Saturday, July 21, 2018

The Power of Story

I’m done my manuscript! 

I’m sure in the next few months I’ll say that several times. As I do several edits.  What I have completed is a second draft.  I’ve moved the pieces around the chess board and I think I have things where I want them.  Until my editor tells me different.

Some may wonder.  Aren’t you getting tired of this?  It has been nearly 10 years since our son with Congenital Heart Disease was born.  We have been at this a long time.  That is true…but there are some things that I have never talked about…and some things I never will.  There are many questions that people have asked me that I have never been able to give a cohesive response to. This was something I wanted to do for a very long time and I’ve finally done it.  It’s on paper.  No one can take or edit that away.  Will it get published?  Who knows…and I don’t care.  What I set out to do. Is done.

I started this project in mid-January.  With some strong encouragement from Susan I joined a group of people who were taking a class on writing their life story.  The purpose of the class was for each of us (by the end) to have a manuscript or at least a rough first draft.  I had no idea what I had signed up for.

I met a group of people.  Most were significantly older than I.  All of whom had a story to tell.  As one who has been actively involved in the health care system and who has participated in many sessions involving patient stories, I have heard many stories.  Patient Stories.  In this class we were able to explore much more than one kind of story.  The sky was the limit.  The story of Youth.  Romance.  Stories of Financial Success.  Tremendous Tragedy.  It was a great experience to hear so many different experiences and how to capture those stories on the written page.  It drastically changed the way I have approached my writing.  I actually call myself a writer now.

I wrote many pages that I know will never see the light of day.  As part of the class we had several assignments that challenged many of my assumptions.  I have always had a fairly clear vision of what I wanted to write but this forced me out of that box.  It forced me to ask.  Who I was, and where did I come from?  I also found out that I have a distinctive writing style. As I wrote about the storm clouds in our lives I described a scene from my past.  The many prairie thunder storms that I had known all my life.  I found how we can’t escape the environment in which we grow up.  Growing up on a farm on the Canadian Prairies is something I had never written about before.  It was fun to explore some of these parts of my past.  Some things I had never thought much about.  It was a really unique experience and as all of my fellow writers from my class can attest.  It's a lot cheaper than therapy.

Photo Courtesy Mark Duffy -

So…where to from here? 

I have been fortunate enough to find an Editor.  We are also at the very early stages of the editing process.  We are taking it easy during the summer and will likely put in a greater effort in the fall.  So I’m not actively working on the book right now.  I’m letting it sit and percolate.  I did however let Susan read it.  She never read a word of Draft Number 1.  She finished the last chapter yesterday.  There is nothing more nerve wracking than let your spouse give you feedback on your writing.  Your “baby.”  With a great deal of fear and in trepidation I have been listening to some of her feedback.  So far it has been a positive review.  The one thing her review has confirmed to me is how hard it has been to relive some of our more difficult moments.  She refused to read one Chapter.  She read the first few lines (knowing what was coming) and skipped that chapter.  It’s difficult.  Even years later.

Now I am in the process of working on my strategy to getting published.  I could easily self-publish.  However, I have been encouraged not to.  So now I have entered the murky world of literary agents and publishing.  This should be interesting. 

I have always been a strong believer in the importance of sharing patient stories.  In many ways I think stories put health care in perspective.  Now I have learned the broader importance of stories not only in the health care context.  Everyone has a story.  Every story is extremely valuable.  This has been a great lesson to learn.

1 comment:

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