Longest. Chapter. Ever.

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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One Response to “Longest. Chapter. Ever.”

  1. Dianne King Says:

    Can’t wait for the whole shebang, Anne!

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