trying to do too much at once

[Now that I have finished writing the sober book, and cover art is finished, I’ve talked with the UK printer about paper and cover stock  … now i’m spending time looking over earlier journals about the writing process. i can see that it took a LOT longer than i thought it would to find out HOW to write, to find a pattern, a rhythm. I discovered that writing is like early sobriety: shit is hard, then it gets easier, then we don’t know what we’re doing, then we figure some things out, and then we make daily, small progress.

i’m going to post some of the writing that i did over the last year that ‘helped’ me figure out the sober writing thing. Because the parallels with sobriety are huge and many.]

July 5, 2015

what’s it like explaining the sober world to your book editor? turns out it’s harder than you might think. And how do you organize your proposed 150,000 word outline into a book that’s going to turn out to be 50,000 words long? Thankfully, you have an editor help to pare down the idea. to something manageable. duh, like sobriety. trying to do too much at once. no shit. that is my default setting.

so here’s a treat. here’s a 6 minute extract of my call with the editor. it’s a rare behind the scenes bit.

warning, and i’m sorry for this, but I do occasionally say “they” meaning my penpals. I don’t say “we” and i should have. I say “they are easily overwhelmed” instead of WE.


Update from March 15, 2016. It’s so weird to hear this again now 🙂 Final manuscript turned out to be 40,000 words. And in the end I hired 3 editors – this one from the UK, one to do copy editing, and the third to tell me that I was doing a good job (no kidding).


I want to put this online, to hold myself accountable. I want to document the noise in my head. I'm tired of thinking about drinking. date of last drink: june 30, 2012

  • You are all inspiring. I’m 65 and embarrassed that I’m still trying to quit drinking wine. I was a social drinker until last 10 years, where it progressed to too much, using wine for stress, mainly taking care of aging parents. I really need a pen pal to be accountable to, perhaps in my same age range. Thank you! Sabrina

    • Hi Sabrina, my site is about one-on-one support. If you’d like a sober penpal (other than with me!) then you can visit one of the not-drinking forums online, like Hello Sunday Morning or the one on Mrs D’s site. hugs, belle xo

      • I would LOVE you as a pen pal, and am waiting for spot on the JumpStart. I’m just always interested in someone my age, but I will post and reply, and that is helpful. I finally GOT IT that I can’t do it alone! Sabrina

  • I am Margaret and I am not drinking today. I am realizing that sobriety has to be the most important thing in my life. Wolfe is very strong in my head. With listening to the podcasts, being in the 100 day challenge keeping in touch with Belle I am using the support that has been a gift for me. The willingness to do whatever it takes to stay sober, that is the mind frame I am taking.I have never reached out like this before. Thank you.

  • I like what you said at the end about setting a thirty day goal and then “tricking yourself” to go a bit further. I am on day 87 and wolfie is getting SO LOUD about day 100 approaching and “the end” of the non-drinking. It’s surprising how the beginning was so much easier for me than how I currently feel. 🙁

  • Excellent extract. The book, by the way, is exactly for ‘They’ if you’re aiming it at people who aren’t your Penpals. ‘We’ your sober penpals will probably buy it too, but we probably know where to look on this site to find most of the stuff in the book anyway!

  • There is so much in these writings that I relate to. I am trying to get sober…unfortunately lately every day is my day 1. Until about 5-6pm. Today I’m pushing to try for real. The most I’ve made it recently is 22 days, then rejection and loneliness brought me back to the numbness. But I want out. I just don’t know how to get there. For real. Besides that it’s been almost everyday for over 3 yrs. Then a vast majority of days for over a decade before that. It weighs on me daily. And it’s secret, which makes it worse.
    I’m saving up to sign up for a program but that might take me some time. Single mom with a mortgage. But I do need support. I have a laundry list of reasons to get sober but they are not enough apparently.
    For the time being, I will keep reading here and anywhere I can. Let’s hope tomorrow is my day 2.

    • glad you’re here. you may find that you do much better with some support. this sober thing is a hard thing to do on our own, in our own head. there are community forums on sites like BFB and hello sunday morning and livingsober if you’re interested in group stuff. my site is more about smaller community and one-on-one… i think it helps to have someone directly listening to you, but that’s my personal bias! hugs

      • I just reached Day 51– the longest streach of sobriety I have had in 30 years! I went to AA many times and hated it. Belle’s postings, her podcasts, The Sober Challenge, daily check-in emails to Belle, The Bubble Hour, reading BFB, praying, reading other sober blogs, crying, ridiculously high-calorie treats, macaroni-and-cheese, going to bed really early, sobriety books–these are some of the things that have gotten me through to where I am now. The tools in my toolbox are working.

        But I don’t just read emails and books and listen to podcasts. I THINK. I REALLY read and listen. I try to honestly incorporate all of this information.

        Good luck. I know very well what you are going through. I had more Day 1s than the years you have lived, probably! I sometimes still write emails to Belle that I am sick and tired of pushing through without a glass of white wine. I am not yet “out of the woods” with abusing alcohol. I don’t think I ever will be. But Belle really is right….it does get easier, and better!


  • Nice behind the scenes look. Overwhelm is, in fact, the biggest trigger. Congratulations on seeing this project through and entering the final stages of completion.

  • thanks for sharing this conversation, Belle – really interesting to see some of the thought processes behind your writing. one thing I’m definitely understanding more as I carry on with this sober lark is that there is no one size fits all solution to it.

    oh and definitely with you on the overwhelm thing – ‘striving for underwhelm’ is one of the key things I learnt from you so thank you! eg I read this post just after waking up from an after-lunch nap which I made myself take because I was shattered from working long hours. which pre-sober me would never have done, EVER.

  • Glad to know you know how I feel! Trying to do too much at once is my default setting too…seems to be either ALL or NOTHING…

  • Love hearing behind-scenes-workings of this monumental project – I can hear the passion in your voice. How proud you must be – congrats!

  • I really enjoyed that interview. It gives real insight into how you help others. And insight into how hard it is to write a book about it. Bravo to you.