of time to work on my edits.

So I decided to travel for the rest of the year. Because that makes sense, I know. I didn’t realise until the day after arriving in sweltering Yangon that it was near-impossible to write a book while travelling. There was too much sensory overload and too much to process for me to pull myself into a writing frame of mind. After a day spent exploring the incredible temples of Bagan, how could I possibly sit down in my guesthouse that night, deliriously happy, and write about how it felt to be sexually assaulted by a backpacker in Laos?

I flew home in December, and I couldn’t bear to sit myself in front of my laptop over Christmas and New Year’s. I was getting to see my family for the first time in half a year and I wasn’t going to be rude. I was introducing Dave to my favourite parts of London in the hope I could transform his disliking of the city into love. I had friends to see, who I’d been planning to meet up with all year. I had dozens of freelance deadlines looming. I was trying to keep this site alive.

I’ll start editing tomorrow, I’ll start editing tomorrow, I’ll start editing tomorrow.

Lauren at Shwedagon Pagoda
This is the face of someone who’s pretending they don’t have a book to write

So, New Year’s Day.

On New Year’s Day, I sat down and was horrified to discover I didn’t have enough time. I had my first four chapters polished and finished — roughly 20,000 words — and I had 15 left to write/edit. In six weeks. 60,000 words in six weeks.

On top of that, I sent my finished chapters to a few people and their feedback told me I needed to rewrite everything. So I started from scratch. 80,000 words in six weeks.

Commence meltdown.

Insomnia is Kind of Awful

I’d never really suffered from insomnia before but at that moment, it hit me hard. I switched to an 18 hour workday with six hours of sleep. Up at 6 a.m., to bed at midnight. The problem was, when I immersed myself in something so deeply, it was hard to just switch off my brain. Instead, I’d lay with my eyes squeezed shut while my brain thought of alternative phrases to everything I’d written. The next morning, after two hours of sleep, I’d drag myself out of bed while it was still dark, open my laptop and start the next 18 hours.

I Cried a Lot

Whenever I was taking a break from writing, I’d head to Amazon and read the one star reviews of other travel memoirs, applying them to mine. “Everyone’s going to hate my book!” I’d wail at Dave for the 92nd time that hour.

My Relationship Became Strained

You know what’s a killer aspect all guys look for in girlfriends? Someone who doesn’t go outside, can only talk about one subject, cries all day, and fidgets all night. If I could do this again, I’d write my book in a different country to Dave. It’s the closest we’ve come to breaking up.

Highs. Lows. Highs. Lows.

A typical five minutes worth of emotions while I was writing: Euphoria! Depression! Relief! Crushing self-doubt! Terror! Confidence! Panic Attack! I’d alternate between thinking, “Hey, I actually quite like this. I’m pretty proud of this after all.” and, “I’m the worst writer in the world! Nobody’s going to buy this! I don’t even know how to write a book! I’m only going to get one star reviews!” How Not to Write a Travel Memoir — my next project.

And the Panic Attacks

It’s ridiculous that writing a book about how I conquered anxiety gave me the worst anxiety of my life.

What’s Outside Like? My Skin is Transparent

When I was eight years old, my teacher gave everyone in my class five different plants to place around their house. The aim was to expose them to different living conditions and see which ones would thrive. I put one by the window, one outside, one in the bathroom, and one in the airing cupboard. I put the final one in the dark, cold cupboard beneath the stairs, and I am that plant.

I look like a vampire and I think I’m wilting.

My Laptop Almost Died

I wouldn’t have been surprised if it had because, let’s face it, these things have a way of happening to me.

First there was the ominous “Service Battery” notification.

Then my laptop stopped showing me how much charge I had left in said battery — it kept turning off at random times while I had no idea what was happening.

Then I dropped my charger and it broke in half. But somehow it still works if I hold it in the wall.

Against the Odds, I did It

I emailed the final draft of my manuscript to my editor four minutes before midnight on the day of my deadline. I wasn’t expecting to feel anything but exhaustion but I broke down in tears the moment I hit send. I was proud, euphoric, excited, terrified, anxious, sleep-deprived, and a thousand other emotions I can’t put into words. In case you missed my Facebook update, here are the during and after photos of the book writing process.

Now I’ve just got to pull myself through the editing stages with my publisher.

