You Should Write A Book

Many times, I’ve been told, “You should write a book.”

While flattered that many think I have something worth saying, and humbled that they think my voice could convey a meaningful (or at least entertaining) message, I am not ready to write anything more than this blog.

To be honest, I’d rather write a book about doing something meaningful, than just about my life.  I’ve read many an autobiography and just writing about one’s life, though a valid manifesto of all that person has experienced, felt and thought, is not enough for me.  And perhaps more so, I don’t know that I’m in a place to thoughtfully reflect on my story as a whole.  I don’t know what the arc is, the crescendo seems to be before me, not behind me.  Right now, I am trudging through the realities of each moment and cannot step back to see the bigger picture.

Not to long ago, a good friend sent me Mary Karr’s The Art of Memoir, and as I laugh heartily through her advice on how best to impart the lessons learned in one’s life, I realize even more that I am not yet ready to write my story.  I’m not ready to talk about a past I’m still in the midst of processing.  I’m too emotionally tied to the events I’ve experienced and am experiencing.

Mary Karr asks when you sit down with a memory: “Can you be in that place without falling apart?”

The truth for me: No.

I am still falling apart.  I am still breaking.  I keep wondering when I’ll stop breaking and I don’t know that I’m done yet unfortunately.

And even when I’m done breaking, it will take a long long time to rebuild.  That story may be more interesting than the story of pain that I am living just now.  People like stories of rebuilding.  People like the stories of coming out of the fire and healing from pain.  They aren’t really sure what to do with stories in progress. That’s why we invented blogging.

Maybe I’ll never rebuild.  That too would be a story.  I often say that things don’t get better for everyone – people die in many desperate circumstances from starvation to war to suicide. That story I would leave for another to tell in my absence through all the writings that already exist – in letters and emails to friends and family and caregivers, an endless number of journals, and this blog.  I believe that story would be just as powerful as any I could tell while alive.

Whatever story emerges, it will include the stark realities of my failures, weaknesses and faults. I will do my best to be brutally honest about the mistakes I’ve made and demons I’ve faced.  I will not do it to aggrandize my ego or in an effort to claim that somehow I have significant wisdom to reveal.  I will humbly offer it merely as a record of what I have lived that perhaps it might resonate with another.

Whatever story I end up living, writing, and perhaps dying, I will continue to write here about something that matters more than any one story – health as a human right.


4 Responses to You Should Write A Book

  1. epatientdave says:

    One of your greatest strengths, in the long run, is that you know how to say “No, that’s beyond me.”

    And as someone who’s published 3 books, I can attest that it’s a LOT of work and you get almost no money in response. (I learned that years ago from a friend who’s published 25.) You do it for some other reason. A public speaker needs to be able to say “…author of X Y Z…” but just to show how silly that is, it makes no difference at all what’s in the book or even if it’s any good at all.

    The wonderful Jane Sarasohn-Kahn told me long ago that the modern way to publish a “collection of essays” is to grab your favorite blog posts and put a cover on it and make it a PDF “free download e-book”. The trick is to make it not much more work than copy/paste. If you ever do decide to do it, I’ll help with the low-energy work :-), since you were bold enough to say outright “No, I can’t do that.” 🙂

  2. Hoping this is helpful and if it isn’t, feel free to delete it:

    As someone who has published 10 books, a couple with a “major” (Doubleday), one with a huge independent (Hazelden), and a few with large independents (Morehouse, Liturgical Press), I say you’re wise to take a pass on this well-meaning suggestion. I underscore everything Dave has noted and am applauding your wisdom and self-awareness.

    Years ago I came to my senses (what was left of them at the time) before signing a contract for a memoir. It sorta sullied my relationship with the publisher, but my mental health was more important.

    I realized while writing the proposal that I was rewounding myself because I’d have to revisit some mighty awful events to write the memoir they wanted. As it was, I had to do some psychological repair work from the self-inflicted damage of writing the proposal and almost-contract signing part.

    I’ve woven a LOT of information about me, my life, and my processes into my books…right to the edge of my own tolerance for what I can share without self-harm. And sometimes I screw that up and have to manage the riptide.

    Again, you’re wise and as you write in this post, have already shared in posts, emails, and in personal journals. What you might want to do is ensure that all your writing, especially the stuff that’s not public, ends up in the safe care of someone you trust. FWIW, I trashed almost 20 years of diaries on the theory that I’d remember what I needed to remember, I’d forget what I needed to forget, and the rest of it was no one’s f’ng beeswax.

  3. Dee Sparacio says:

    Sometimes you just have to say no.

    I’ve also been told I should write a book but I said no to most suggestions, except for one. I recently co-authored the 3rd edition of a book that I used when I was first diagnosed. In it I shared parts of my story. Basically I answered questions from a patients point of view. So I was free to choose which questions I wanted to answer and what it was I wanted to share. I did avoid writing about some aspects of my journey that are still raw, even though I am NED 5+ years. So am I ready yet to fully tell my story? Not yet.

    But like you I continue to write my story on my blog. I am closing in on the 8th anniversary. So anyone who wants to read my story in snippets is welcome to do so there.

  4. Erin, just to add to the wise words of these wise folk, I honestly believe that blogging is the most honest, immediate and real way to write these days. I loved what you wrote “People like the stories of coming out of the fire and healing from pain. They aren’t really sure what to do with stories in progress. That’s why we invented blogging” That is an eloquent testament to the power of blogging. Your words in a blog are far more accessible to so many more people than words in a book these days. Erin, I am so sorry you are in such pain right now. Even though I know a little of what you are going through — mental anguish is the worst pain in the world – I have no words of comfort to offer – there are no words when you are so deeply mired in suffering. All I can say is that I know there are many people around the world who care deeply about you and wish they could take this pain away from you. We are sending you tons of love (and financial aid where we can) and holding you in our hearts and our prayers. Keep writing – keep talking – keep holding on – you are loved and needed in this world xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

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