For the past year, my most frequently asked question has revolved around when my next book will be out. Multiple times a day, whether it’s by email, a blog comment, a book review, or social media, someone will be asking me if I’m writing a sequel, begging me to write a sequel, or trying to find out when my sequel will be out.
How incredible is that?
I’m basically the poster child for Imposter Syndrome, so to hear not only that people actually thought my book was good, but that they’re desperate to read more is unbelievable. It blows my mind. It’s the ultimate dream as an author, right?
And that’s why I’ve been beating myself up about how to answer.
Because right now, I can’t think of anything I want to do less than write a sequel.
Writing the First Book Has Destroyed My Health
When I ran my reader survey after my book launch last year, the most common criticism I received was that I’d been writing too much about how I’d struggled with the book writing process and the anxiety it had caused. So I stopped writing about it.
But I haven’t stopped struggling.
It’s now been a year since my book was published and I’m in a worse position than I was back then.
I spent Christmas with Dave’s family locked in a bathroom crying. I spent the evening of my birthday sobbing, having panic attack after panic attack. I spent my few days on Bora Bora hyperventilating on one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. I spent a full month in Lisbon barely able to leave my apartment because of anxiety. I’ve had two sinus infections, two ear infections, a bladder infection that’s left me battling chronic pain, a tooth infection, and roughly eight courses of antibiotics. Never-ending stomach cramps, a mouth that’s permanently filled with ulcers, floaters in my eye, a twitching eyelid, a loss of appetite.
So if you were wondering whether anxiety and stress can affect your physical health, there’s your answer. My immune system is in the gutter.
I’ve since learned that nobody writes a book in three months. I’m met with nothing but horrified expressions when I tell author friends that I managed to write and edit 90,000 words in 90 days. That I worked exactly eighteen-hour days for three months straight without a single day off. That I didn’t go outside, that I barely ate, that I rarely even showered for those three months, because my deadline was tight and I couldn’t afford to lose any more time.
But it is what it is. I could have pushed back against the deadline. And maybe if I had, I would have still written and edited the entire book in the final three months, because I’ve always worked best under pressure. I could have chosen to prioritise my mental health.
But I didn’t.
I’ve tried everything I can possibly think of to overcome my anxiety. Meditating multiple times a day, every single day. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Joining a gym and going five times a week. Cardio and weight training. Yoga. Walking every day. Forcing myself to be unwaveringly positive about every aspect of my life. Announcing that my anxiety was over in an attempt to convince my brain it was. Stopping travelling. Travelling more. Travelling on a budget, travelling to fancy resorts, travelling alone, travelling with Dave, travelling with my family. Converting the second bedroom in our apartment into a sanctuary full of candles, soft lighting, and lipsticks. Finding relaxing-sounding hobbies, like crochet. Adult colouring books. Aromatherapy. Keeping a diary. Talking about my struggles incessantly. Staying quiet and keeping myself distracted. Leaving my comfort zone. Remaining solely in my comfort zone. Changing up my diet in a massive way, experimenting with quitting sugar, with quitting dairy, with quitting gluten, with quitting legumes.
I have no idea how to get better again.
Changing my diet helped a lot, but it’s impractical to maintain when travelling.
Unlike my previous battles with anxiety, when I was actually anxious about something, this seems to have been brought on by stress. So because there’s nothing directly (like an event, a person, a situation) causing my anxiety, I don’t know how to make it go away. I’m having panic attacks for what feels like no reason at all.
And that’s why the thought of writing a sequel fills me with dread.
How can I put myself through something like this again?
But even if writing my first book hadn’t led to a breakdown, there are other reasons not to write a sequel, too.
I Haven’t Had Any Incidents
How Not to Travel the World was based around, well, how not to travel the world. It was all about how my first few years of travel saw me stumbling my way from one mishap to the next.
Very soon after the scene where the book ends, I gained a book deal and spent the next year writing and editing my manuscript to as close to perfection as I could. I barely travelled during this time, and the following year… well, I wrote about that above.
Simply put, I haven’t had any serious incidents over the past couple of years, and certainly not any that would fit in a book.
It’s both a good and a bad thing. Good for my sanity, bad for my personal brand. But at the moment, I don’t actually have any material for a sequel.
Unless that sequel was How Not to Write a Travel Memoir.