I Deleted and Re-Wrote This Post Multiple Times

Because my god am I privileged. Like, for reals I’ve just sat here and written a thousand words on how my life is so tough because I have a book deal, and I can afford to take months off to work on my book, and I have a supportive family and boyfriend, and THE SUCCESS IS TOO MUCH. I panic whenever I write a post like this because I feel like I come across as a spoilt, whiny brat.

I want to acknowledge that this is all an unbelievable first world problem, but I also want to explain my absence, and give you a behind-the-scenes look at what things are like behind the smiles and sunsets and Instagram photos of Spain.

I Moved to Spain!

I needed a base, and Spain felt like the perfect fit. I needed to stop travelling to finish my book and I wanted to experiment with nesting. Whenever Dave and I sit and talk about the future, the conversation inevitably shifts onto wanting a home we can return to between trips, and wanting to own more than five items of clothing. Just, I guess, wanting to own something.

We moved to Granada as an experiment. We have friends here. The weather is great. It’s cheap. The food is delicious. I can speak around a thousand words of Spanish. Mostly related to items in the classroom, but it’s the most fluent I am in a second language.

So, go on. Ask me about Spain. Ask me about Granada.

“*Mumble mumble*. The Alhambra? *Mumble*” would be my response.

I’ve been in Granada for two months and seen the streets that lead the way to the nearest supermarket. I’ve been to about four restaurants. The good part is that I’m spending something like $700 a month here.

But now I’m free and I’m ready to explore. I’ve got another two months here and I’ll be taking advantage of the free tapas while remembering what it’s like to be outside. Who knows, maybe I’ll visit the Alhambra, too.

2015: All About Europe

I’m not sure if I’m surprised I quickly discovered I’m not in any way ready to settle down yet. Whenever I get myself a base, I euphorically declare that I want to stop moving. The feeling lasts for around two months.

I’m restless already. After a month in London and two months in Granada, I’m spending more time plotting routes across Europe than I am working. Buying a house somewhere cheap and having a place to call my own sounds incredible but I’m certain I’d end up spending two months a year there and the rest of my time travelling. That kind of seems like a waste of money right now.

Travel makes me happy. I’m not ready to stop yet.

I’ll be in Granada until May, and the rest of the year will be spent hopping around the continent to a mix of familiar favourites and new destinations. First stop, The Netherlands, followed by a brief jaunt around Scandinavia before returning to the UK for my birthday in June. I’m going to try and cram a visit to Paris in there somewhere because that’s got to be my biggest travel oversight. I can’t believe I’ve never been!

From there, I’m going to spend time in Iceland, Italy, and Slovenia up until September when I’ll be all about the solo travel. Dave’s turning 40 this year and is planning on walking the Camino de Santiago across Spain for 4-6 weeks to celebrate. I originally planned on doing the same but on a different route, so that we could have a shared experience while keeping things solo, but then I remembered I don’t like walking. Instead, I’m hoping to explore more of Eastern Europe. I’ve already set my sights on Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Greece.

Lauren's sprained and swollen ankle
This is usually what happens when I try new things. I fall over and can’t walk for months.

Personal Challenges: New Things

If you’ve read anything I’ve posted on the site, you’ll know I have a gaping chasm where my life experience should be, even after four years of travel. 2015 is the year where I rectify this.

52 new things in 52 weeks.

Throughout the year, I’m going to be forcing myself out of my comfort zone in an attempt to gain more life experience. The only rules I’ve given myself are that it has to be something I’ve never done before (obvs.), it has to be something that scares me, and it has to be something I wouldn’t have done last year.

At the end of the year, I’ll be publishing a huge post to share everything I did and how it affected me. If I’m still alive, that is.

lauren-hammock-belize
San Ignacio, Belize

A Change of Direction

Travel blogging makes me happy. A lot happier than freelance writing does. Setting book writing aside for a moment, I’ve been focusing more on the latter over the past couple of years and it hasn’t been enjoyable.

Of course, the issue then becomes, how am I supposed to make money? Working on Never Ending Footsteps as my sole job is the dream but I don’t make all that much money from it and shouldn’t I be diversifying rather than shrinking my income streams?

Just like trying to decide if I want to travel non-stop or buy a house, I’m a mess when it comes to what I want to do work-wise. Is this what it’s like to be a millennial? I’m so confused.

