My next book, A Living Remedy, will be out in April. Last month, when I shared designer Vivian Lowe’s gorgeous cover for it and began begging for preorders (as writers must), it felt like the beginning of the book’s life as a public object—something I find both thrilling and nerve-wracking. For a long time, my book was like a little island, one that I lived on alone with only the occasional visitor. I am eager to share it, but I don’t yet know who will find it or how it will be read. I know that it is my whole heart. I know that I’ve never worked harder on anything.
Until I began writing this newsletter, I was private about my writing process. I tend to feel that something is risked or lost when I’m too forthcoming about a work in progress—I’m protective, I suppose, when I’m still figuring out what it wants to be, and I would rather tell you about it when I feel I’m on solid ground. I keep thinking about something Megha Majumdar said during our conversation a few months ago, about writing “quietly”: “Every book is an instrument of communication, and so it often feels like you want to have a certain reverence for that instrument … The thing you want to tell [people] about the book is the book.”
When I write, I rely a great deal on planning and preparation—once I’ve plotted something out, I believe that I can complete it. I always knew that this book would be a memoir touching on personal and generational grief, how this country abdicates responsibility for the health and well-being of those who live here, the ways we scramble to support and care for each other when systems fail us, and what it can mean to survive and navigate through deep loss. But my life and the entire world changed after I began it, which meant that the story changed too. My outline was useless; plot points I’d thought of as important landmarks shifted or disappeared entirely. I had to start over, and start over again, and learn how to write about things I never thought I would.