Writing While Sailing – A Self Publishing Journey

Writing While Sailing Diane

Writing While Sailing

It already sounds like the title of a book and maybe, no make that probably, is.

Thinking back over the last six months of writing and illustrating my first children’s book, In the Very, Very Beginning, for the Cat under Sail series, I certainly could write a book about writing a book while sailing along the notoriously challenging East coast of Southern Africa!

One of the book’s chapter headings would go something like this: What could and did go wrong?

The problem with writing and publishing a photo journal, hard copy book of 115 pages about cruising to Madagascar from South Africa, for family and friends – “Mora! Mora!” (not for sale) – in just under two weeks is, I mistakenly thought I could duplicate this effortless feat writing and illustrating a children’s book of just 38 pages long.

In fact I thought giving myself a month to do so was being overly indulgent considering the lofty mission impossible (No.5) this little book is burdened with – to make enough money from the sale of the book to afford to visit my then newly born, first grandchild. So far, based on the sales record for the book,

I’ll have to hike the whole way there and she’ll be old enough to hold a conversation with!

6 months later after finding there is indeed life after failing to meet several desperately self-imposed deadlines – for the record they make a sort of pathetic “whoosh” sound as they fly past – I’ve the following insights about writing and sailing to share:

Boats move a lot and almost all the time. Catamarans are better at not leaning from side to side though, which led my husband to remark rather wittily I thought, as boats tend to have women’s names a good name for a mono-hull is “Eileen” and a catamaran, “Noleen”.

1. Did I mention boats tend to move a lot? Try painting a delicate illustration of a sea shell while a southerly blow is in full swing. No, make that weeks of enthusiastic southerly wind blastings!

2. The moving bit again – very distracting – especially when there are new vistas to explore and unrelated to Cat under Sail paintings to be painted.

3. Aside from the much moving thing – dirt. Those photos of pearly white sailing vessels imprinted on any mind fantasizing about living the sailing life – are fantasies. In real life, up close, boats are dirty and need a lot of cleaning. This obviously takes time away from the essential business of writing and illustrating one’s own book. Not to talk of the creativity numbing effect of hand washing clothing and bed linen.

4. Not to belabour a point, but all the moving makes one hungry which inevitably leads to time spent making food, mostly from scratch because all the easy to prepare food gets eaten first, instead of writing.

5. On a completely different tack – don’t assume the book making software you are using will save a copy of your book as you go along – as it very clearly says it will do – and do expect to lose all of the book just three pages short of completing months of formatting, for good, when the laptop inexplicably crashes. Not even hubby who is a software engineering wizard could dig up something usable.

6. Do not e-v-e-r be in a hurry to write a book, and especially so from a boat with a dodgier than Ryan the dodger internet connection. (Ryan is a conman we have met on our travels)

7. Do eat lots of spinach – it apparently kept Popey fighting fit which is what you need to be if you are planning to write a book while sailing.

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Derek Haines

Derek Haines is an Australian author, living in Switzerland.

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