Why I’m Breaking Up With My Book

The Spill and I met years ago, when we were young(er) and unpublished. It wasn’t my first manuscript, but it was definitely the first one that I went all the way with. We stumbled along the rocky pathway towards publication, weathering feedback, revisions and rejections, and then celebrating our win of a major literary award and our very first publishing contract. Hand in hand, we tentatively entered the editorial process, emerging on the other side stronger and better than ever. We posted our first cover reveal and at least sixty people on Instagram loved us. 

Together, we were ready to conquer the world. 

Publication day passed by in a blur of well-wishes and social media posts, followed by a honeymoon full of reviews, interviews and online events. Giddily, we did everything our publicist asked of us. We didn’t care if only two people logged on to see our PowerPoint presentation for that regional library book group event. We were published! 

Woman with glasses holding attractive book with pink cover titled 'The Spill'
Imbi and The Spill during happier times

Eventually the publicity trail went cold and the spotlight moved onto other people and books, and it was then that things began to change between my book and me. As a debut writer, I hadn’t anticipated how exposed and tender I would feel about having a book out in the world. My book, in stark contrast, didn’t share any of my anxieties, largely because it was an inanimate object devoid of human feelings, but also because books, once published, no longer belong to their writers. They belong to the readers.

As we spent less and less time in each other’s company, I started to forget the names of characters. Scenes that I’d delighted in writing, whose details had once felt more real than my own memories, began to fade from my mind. Why, there would be whole days when I would completely forget I had ever been published, where I wouldn’t think of my book even once! 

By September 2020, Imbi and The Spill were leading largely separate lives.

But then, there were other, darker days where I was desperate to remind myself that I was a Real Writer and that my book was still out there, being read and perhaps even loved. I did all the things grown-up authors aren’t supposed to do: searching for photos of my book on Instagram, scouring the end of year “Best of” lists and (worse yet!) reading the reviews on Goodreads. “No-one will ever love and understand you the way I love and understand you,” I’d sob into my pillow as I imagined my book in the hands of another uncaring reader. 

(Of course, during these darker days, the Word document that I’d cut and pasted all the lovely messages from friends and strangers, the Word document that was supposed to be my safety net on such days, went unopened and forgotten.)

Poor neglected Wordy…

And then one day, I finally hit rock bottom. I found myself messaging a friend-of-an-ex-friend who had given me—I mean my book—a 2 star rating (without review) on Goodreads. “Sorry you didn’t like the book!!!” I wrote to them, hoping to fend off my tears with an excessive use of exclamation marks. The minute I pressed send on that message, I knew I had gone too far.  “Enough,”I said to myself, “Enough now!”, just like that creepy stalkery guy in Love Actually, except without the kiss from Keira Knightley. 

In that moment, I realised two things: firstly, I had effaced the line between myself and my book so completely that my self-esteem was now dependent on every kind or nasty word written about it (but mostly the nasty ones); and secondly, I had forgotten that the one thing that made me feel like a “Real Writer” was doing some actual goddamn writing. 

You see, dear reader, there is another book on the scene. A book that is asking for my complete attention. A book I’ve started thinking about when I go to sleep at night and when I wake in the morning. A book that I desperately need to write. But it’s hard to fall in love again when your ex is still toying with your feelings and messing with your head. 

And so it’s time to formally break up with my first book, my first love, the book that taught me how to be a published author. I’m blocking Goodreads on my internet browser and deleting the app from my phone. I’m canceling my Google Alerts and leaving all the book- and reading-related groups on Facebook. I’m wishing my book all the very best, but I’m letting it go. 

Of course, there may be times ahead when my book and I will be invited to the same party and we’ll have to stand next to each other and smile for the cameras. If and when that happens, I know I will be glad to see my book, because, really, it’s quite pleasant company and also incredibly good looking. But at the end of the evening, I hope I’ll be able to kiss it lightly on the cheek and then happily go home to my new book, where I know I now belong. 


The 2017 List of Unlisted Writers


Somewhat surprisingly, I did not make this list of Task Things in 2017 (written by my youngest child).

When I wrote my last post, I honestly thought my list would have end up having just one name on it and one name alone: my own.

But then the list started to grow. Some people put their own names forward. Other people put forward the names of deserving friends.

