Concentration bubble

My thoughts go back these days to a story I wrote in 1996. What it was about isn’t important. The state of mind I was in is. Pure concentration, no distraction, only that one story that I wanted to write as perfectly as possible. I worked for hours in what we would now call ‘flow’, and the result was commensurate. That, my dear readers, is the state of mind I need for the months, and possibly the year to come. And I need to force it to happen.

The story I was writing at the time was the kind of story I had never written before. I was working at a big magazine company in the Netherlands, and for five years I had been a cadet journalist at a monthly magazine. It was time for a new job. The editor in chief encouraged me to start writing for the magazines I wanted to work for in my own time, as a freelancer, so I could write myself into the picture.

I decided to write a 2,500 word full-quote interview for Marie Claire. You know, the ‘Confessions’ kind of story. I had never done such a long full-quote interview before. So, to do it properly, I neededdistraction-free time. Which was easy to create in those days. I don’t think I even had the internet at home yet, and if I did, it was that slow kind for which you only started up the lengthy access procedure with funny noises if it was really necessary, which it never was. In the morning, you read one or two papers, and that was it.

Millions of times

The 2,500 word story that I wrote back then has become a routine kind of thing. Any story I write these days can be considered a routine thing. Reportage, news, interview, narrative, background, analysis, blog post, I’ve done it all millions of times. No wonder it is once again time, just as it was then, to do something new. A book. That’s not 2,500 words, that’s about 80,000 words, divided into some 10 chapters.

I have never written 80,000 words. I have never written a chapter of 8,000 words. It requires a different kind of writing. A chapter requires a completely different approach  than a story. If I have to write 2,000 words, I know how to construct the story and it automatically all falls into place, just like when I have to write only 300 words. With 8,000 words, with, to be more specific, ten times 8,000 words that have to connect and make a whole, that is something quite different.

Not for one Saturday

It is impossible to accomplish this without making radical changes to how I work. I need to once again get into the same mood as when I worked with such deep concentration on that story in 1996. Not just for one Saturday, but for months at a time, possibly the whole year ahead of me.

I have to not only write, but research as well. With as few distractions as possible, I have to work on one chapter after another. No random travelling anymore, like before (and which has been essential toget to the point where I am now), but specific interviews and specific destinations for the information I need. Travel, talk, think, write write write.

This means I will have to cut back on blogging for this site. I have been posting here for more than five years at least once a week with hardly any exception. No longer possible. Tweeting: from an average of 44 tweets a day I will cut back dramatically. Facebook: luckily I hate FB so that won’t be difficult to ban from my life. Mail: I’m known for reacting ultra fast to my mail, which is in many cases not even necessary, so expect a change there.

Kick my own ass

The site KurdishMatters is closely related to the book, so I will keep blogging there, but no, in general not about news concerning the Kurdish issue. The book will not be about the news either, (that’s not possible in a ‘slow’ product like a book), so I will adjust the blogging on KurdishMatters to the pace of the book: slow, with human stories, and the bigger stories they reveal. I’m going to leave the news and analysis competition to others, and concentrate on what I do, what I’m good at and what nobody else does: slow journalism about the Kurdish issue.

Not all my time will go into the book. I will have to keep on earning money in the meantime, because my funds are not sufficient to work only on the book for a year (click here if you want to donate!). So one or two days a week I will keep on working for my news agency ANP, for a magazine I do final editing jobs for, and for an English language website. Maybe an occasional extra story.

Why am I sharing this? I need it. This is a radical change in how I have worked for more than twenty years. It will be difficult at first, since I’m a news junky, since I love to speak out about what’s happening all the time, since I’m basically a twitter addict. With this blog I kick my own ass. And of course, I want my readers to know why I will be less visible this year. So if you wonder now and then: hey, where is Fréderike?, I hope you will remember this blog. I salute you from the huge and long-lasting concentration bubble.

3 replies
  1. beyza
    beyza says:

    I admire your dedication. You are on your way to creating the crown jewel of your career so far. I wish you could stay in Diyarbakır.

  2. Azwer Erdehan
    Azwer Erdehan says:

    Very sad that you will be less visible. Wish the best.
    I was already sad after what happened in Paris…
    Hope you will be still connected to the news from time to time

  3. e-rik
    e-rik says:

    It takes a lot of discipline and targeted concentration to finish a project that big, especially if this is not your common work pace. When I wrote my marketing book back in 2009 I remember my daily routine was completely different from my usual rather loose work habit. I made a routine of reminding myself every morning of the big target far ahead: the completion of the book. And once writing – after the research phase which was a lot of fun – I set daily targets as to the number of words I wanted to accomplish that day. 1000 words was just acceptable, 2000 was on target and 3500 words days were the rare super flow days.

    Good luck! Always move in a straight line towards your target.



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