It’s made even more confusing by knowing that Never Ending Footsteps is doing better than ever. Despite having posted something like 10 times in 2014, my traffic is at its highest, I’m making more money than ever — though it’s still meagre in comparison to my freelancing — and… I can’t think of anything else. Let’s just say things are better all round.

What I’m trying to say is that I didn’t uproot my life back in the UK so I could do something that makes me miserable. While I’m not going to focus solely on this site for now, I’m going to be portioning a lot more of my energy over here.

What does this mean for you? After I finish going through the edits with my publisher this month, I’ll be back open for business and writing more posts than ever!

And Finally

You guys. I have the best readers in the world. Thank you so much for your patience and understanding while I let myself turn into into a hermit. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the hundreds of supportive emails and Facebook messages and Tweets you sent to cheer me on. They helped me get through one of my toughest times in recent years and I’m so appreciative. I can’t wait to share How Not to Travel the World with you all!

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52 Comments

  1. March 11, 2015
    Reply

    I’ve been following your journey for a few years now, and I have to say I’m cheering you on from the sidelines here! I love how honest and down-to-earth you are, and how you really open up to your readers in a way that I feel a lot of other travel bloggers don’t. I really admire your determination, too.

    Anyway, in short, just wanted to say big congrats on submitting the first draft! I’m also writing a book at the minute, so I know how difficult and heart wrenching it can be at times. It’s no small feat!

    Also, I identify with you on the work front – I’m also at a bit of a loss as to which direction to take my career in. Way too many decisions make me nervous!

    Definitely looking forward to more posts on here :-)

  2. March 11, 2015
    Reply

    So happy for you that you are finished Lauren! Sounds like it was a hectic time – now you can relax :)

    • March 11, 2015
      Reply

      It’s so wonderful to just sit and stare at a wall for a while. It’s like I’m rediscovering how to live (and be lazy) again!

  3. Aisling
    March 11, 2015
    Reply

    Well done Lauren! Enjoy some time for YOU in Granada before all the mayhem begins again in Europe!

    Looking forward to reading more posts! :)

    • March 11, 2015
      Reply

      Ah, thank you so much, Aisling! I already feel so much more relaxed :-)

  4. Ugh, meltdowns seem to be part of the writing process! I’m nearby in Seville, so if you find yourself out here, get in touch! I could use a break from staring at a computer, too!

    • March 21, 2015
      Reply

      I’ll let you know if I make it over there! :-)

  5. March 11, 2015
    Reply

    Some of that rise in traffic may have been me obsessively checking for your overdue monthly update! :)

    I love how you feel about success. I am the same way. I have so many half finished posts that are coming up on a year old that I just never finish. When I see my blog doing well (i.e. when I am actually POSTING) I always find some way to shut down, as if I am scared of succeeding. Because if I succeed, then I have to keep going and I am scared to keep going.

    I cannot wait to read your book. I also cannot wait for you to see that people really do love it. Although that means we don’t get to read a “How Not to Write a Travel Memoir” follow up.

  6. Diana Edelman
    March 11, 2015
    Reply

    YOU. DID. IT. I am so freaking proud of you, Lauren! xoxox

    • March 16, 2015
      Reply

      Thanks so much, Diana!! :-)

  7. March 11, 2015
    Reply

    Congrats on finishing the book draft, Lauren!! I’m so happy for you – and of course very excited to read it once it’s published!

    • March 21, 2015
      Reply

      Ahhhh, thanks, Amanda! :-)

  8. March 11, 2015
    Reply

    Congrats Lauren!! That’s such a huge accomplishment! I’ve only commented once before, but I’ve been following you and I’m so happy for your successes! I hope you relax and explore Granada more now. :) Wishing you a ton of happy travels for the rest of 2015! Looking forward to more from Never Ending Footsteps (and your book!).

    • March 21, 2015
      Reply

      Thanks so much for commenting, Anna! :-) Loving getting to explore Granada at the moment.

  9. March 11, 2015
    Reply

    That must have been very tiring but exhilarating. Congratulations! Can’t wait to hear more about the book. :)

    • March 16, 2015
      Reply

      Thanks, Andrew! More tiring than exhilarating, but I feel amazing regardless :-)

  10. Congrats on finishing the book!
    If you come to Paris on dates when I am at home, I will be happy to show you around, and you could stay at my place for a few days :-)

    • March 16, 2015
      Reply

      Thank you so much for the kind offer, Claire! I’ll let you know :-)

  11. March 11, 2015
    Reply

    Congratulations, Lauren!

