As you may or may not know, I’m deep in the throes of writing non-fiction book three, and it is beating the brakes off of me, thank you for asking. There is no fast way to finish this book. Part memoir, part get your crap together, girl guide for the good girl Christian who made a few bad choices, I indulged my self-absorption to the full recording myself talk through what I wanted to write. I slogged through transcribing those recordings and adding helpful side notes. Then I printed out what I had (spoiler alert: a hot mess) and went to the library to start editing and cobbling things together.
What did I find as I combed through my work? A ton of summarizing without pertinent details, flanked by helpful notes reminding me to add in said details. I found snarky notes bemoaning the state of my draft (#IylanaFixMySentences being a favorite). Uncovering the gems has been hard this go around.
But the sentence I chose to title this post has been, by far, the stickiest of the sticking place in this manuscript thus far. Sentences like this challenge me, force me to be more real than I want to be. They are what Well Watered Women Co. founder Gretchen Saffles would call soul-scrubbing. Hovering above a confident line of text, those words hit me now harder than when I wrote them in blue ink with my new favorite editing pen: Is this true, though?? If it were a definitive statement I would be able to be defensive about it. If I’d called myself a liar, I could beat the thought six ways to Sunday. But it’s a question. A question for clarity’s sake. Questions like these are invitations to take another look and be honest about what you see. If you see the statement is true, fine. Leave it in and move on. But you better be sure it’s the truth.
Truth be told, I argued with myself about writing this book from its inception. I don’t want to be known as the ________ girl anymore than I wanted to be known as the single Christian girl when I wrote Altered before the Altar. But this is worse. It’s more personal. I’m talking about my real life in an effort to help others. The least I can be is honest about what I’ve been through and how I handled it. When I shared my idea in a group I’m in on Facebook, more than one woman said she wished she had this book at a certain time in her life. Many who responded were struggling with it right then. It’s a book that’s needed, and I have the dubious honor of writing it.
If I’m going to write it, though, I have to wrestle with questions like “Is this true, though?” every time I pick up my pen or fire up my laptop. I have to constantly question my motives for including this and excluding that. Am I telling this story to make me look good or to make someone look bad? What information or lessons learned are to be shared with the reader and which were just for me?
There are lines I find myself longing to share on social media, not only because they are beautiful, but because they are true. I fought long and hard to get them on the page. Most are written in blue ink above crossed out lines of my second or third attempts to put words to feelings without names. They are gentle reminders, encouragements to dig deeper, and slaps to the back of the head followed by admonitions to pay attention. I don’t want to share them because they make me sound smart but because I know that following where they lead and wrestling with what you find in that dark basement of your heart is the only way to beat what goes bump in the night.
As I usually do, I waited until me and my title were practically married before I did an Amazon search to see what popped up. My brilliant title has been used several times for books on the same subject as mine. After going back to the drawing board, I think I have a better title. I’m going to sit with it for a while before I commit to it this time.
In the grand scheme of things, the title being taken is the least of my worries. Their are real people with real feelings behind my words. I want my words to reach real people with real feelings and to help them heal.
Some might be mad at me for what I have to say: about them, me or the subject in general. I’m sure someone will say I had no right to write what I’m writing. Someone will downplay it, saying it’s not that deep or people have dealt with worse and didn’t feel the need to write a book about it. I’m mentally preparing myself to be one-upped on tragic circumstances and be stoned with “at least” stories. I’m preparing for the critics who will say my writing is garbage, my other books were better, or no one cares about this subject.
But the small chorus of “me too” and “I wish I had something like this when I was going through that season” let me know there are some people who need what I’m writing. They need it, but only if it’s true.
The line below this question may not measure up to the truth, but this book will.
In case you’re wondering, I took the line out and put the truth in its place. Editor Erica is Writer Erica’s worst critic, but she’s also her best friend. She’s the friend who calls her friends out on their crap, then picks up a shovel and works alongside them. May every writer have a friend who can speak the truth in love and cheer them on when they do the hard thing.