Archive for October, 2011

Longest. Chapter. Ever.

October 31, 2011

While summer’s woes kept me from finding a productive writing routine for my 30something women, a challenge of a different sort emerged as I leafed through the 47 pages of notes I collected while interviewing ladies in their 40s about their sexual desire. Every single sheet held such relevant, riveting content that the trick was deciding what I could leave out.

Not knowing what else to do, I just set sail on the chapter in the same fashion as I have for all the others. The process of coming at the decades from both ends (i.e. I started with the gals in their 90s, then went to the teens, then back to the 80s, then the 20s etc.), means I have left the most well-represented decades for last. I call the 40s and 50s our “fat decades,” because 300 women in their 40s filled out our survey and 290 50somethings. Compare that to 11 women in their 90s and just 27 teenagers and you can see why my moniker fits. (Since our surveys come from gynecological patients, it’s hardly surprising that women this age are heavily represented.)

Anyway, early this month, I began writing this chapter like all the others, thinking I’d finish in a week if I maintained my usual pace. At two to six hours a day (with six being amazing for me, admittedly), I can generally see the light at the end of the tunnel before too many days have passed.

Wrong. Deeply wrong.

After five days, I’m still just scraping the best stuff off the surface of my notes. At 10 days, I’m into the meat of things, but nowhere near the end. At 12 days, I experience a bit of panic because I still can’t see how the chapter will end.

Fortunately, I had breakfast the next day with a helpful friend. When I  poured out my problem, she suggested a solution that — while not ultimately workable — pushed me to think about the problem in a whole different way, thereby enabling me to see how I wanted to close the chapter.

I went home from our breakfast and worked all afternoon. The next day was a Saturday. I wrote for 4 hours. Ditto Sunday. Ditto Monday.

Still the chapter was not complete. I felt like I was in some weird circle of hell and no matter how much I wrote, I would never, never find the end of my chapter.

It’s not that I was unhappy with what I was writing. The material was fascinating and I kept finding new commonalities. And I wasn’t engaging in excessive procrastination: I was working daily. And yet — the chapter was like the Energizer Bunny; it kept going and going …

Toward the end of the month, I took two days off for a short trip with my Mom, who had arrived in the midst of my angst for a week’s visit. (She happily read books on my sun porch while I struggled to write my own in the front room.) Finally, with a last burst of energy fueled by those relaxing days, I was able to finish the chapter by month’s end. It clocks in at 32 pages, a full 10 pages longer than its closest competitor.

Even though it took so long to finish, I didn’t lose faith in the material or my process. And I reminded myself that women in their 40s are a huge part of the market for this book; I don’t think they will grow weary of reading their contemporaries’ stories and insights about what creates and sustains desire, especially in long-term relationships. That’s the heart of the book, and I wanted to stretch out and treat it as such.

No way to know if I’ve succeeded on a grand scale, of course, but Dr. Mo read it yesterday and proclaimed it chock-full of amazing stories and insights. (Tidbit: It turns out that four of the eight women who gave in-depth interviews for this decade had participated in a threesome. For the 40s decade, that’s a pretty significant number. So of course, an entire section is dedicated to those stories.)

Though I would love nothing better than to rest on my laurels and celebrate finishing the Longest Chapter Ever — which unfortunately followed the Slowest Chapter Ever — I cannot. It is time to throw myself into the 60s. With 193 women surveyed in this decade, I’m aiming again for eight in-depth interviews, though I bet I’d settle for seven.

And now I have to wonder … will I be able to write the 60s in a week, or will their stories once again force me into overtime?

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Slowest. Chapter. Ever

October 4, 2011

I am ecstatic to report that I completed the chapter on how women in their 30s view their sexual desire.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

If — like me — you thought I would never finish, you are excused. You certainly had justification for doubting my ability to git ‘er done.

But finish I did, and I was extremely gratified to hear from my book partner that she considers it perhaps her favorite decade so far. As painful as it became for me to overcome all the hurdles (a friend’s death, my broken rib) and write that chapter, it was truly a relief to hear my partner say she couldn’t detect any of my angst in the finished work.

So. Giant, satisfied exhalation of breath after that Sunday morning work session with the doc. But the celebration didn’t last long. That afternoon I got on the phone to begin setting up interviews for the 40somethings. With only 6 in-depth interviews for the 30s, I decided I wanted 8 for the 40s. And thank goodness I wasted no time. I have made at least three phone calls for every one that has been returned, a percentage I remember being higher when I was able to say, “I’m calling from The Palm Beach Post.”

Yes. Officialdom certainly had its perks. A first-time author just doesn’t have the gravitas once accorded to newspaper reporters.

Nonetheless, I have soldiered through and completed six interviews, with a seventh scheduled Friday. I’m hoping now that one of the 11 (!!) women I’ve contacted in my zeal to find one more interviewee will call back.

Despite the difficulty in wrangling interviews with women in this decade, 40somethings pay off with fascinating life stories. I’ve spoken to a former call girl who estimates she was with 500 johns during her two to three years in the business, as well as a happily married woman who’s never experienced an orgasm. I talked with a 49-year-old beauty who dates a much-younger man and has participated in threesomes in order to keep him interested, even though group sex isn’t among her fantasies. I’ve also met a woman who was molested by her father at age 9, which, not surprisingly, has had a pronounced and negative affect on her sexual desire to this day.

But getting back to our call girl for a moment. Long-term readers of this blog will recall that 75-year-old Veronica previously held the distinction of ‘most lovers’ among our interviewees: She stopped counting at about number 50 when she was in her mid-40s, but continued her sexually active lifestyle for two more decades. She is now surpassed by Heather, who in addition to her days as a working girl, says she’s been “in the lifestyle” since her 30s. That phrase refers to a sexually open society inhabited by swingers, and Heather shared some revealing stories about her years in Los Angeles at swingers’ clubs and private house parties. She estimates that she’s been with several hundred lovers in her personal life, apart from her working days.

So Heather steals the title from Veronica — for now. Keep in mind we still have two decades yet to go: the 50s and 60s. Who knows what sexy stories lie ahead?