“What am I trying to ignore?”
This is a question that Jane Friedman threw out on her blog, Electronic Speed, two years ago. (firstname.lastname@example.org, Sat, Nov. 27, 2021) I wasn’t ready to deal with it, but knew I’d need to confront it before my memoir would ever make it into publication.
Some close friends have read brief parts of the memoir. They sometimes say I I ignore how totally overwhelmed I felt as I coped with the challenges presented by two children with complex disabilities.
I ask, do I leave that reality out of the memoir or did I ignore it at the time? If I had let those challenges overwhelm me, could I have coped? If I couldn’t have coped, what would have happened to my children? Sometimes every parent asks themselves some version of that question.
not talented enough?
A more nagging concern is the fear that I’m ignoring, that I can not really pull off a successful memoir. It’s hard not to suspect my beloved husband, who tells me over and over how beautiful my writing is. After all, he is prejudiced in my favor-unlike the readers in my critique groups who minutely question details such as sentence construction, overuse of adverbs, improper period spacing, etc. But then I tell myself, their job is not to tell me what work is great. It’s letting me know how to improve. That only results from constructive critique.
story is too sad!
There’s the nagging doubt about the deep tragedy of our story. As a friend said, “It’s all so sad. I’m not sure people want to read about that.” She makes a good point, but readers will take on a tough narrative if it’s interestingly written. Nothing is all sweetness and light. Nor is parenting children with challenges all doom and gloom. I include plenty of light moments, like this one:
One of the striking differences, I claim, between Kristy and Johnny is how much she loved to create works of art and how he refused to so much as pick up a crayon. Thus, one Friday afternoon upon entering Johnny’s apartment at Misericordia, I got the surprise of my life. There on the wall next to the TV hung a bright abstract, multi-colored, three-by-three framed painting, signed “John Ward.”
“Johnny couldn’t have painted that,” I challenged his caretaker.
“Oh, but he did.” She said, but giggled as she spoke.
“How did you possibly motivate him to paint anything, let alone such a complex piece?” I asked.
“Well, we wanted to hang a work of art by each guy in the apartment. All the other men were excited to take part, but every time we gave Johnny a paintbrush, he threw it on the ground. Then Sara got her brilliant idea. She spread an enormous piece of paper right where the brushes were landing. She handed him one brush after another, each with a different color. One by one they hit the floor, splashing colors in every direction. You can see the result is lively and almost looks purposeful.”
Staring at my son’s “creation,” I laughed so hard my sides were splitting. That was Johnny. Life was never dull with him around.
The above vignette is just one of the many charming stories the memoir includes. It’s not a simple tragedy, but also a triumph of love and joy over the worst that life can throw at us. https://julewardwrites.com/committed-relationships/the-notion-of-fixes-and-cures
no end to questions
But other questions mount up. Is it too long? Are the chapters balanced enough? I’ve revised it nine times. How can that not be enough?
So, what is the awful TRUTH that I’m really trying to ignore?
Friedman writes that what we are trying to ignore is usually a problem that won’t go away until we do something about it.
For me, it’s acknowledging that I’m finished writing. It’s time to work on moving the manuscript toward publication. Just thinking about the process daunts me. There are many avenues to publication, but despite the many paths, few debut authors actually find their books on the bookstore shelves.
Dwelling on that reality makes me hesitate to try. Why put so much energy into something that is sure to fail? Yet truer yet is that if I never work toward publication, if I ignore even that slim chance, then failure is certain rather than possible.
“Resolving the problems I am most afraid to confront is where progress lies. It’s insanely hard psychologically, but worth it.”