Without further ado, here is a list of writers who were unlisted in 2017 but who continued to find joy in the act of writing and do it anyway:

Karletta Abianac
Jacie Anderson
Lou Bromley
Deborah Crabtree
Elizabeth Jane Corbett
Tracey Gregory
Troy Hunter
Karen McKnight
Karen Lee
Marissa Margaret
Caitlin McGrath
Francesca Meehan
Imbi Neeme
Sarah O’Bern
Amra Pajalic
Rachel Sanderson

Clive Wansbrough
Claire Weigall

Even if this is the only list I make in 2018, I’ll be glad. This list is good company.

If you or anyone you know deserves to be on this list, please let me know before December 31st 2017 via email imbi.neeme@gmail.com or in the comments below. 


Where are we now, where are we now?

Remember how I got excited because my novel got commended for the VPUMA‘s last year? Well, it turns out that thing wasn’t a novel at all, it was only the first draft of a novel. A mere shadow of the vague thought of a novel, if you will.

However, you may be interested to know that a few months – and drafts – later, I was selected for the Hachette/Queensland Writers Centre Manuscript Development Program and now, in May 2106, I’m now looking down the barrel of Draft Seven and might just be ready to call it an Actual Novel.

In the meantime, I have made this:


And this:


And this:


I have also embarked on the first draft of a mere shadow of a vague thought of another novel. Now, before anyone suggests that this means I should embark on another Forever Blanket as well, I’m going to fix you all with a steely gaze that unequivocally says “Back off, motherfuckers. This girl’s gotta write.”

Bonus points for anyone who picked up the Bowie reference in this post’s title. For the record, his passing still hurts. 


Procrastination, thy name is crochet!

You may or may not be aware that I am currently trying to write a ‘novel’. Notice the discrete use of the word ‘trying’ in there? Trying to write is very different to actually writing. Trying to write a novel, involves taking up crochet instead and subsequently embarking on a Lord of the Rings Director’s Cut Extended Edition With Bonus Extras-sized project in the shape of my Forever Blanket. Trying to write a novel also involves crocheting random gifts that I never give people and then starting a blog so I can bitch about how crocheting these random gifts is stopping me from finishing my Forever Blanket. And trying to write a novel now obviously involves bitching on this blog about how all this bitching on this blog is stopping me from finishing my Forever Blanket, NOT TO MENTION MY NOVEL. Yes, there are so many levels to my procrastination that it’s starting to sound like the plot for the next Christopher Nolan film… WHICH I MAY AS WELL START WRITING NOW INSTEAD OF MY FUCKING NOVEL.

You know… now that I think about it, my Forever Blanket and my novel are similar in many ways. For both projects, I have tools to track my progress: Scrivener tallies up my word count across multiple documents and my extremely-very-sad Excel Spreadsheet keeps track of my squares. Thanks to these tools, I know I am 150 squares into my 256 square blanket and 5,006 words into my 80,000 word novel. I find these numbers very assuring. They make me feel that maybe, just maybe, I might actually be making progress… until I realise that I still have ONE HUNDRED AND SIX FUCKING SQUARES still to make and I’ve only completed SIX GODDAMN PERCENT of my novel and that BOTH these targets completely and utterly FAIL to take into account that I STILL HAVE TO JOIN together those 256 squares and EDIT those 80-fucking-thousand words. It’s at this point that I calmly decide that my time would be much better spent crocheting everyone in the household ill-fitting fingerless gloves that they’ll lose within hours or never ever be seen dead wearing. You know it makes sense. 


My hand, modelling an ill-fitting fingerless glove, about to give myself a bitch-slap.


Woolly, Madly, Deeply.

One of the key reasons why my Forever Blanket is taking fucking forever is that I keep crocheting gifts for people. Yes, I have become That Person who shows my love for people by crocheting things for them. 

However, more often than not, before I’ve even finished crocheting the gift, I’ve decided it’s beyond hideous and that the best way to show my love for people is by NOT sending them the things that I crochet for them. 

For example, I recently crocheted this lovely set of crocheted coasters for a very lovely friend in Ireland who has just turned 40.
photo (14)
Somewhere around the fourth coaster, I became almost paralysed by wool-based doubt: Would she actually use the coasters? Would she feel obliged to use them because I made them for her and would she grow to resent me over time? What kind of person uses crocheted coasters, anyway?? Moreover, what kind of person crochets crocheted coasters??  Would giving them to her send her a message that I think she’s the kind of person that uses crocheted coasters and reveal that actually, I’m the kind of person who crochets them and would this be the end of our friendship once and for all???
In the end, I concluded that my friend would most likely prefer me to post her a set of my turds than to receive a set of crocheted coasters. To date, neither coasters nor turds have been posted. Just so you know.