I’m tap, tap, tapping into a small space inside me marked crash. It doesn’t take up as much room as it used to, but it’s a room that holds remarkable power. Once you step inside, it’s bigger than it appears, stuffed with old emotion and the unexplored under a thick layer of dust. When your editor tells you to let the reader in, that I need to dig deep; I have to open the door wide, shed my armor, and dust off emotion I haven’t touched in 12 years.
When you do something crazy like write a memoir everything is fair game, up for grabs. I understand the advice now to make sure there is enough distance between you and the subject you’re tackling, so one has perspective and prevents further harm. I couldn’t have written this manuscript ten years ago because it would have been too soon. I wouldn’t have been ready. Memoir is about honesty. Not just telling the truth, but being naked, exposing you to the reader. Here are my darkest thoughts. This is what devastation looks like. This is how heartbreak tastes. And then you have to craft it, find a creative way to say it. You don’t get to cover up with facts, lessons, and a smiley face.
Along the writer way I failed in some of the details, in the ‘going there’. I didn’t explain why I felt this way or I made statements about pain with little to back it up. So I’m at it again with the notes and sound advice of my editor, a wonderful woman who knows her stuff. This week I am writing about the driver. The driver of the vehicle that broadsided us. You know. That guy. I’ve been devoted to not discussing him, armor on, so he can’t creep in. Because he’s done enough. I forgave him long ago and I don’t want to give him more of my life. But, he’s a part of the story, a significant character. I can’t skim over the details, over him. The reader doesn’t know the story. You don’t know how I reached my conclusions and why I made my choices. The short answer is survival, but the long answer is what belongs in the book. I need to let the reader in. My job as author is not to guide you through the story, but to bring you in through all the senses and for you to feel what I felt. It means in order to let you in, I need to let the driver in.
So, when I am not working on Annie’s ballet costume (if you know me you know how funny that is) and terrified I’m becoming a Dance Mom, or catching up on laundry because my son is walking around naked in search of clean underwear, you’ll find me at the computer, hunched over, trying to shine a light on the dark places.
in a compelling story and beautiful writing. I read The Secret Keeper over the holidays and just fell in love with it.