    You didn’t sound spoilt or whiny at all – not to be too cheesy, but nothing good in life comes easy (or that easy at least) after all :)

    The rest of your 2015 adventures sound great and I can’t wait for more blog posts from you!

    • March 16, 2015
      Reply

      Thanks, Kirsten. I just wanted to acknowledge that my problems are far from devastating when compared to what other people are going through :-)

  12. March 11, 2015
    Reply

    Congratulations! Your blog is such a pleasure to follow, and thank you for being so candid and honest. It’s inspiring to know that everyone struggles with certain things, and you sharing makes me more hopeful!

    All the best in Granada, it’s one of my favorite cities in the world! I’ll be looking forward to the published book (and more posts here!)

    • March 16, 2015
      Reply

      Thanks so much, Ashley! I try to give an honest look at the behind-the-scenes part of my life for exactly that reason: I wouldn’t want anyone to think I was some kind of superhuman, hoping from beautiful destination to beautiful destination with a euphoric grin plastered across my face :-)

  13. Carney
    March 11, 2015
    Reply

    So Lauren, what you are saying is: You got to see family, you moved to a different country and you are a little behind on some things. I get that. As long as you are happy, that is all that counts! :) Have fun, slow down, smell the flowers (figuratively.) keep smiling, Carney

    • March 13, 2015
      Reply

      Thanks, Carney! I’m always happy, even when I’m having a meltdown :-). I’m definitely enjoying my time off, though!

  14. March 11, 2015
    Reply

    You’ve come so far and I’ve followed your progress pretty much from the start.

    So pleased for you and wish the book (and you) every success

    • March 13, 2015
      Reply

      Thanks, Scot! I really appreciate all of your support :-)

  15. March 11, 2015
    Reply

    I don’t think your struggles sound privileged or first world at all! I think anyone would go crazy trying to accomplish what you were doing. I would be stressed to the max and I’m so glad you got it all accomplished. Wow, what a feat!

    I always wanted to settle down in Granada for a bit. Sounds like the perfect place to be for a while. Now that the deadline has passed, hope you can find time to enjoy it! :)

    • March 16, 2015
      Reply

      Granada is wonderful, and so cheap! I’m loving it already.

  16. March 11, 2015
    Reply

    Despite how utterly depressing this post started, it’s left me feeling very happy and VERY EXCITED! I’m so excited to read the book, the 52 things in 52 weeks and just more blog posts in general! I literally cannot wait to read the book and I’m sure it’s going to be brilliant!

    • March 13, 2015
      Reply

      Hahaha, sorry for the depressing start, Catherine. You’re so kind, and I really appreciate the support! It makes me just a tiny bit less terrified to release my book into the world.

  17. March 11, 2015
    Reply

    Lauren, you are amazing! Just because you feel priviledged to have achieved something (I don’t want to use the word lucky here!) doesn’t mean it can’t be a hard experience. I cannot wait to read your book. If your blog could be review it’d get 5* and I’m sure the memoir will be the same. Your writing is consistently beautiful and you got a book deal for a bloody good reason!

    • March 16, 2015
      Reply

      Ahh, thank you so much, Francesca! :-) I’ll think of your words when I’m hurtling towards the next wave of crippling self-doubt.

  18. March 12, 2015
    Reply

    I’ve just come across your blog and I absolutely love it! What inspiring, brilliantly written articles! Keep up the amazing work :)

    Robyn

    • March 13, 2015
      Reply

      Aww, thanks so much, Robyn! :-)

  19. Lauren, you are one of the most refreshingly open and honest (not to mention entertaining!) bloggers out there. We are here for you, cheering you on! And don’t even worry about sounding privileged or bratty. Just because you were fortunate enough to be brought up in the developed world it doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to have challenges, or downright tough days.

