So, You Want to Write a Book? Part 2. My Story.
I have a queasy stomach tonight, sort of like butterflies, you could say. At the moment, I have the kind of nerves that perhaps anyone might get when their whole world is about to completely change.
My first book comes out tomorrow. I’ve been pretty much forced against my will to promote it and solid sales have been the goal of my publisher more so than myself. But we can all take heart; tomorrow it’s done. The nerves will go away and much like a wedding that took months of planning, in a poof! the whole thing will be over. I am as ready as you are, believe me. See, my book is a memoir. Private stuff. Sentimental stuff. Personal stuff. Painful stuff.
But it is the truth after all, and this is a pretty small town.
Still, I keep telling myself, after tomorrow everyone will know a bunch of history about my life that will make them (and me) feel a variety of weird, conflicting emotions whose flavors might not blend in a way that a good piece of suspenseful fiction melts and oozes into and out of a person’s psyche. It’s not a feel-good novel, but it will make you feel good. See, I wrote about my own life, which is super strange, and it might make your ride through my book just a little bumpier knowing that you know who this person is and who that person might be. A memoir is entirely, wholly different than a novel. It exposes a raw vulnerability in the author and makes the reader repeatedly process hard truths. You will pause often and say to yourself, “Man, this is real. I know who she’s talking about!” I designed it that way. It is the truth after all, and this is a pretty small town. People will remember.
There are many unknowns that make me a little afraid tonight. What if my readers don’t relate to my stories like I hope they will? What if they read my ‘secrets’ and instead of camaraderie, instead of a knowing woman-ness that I hope it incites, what if the only thing they feel is ‘awkward?’ There is a chance of that. There will be people who don’t get it and I‘m as ready for that as I can get. Many of the other kind souls who pick it up and give it a run-through, though, I think they will find a connection with me, we will become kindred, and perhaps they will nod in remembrance of things I speak of that perhaps they recognize in their own lives. Fingers crossed.
My world is populated with teenagers. Some of them will read my book, although I don’t think they should. It’s almost 400 pages of babies, bills and problems, some of them pretty earth-shattering and traumatic, if I’m honest. What is gained in the mind of a sixteen year old in curiosity will be lost on them in understanding. Life is prerequisite for this book. Parenting is a prerequisite for this book. Marriage and heartbreak are prerequisites for this book. That’s where the knowing compassion I am praying for will come and only those with a long resume of tough life lessons will be able to hug this book to their chest and say, I know what this feels like, too. Still, the kids will read it and then they will see me as a human being and as a woman who is (gasp!) sensitive. That is not something they are used to. Then they will change on the inside a little bit, too.
I wrote this book for my son Ben, for one day long after I am dead and gone and he is trying to figure out what made me so damn complicated, complicated in a way that he knows better than anybody. I am giving him what the writing world calls my backstory. There are a few dozen people who have already read the book and without fail, the first thing they say is, “You’re going to let Ben read that?!” The answer is No, not now. Not for a while. For the same reason I wish none of the teenagers would read it yet, I also don’t think Ben has the life experience he needs to understand it all. Some of his friends have ordered my book so I know it’s coming. Won’t that be strange?
The truth really does set you free.
If I really hit a homer with this memoir, it will be in this way: I want you to stop being ashamed of your mistakes. We all spend too much time putting on airs for people, trying to hide the parts of ourselves that are royally screwed up. Writing this book cleansed me. Telling my stories let me out of the prisons of my own failures and allowed me to finally get around myself and beyond the shackles of my past that kept me from ever moving forward. I’ve been ready for so long to get beyond all of it and I am ready to share this amazing journey with absolutely everyone! The truth really does set you free. It heals too and if by reading my life story you feel courageousness, I win. Even better, if you achieve forgiveness of yourself, I‘ve succeeded. Or best of all, if you find acceptance in the knowledge that no matter what you’ve done or what you’ve been through, you are a SURVIVOR, well then I’ve done my job. I hope all of those things happen, for both of us.