Tuesday, February 20, 2007

TO WRITE: Is There a Book In You?
This weekend I attended the San Francisco Writers Conference for three long intensive days. I came away with new information, contacts, publishing leads and ideas. But one comment I recall, made by a presenter, really made me smile: Everyone has a book in them.

I think it's true. How often have you heard someone discuss an experience or a passion and say, "I could write a book." Maybe you've thought it too -- "My life could be a book!" Those of us who've struggled with depression or other mental illnesses may be especially prone to this, wishing we could accurately communicate to others what bizarre and painful journeys we've been through. Whether it's a manual on collecting toy trains, a steamy romance novel, a family history, or a memoir of your illness, most people I've asked about this do feel they have a book "in them."

Play with this ...
Imagine you were to sit down at the kitchen table and start writing or typing your first book. What would it be about? What would you really like to say to the world and leave behind in perpetuity? It doesn't need to be brilliant or perfect, it just needs to be from your unique perspective, as it will be. Now write continuously for 20 minutes on what you'd like to say to people about something you know well or can imagine well. You may feel lighter after pinpointing what you'd like to get out. And, who knows, maybe this will trigger you to pick up your pen again and begin Chapter 1!


Gwenny said...

I just found this blog, linked from the UU Church I attend. I think this is a great idea.

Gwenny said...

Hi again. First, I want to apologize for just vanishing. I was working on one of the earlier assignments and I just got stuck at "something to love" as I was filing or divorce last week. There was a lot of resistance. So I thought I would just move on to this one and take a shot at it.

I do want to write a book about my experiences. Perhaps it's just a defense against the sorrow, but I think that my experiences and, to a limited extent, my successes would be encouraging to others.

When I write it it will be entitled, Out of the Night That Covers Me, the first line of the poem Invictus.

My intro:

I want to start by saying, I think my parents did the best they could. I truly believe that. I think most parents are doing the best that they know how to do. Unfortunately, it is frequently not enough and children suffer. And that is the story of my childhood, I suffered.

The first major event in my life was my mother's nervous breakdown (we call it post-partum depression now) when I was six weeks old. She told me many times how she tried to commit suicide, stuffing rags into the cracks of the door and turning on the gas. The story is so clear to me that I can see her doing it, even though I was not old enough to even see that far yet. In my memory, I am there, dying with her. I don't know if that was true, but that is what my heart believes and so that is the sorrow I suffer: my own mother wanted to kill me.

She didn't succeed. A neighbor broke in and rescued her. I was sent to a foster home. Fortunately for me, and for this story, it was a very good foster home. The couple that cared for me were experienced foster parents who had already raised their own children and had devoted their lives to rescuing and adopting children in crisis. I often ponder how much the love and care I received at their hands gave me the strength to endure the years that followed.

The second major event in my life happened about a year and half later, when my single mother married and was able to win my return. In some stories, this would be a happy event. But not in mine. In order to get married, my mother had to marry a convicted murderer right out of prison and the price of his marrying her was to give up the second child she was carrying. On a lovely August day, mere days after the birth of my brother, I attended my mother's wedding and began my childhood at her hands.

You would think that any woman who had gone through what my mother had gone through to regain custody of her child would love the child. I'm sure she did and does. But I was also the only outlet she had for all her rage at life. Whether it was actual physical abuse or just the litany of "I hate you, you ruined my life, I wish you had die, I putting you back in the Children's Home where bad children like you belong, no one will ever love you you are ugly and stupid" that served as the background to my growing up, I was never far from bearing the brunt of her anger and frustration. Yet, perhaps because of the despair of most of my days, the positive moments stand out like well-like portraits and I wonder what kind of mother she would have been, had she had the chance.