    • March 16, 2015
      Reply

      Thanks so much, Michelle! I always worry about complaining about relatively trivial things, especially given the struggles many people face in the countries I’ve visited. But I would have felt like I was being dishonest if I’d made it seem like writing a book was the easiest thing in the world :-)

  20. March 12, 2015
    Reply

    Congrats on the book and maaan do I feel you! I submitted my first manuscript (a guidebook to Moscow) in January and suddenly all this weight was GONE. I’m a compulsive procrastinator too so I’d say more tears and yelling fits went into that book than I care to admit…

    • March 13, 2015
      Reply

      Congratulations on handing in your manuscript! By the time I was finished, I never even wanted to look at my book again.

  21. Well done Lauren, you did it!!!! Take some time to do some serious relaxing now, and stay away from the 1 star reviews! I guarantee your book will generate amazing reviews so don’t worry! :)

    • March 13, 2015
      Reply

      Oh man, those one star reviews. Brutal! :-)

  22. Lauren, you’ve done SO well! Congratulations. Although it’s been tough, you made it through and wrote a book! Be proud. You deserve it.

    • March 14, 2015
      Reply

      Thank you SO much, Miriam! It still hasn’t sunk in that I’ve written one yet :-)

  23. Davy
    March 14, 2015
    Reply

    Hi Lauren, Good to see your still plugging away, looking forward to the book – sure it will be excellent and inspire (and possibly frighten due to the bad luck you have) others to travel.
    Looking forward to your 2015 travels and from my experience I think you will struggle with Iceland and Scandinavia on the cost front so I’m interested to see how well you keep your spending down. In addition I’m glad you are visiting Macedonia and Albania as they are both hugely underrated but the people in both countries were very friendly and Albania has some excellent almost deserted beaches that are well worth visiting and I would also recommend Berat and the Butrint Ruins in Albania as places worth a visit.
    Good Luck
    Davy

    • March 16, 2015
      Reply

      Thanks for the recommendation, Davy! :-) I think I’ll probably set the budget to one side while I’m in Scandinavia. We’ll see. Excited to get there but dreading the prices.

  24. March 15, 2015
    Reply

    Lauren I have been following your blog for a while but never commented before – massive congratulations on finishing your manuscript! Can’t wait to read it I’m sure it’s going to be amazing!! :-)

    • March 16, 2015
      Reply

      Thanks so much, Amy! And thanks for commenting, too :-) Appreciate your support!

  25. Dan B
    March 16, 2015
    Reply

    I don’t read many blogs but I always come back to yours. I realised you’d fallen off the map there for a while and I had a feeling it was book trouble. It sounds like maybe you’ve learnt a lot from the process though, no matter how crappy it was!

    Makes me think of my long nights at uni trying to do essays the night before deadline…but multiplied by a month. I hope you had a good supply of Red Bull!

    • March 16, 2015
      Reply

      One of the best things I’ve learnt from writing the book is how to be productive! It used to take me a week to write a blog post, but I’m powering through one a day at the moment :-)

      I’m like you — the moment I signed the deal, I had a feeling I’d be handing it in at midnight on the day of the deadline.

  26. March 25, 2015
    Reply

    All I can say is, well done! I used to work as an editor for a big publisher and the truth is that very, very few authors meet their deadlines – most deliver a few weeks, months, or even years late! So what you’ve achieved is pretty amazing, and I can’t wait to read the result!

    I know your schedule is already pretty full but if you make it to France, do try to find the time to get out of Paris and to see more of the country. June for instance is the perfect time to explore Provence (great weather without the crowds), which remains one of my favourite parts of the world even after seeing quite a bit of it! Fairytale-like castles, mountaintop villages, lavender fields, vineyards and Roman ruins :-)

    • March 25, 2015
      Reply

      Ah, if I’d known that I probably wouldn’t have pushed myself quite so hard! :-) I’d love to see more of France (at the moment, I’ve only been to Disneyland Paris!). Not sure I’ll have time on this trip, but you never know!

  27. Toni
    May 12, 2015
    Reply

    I love your blog. I have depression and am bi-polar. It’s a lot everyday, but if I can function where I am, I can function on the road. You have a lot of mishaps and go through your own inner turmoil. Your journey encourages me to have my own. Travel won’t eliminate my series of woes, but it will add some joy. Thank you for sharing this post

    • June 30, 2015
      Reply

      Thank YOU for the lovely comment! :-) Honestly, I do find it easier to function while travelling than at home — you have so much more control over your life when you’re on the road.

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