I’m a Different Person Now
I’m no longer naive. I’ve gained a little common sense. I have a ton of travel and life experience. I’m no longer a hypochondriac. I don’t get lost. I rarely fall for scams. And while I wrote about having a fuckton of panic attacks up above, it’s not the same as the anxiety I battled in the book. I no longer have these weird irrational thought processes where I’m constantly convinced I’m going to die. Instead, my most common reaction when something goes wrong now is to shrug and assume that everything will work out okay in the end.
Because it always does.
I guess that’s why I haven’t been having many incidents.
I’ve grown, and I’m a different person to the one I wrote about in the book. I feel that my story would lose a little of its magic if it was just about me sidestepping disasters and then reacting rationally when I couldn’t avoid them.
And if you’ve read the book, you’ve probably realised that yeah, I’m basically Dave now.
My Incidents Won’t Be As Organic
I’d always planned for my sequel to be titled be How Not to Travel India — I thought it would be fun to focus on one country for my next set of disasters, and India seems like a place where I’d struggle to stay alive on a daily basis.
I’m tentatively planning a trip to India for next year, with the aim of seeing if a sequel would work if it was set in the country, but that’s the problem.
I’d be rocking up in New Delhi, holding out my arms, and praying for bad things to come my way. I’d be in India for the express purpose of writing a book about bad things happening to me in India. I can’t help but feel concerned it will be too forced.
Elizabeth Gilbert received criticism for Eat, Pray, Love because she scored a publishing deal before she even started her trip. I’ve read many of her negative reviews that question how authentic her book could truly be because she’d have known she’d have to find a compelling story by the end of her travels.
How Not to Travel the World worked because I was constantly praying that nothing bad would befall me, and I was never in my wildest dreams thinking this would be material for a book one day. It took me months to work up the courage to even share most of my incidents on my blog. It was all organic.
I don’t know if a sequel will feel the same way.
I Sort of Have to Take a Vow of Silence
As an author, you can’t respond to reviews. I’ve seen what happens when people have jumped on their reviewers and started responding to negative feedback and it’s not pretty. So, instead, I have to sit and see someone say that my prologue didn’t ring true because of [something that isn’t even in the prologue]. This person completely misread a passage from my book and a load of people marked their review as helpful. It’s frustrating.
And while I no longer get upset when someone criticises the book or who I am as a person, I struggle when I see people calling Dave an asshole, or insulting my parents. They didn’t ask to be in my book. But I can’t do anything about it and that’s tough to deal with.
Writing a Book Doesn’t Reveal Everything
Writing a book is so different to publishing on a blog.
How Not to Travel the World contains incidents from my first few years of travels, but the timeline was condensed to one year in order to create a concise read and meet my word count. If something wasn’t furthering the narrative of my book, I had to cut it out.
Despite disclosing all of that at the start of the book, one thing I’ve struggled with is people thinking it’s a tell-all diary. In some cases, a full six months of my travels were cut from the story, because I spent that entire time incident-free and skipping hand in hand with Dave. It wouldn’t add anything to the story, so I couldn’t include it. But then it means people get to mostly read about me doing stupid things and Dave being sarcastic about it.
I guess I like to include the boring/happy/fun stuff as well, and writing here allows me to do that.
It Doesn’t Mean I Won’t Ever Write a Sequel
I feel guilty about writing this post, because, as I mentioned, I’m asked several times a day at the moment when the sequel is coming.
I try to do everything I possibly can for my readers, because without you guys following along, I’d most likely be working as a miserable physicist with no money to explore this beautiful world. It’s why I pay for all of my travels myself, leaving thousands of dollars of monthly income on the table, rather than taking sponsored trips, because I know you guys prefer it when my travels are comp-free. It why you rarely see ads on the site. It’s why I spend hours replying to every email and comment I receive.
So to know there’s a huge number of you who are craving a sequel makes me want to sit down and write one.
But for all the reasons above, it’s not something I’m able to do right now.
In the future? Maybe. Who knows! I would never, ever say never.
And it Definitely Doesn’t Mean I Won’t Write Another Book
I’m actually planning on self-publishing two separate books very soon. One will be out in October and the other early next year.
I’m also toying with the idea of self-publishing fiction to see how that goes.
So I’m not over writing and I’m not over publishing — and I have an enormous Blog Bucket full of ideas for things to share with you.
And hopefully once I kick this anxiety, I’ll be able to do so with greater regularity than I’ve managed recently.