The Excavation Draft

Starting the writing process by getting it all out there

Nick Barlow
6 min readDec 21, 2022


Photo by Deon Hua on Unsplash

I’m writing a book.

Yes Nick of course you are, those of you who’ve know me are now saying. You’ve been writing a book for as long as I’ve known you, and I’ve known you a long time.

That is true, so let’s say it this way: I’m writing a book, and this time I’m doing it properly and I’m going to finish. The book is currently my main focus and will be until it’s done. It’s why I’ve done very little blogging in the past few months, and even this post is part of the writing process, putting this out there as a public statement of where I’m at as a form of accountability.

What I’m currently doing, and what I’ve been doing for the last few months hasn’t been writing the book, though. I’ve been writing the excavation draft of it.

So what’s the excavation draft?

To explain, I’ll backtrack and tell you what the book is about. Or will be about when I actually embark on it. It’s a memoir about mental health, depression, grief, and walking. I came back from the Camino determined to write, but not just to write a travelogue of my trip. In the right hands that can work, but it can easily descend into into “today I went from X to Y via Z. On the way I looked at (insert overly lyrical description of scenery) and then (insert amusing or poignant anecdote) happened. That night I (insert running joke about Spanish pillows)” repeated ad Finisterrium.

Walking the Camino was important to me, but only because it was part of something bigger in my life. It was the culmination to finding my way out of depression and I want to write about that whole process, all the good and bad that led up to it both to explore my own mental health history but to try and show other people going through the same that they’re not alone.

The problem is that a book like that doesn’t just flow fully-formed from my brain to the page. There’s a whole mass of experience and memory to bring into that which doesn’t work easily with just sitting down and writing Chapter One, then working neatly through to the end. Events and memories and feelings and learning are all tangled up in there, and that’s where the excavation draft comes in.



Nick Barlow

Former academic and politician, now walking, cycling and working out what comes next.