Saturday, January 02, 2010
Pregnant with words
I've carried this dream with me for almost as long as I've been able to string together words. After my first publishing success in high school (a poem in the high school yearbook), I had a taste of what it's like to see my words in print and I've been a little like a drug addict, craving it ever since.
I've seen my words in print fairly regularly since then. I've had probably about 20 things published in various publications (poems, articles, essays), and hundreds more in publications related to the various places I've worked. I've even seen my words on stage, with three of my plays produced on either a University or Fringe Festival stage.
But the book is the golden prize that still alludes me. I want it. Badly.
My first book was a novel I wrote when I was on maternity leave with Julie, my second child. It was called "In My Mother's Words" and was about a young woman who returns to her childhood home to clean it out after her mom dies and she discovers some surprises about herself when she finds her mom's journals. I know it sounds rather incredible (it still freaks me out a bit), but with a new baby and a toddler just 16 months older, I managed to write a 300 page book in less than 6 months. For about 2 hours every afternoon, they both took a nap, and I wrote like a mad woman.
I came close to getting that book published. I sent out close to 20 proposals and had about 4 or 5 requests to see the full manuscript. One publishing company said they were pretty sure they'd publish it but they just had to get their board to put the final rubber stamp on it. Sadly though, that never happened.
I still think the book was good, even though I know there are some flaws that need some fairly serious re-writes, but with a few too many rejections under my belt, and real life (diapers, a career, etc.) getting in the way, I put that book up on a shelf and left it there.
It was when I was in the hospital for three weeks waiting for our third child (Matthew, our stillborn son) to be born that I began to dream of writing a different kind of book - a memoir. The problem is, since then, I've been cursed with the debilitating disease of "too many ideas".
First there was the "Journey of a Woman" idea that came to me in the hospital.(See how that word keeps popping up?) That was a general memoir that would focus primarily on some of the tough spots I'd been through in my life - rape, a stillborn son, etc.
Then there was "The Mango Principles", a book about leadership and community building that had at its core the story of an amazing mango a friend gave me when I was in the hospital. I sent that proposal out a few times but never even got a single response. Since then, I've had too many rocky points in my leadership career to truly believe I have a right to give out leadership advice, so I didn't pursue it too much further. (I might revisit it though, because I still think it has potential)
More recently, there was "Fumbling for Faith", a memoir about how my stumbling faith has changed over the years and how it has changed me. I sent out a proposal for that one too, but again - no response. I lost interest in that one too because I'm really not sure I have a solid enough faith or any real expertise to write about it.
There have been other ideas - like "Matthew's story" about how my stillborn son continues to impact me nine years after he died. And another honest leadership book about how hard it is to be an effective leader when you're surrounded by flawed human beings (a bit of an antidote to all of the leadership books out there that just make you feel like you're failing because you can't attain their standards that are based on hypothetical teams and not real, human, flawed teams). And something about the connection between beauty and justice - an idea that I keep wanting to explore after a couple of amazing experiences in India and Africa.
And now... well, now I have another idea cooking in my brain that's about art and life and personal growth and how shadows play an important role in deepening the beauty of all of them. It kind of brings together some of the ideas from the past.
But the fact of the matter is, I feel a little deflated right now because even though I think it's a good idea, it sort of feels like "just another idea" that will eventually land on that pile of unattained dreams. And all of those little gremlins - fear, self-doubt, not enough time, not a good enough writer - they're all getting me down in one way or another these days. (Not enought time/energy is a big one right now, since my career has been draining so much from me lately.)
Why am I telling you all of this? Well, I kind of feel like I need to figure out how to get this thing done (or finally give it up for good), and this blog has been an important place for me to process stuff in my life in the last 5 years. Maybe if I share it, it will have a better chance of being realized. Maybe if I'm honest about it, I'll feel like I need to be accountable to this dream and put some serious energy into it.
So here I am, telling you my biggest dream, hoping that you will hold it gently in your hands.
No, I'm not going to make a New Year's resolution or big goal about this, since this is the year I'm determined to enjoy the "journey". But... here's the thing... a few years ago, I started a file on my computer called "The Journey toward the Book" and I filled it with little snippets of stories and ideas that I thought might eventually find their way into a book. So - when the word "journey" came to me on that plane ride and became my word for the year, I couldn't help but think a book might be part of that journey.
Posted by Heather Plett at 9:20 AM