I told everyone — Andy, God, my editor, even the universe (whatever that is) that I will not be writing another book until all of our kids have graduated high school. It is only a 5 year wait. Plus, my professional writing life is going to be dedicated to the Choice Literacy website and my day-job. There is no time for a new book. Subliminally, I avoided the blog to make known that I Would Not Be Writing. It seems the writer inside of me didn’t get the announcement.
Only recently did I come to understand Maya Angelou’s lament — There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you. It snuck up on me, the writing. It was quiet at first, a few stirrings and a notebook that a real writer would scoff at…there were only 35 pages between the flimsy covers. Then I started scribbling with a Sharpie on a box. It couldn’t be anything serious on cardboard. I told my writing partner, Ruth, that I needed to write it because I feel like there’s a truth locked up inside of me that will only be discovered by writing. She told me that it is riskier to not-write than write if that was how I felt.
On September 8, 2019 I started a first draft of a new book about faith and family and love, at least I think that’s what it’s about. It’s mostly about love…and mostly about family…and maybe some about faith, I supposed.
I’m not a very good first draft writer. I’m a much better reviser.
Only this time, I’ve decided to linger in the quandary of a first draft. Because I don’t like first draft writing, my usual approach is to get it over — write fast and hard and be done. This story doesn’t seem to be conforming to the way I think first draft writing ought to go. It is demanding to be discovered — it wants to be coaxed and doted. Not to mention that it doesn’t seem to be bothered by the fact that it is a really bad first draft. Ann Lamott would tell me I’m writing just as first draft writing should be — shitty.
Since beginning the first draft, my world has done what it usually does when I begin a first draft. It crashes, as though the mere action of stacking words to make sentences that will lead to chapters is enough to knock the world off of its axis.
Andy is having surgery on his heart tomorrow for a pacemaker. Sam calls it a heart-zapper. I think it’s a term that accurately defines my first draft — a heart-zapper.
Currently there are 8,615 words on my heart-zapper. It’s no where near my “normal” first draft pace of 1000 words per day. I’m not sure that matters, though.
I think what matters is that I just keep writing, a few words on most days. And I tend to my heart that keeps getting zapped — by the reflection it takes to write about love and family and little about faith; by the reality of being a momma to kids who have experienced the worst of humanity; by the fact that I don’t want my heart broken again and it’s delicate, but I can’t write without feeling and I can’t wholly love the way a family needs to be loved without my heart breaking.
Yes, I’m writing a heart-zapper. Right now, it’s just for me…but perhaps I’ll discover something that’s worth making into a real book, the kind that you would pick up if you wanted your heart zapped, too.
Let's Be Email Pals!
Teaching writers doesn't have to drown us.
Enter your information to receive my free eBook, plus weekly tips and encouragement for teaching writers.
Reflecting on a journey, making puzzle pieces fit, feels like a good way of meditating for you, Ruth. Best wishes for Andy. Glad that doctors caught the need, will be thinking of him and all of you tomorrow!
I have been avoiding paper and pen because I am afraid to read what might get written. This post is giving me pause. Prayers for a good procedure and quick healing for Andy and for this new writing journey – taking care of your heart.
Love! Your heart zapper will definitely zap my heart! Looking forward to it.
You will always write, Ruth. It’s part of your DNA, and whatever comes out will be good now and in the end. You’re not afraid of being zapped, and that’s where life truly lives for you–facing life head on, doing what’s good and right for you and the people around you. Write on whenever and whatever! Hope all is going well for Andy and the rest of your crew.