Houston artist Kirsten Ufer made this beautiful print that hangs above my desk. It was part of the Mom 2.0 Summit auction to benefit Haiti, and I bid on it thinking I would give it away to a reader, but it turns out I'm kind of greedy, and I had to keep it for myself. My preshus.
The text on it is a quote pulled from a piece of mine that appears in Kirtsy Takes a Bow, an anthology of womens' voices online. (In spite of being greedy and all, I can't seem to hang on to a single copy of that book. I keep replacing mine, only to give it away.) The quote is, "Life is rich and interesting and full of story. It's okay to write it down."
I wrote that in response to a snide comment I read in print about women who write about their lives and publish it online. You've all seen or heard some variation of it. What makes you think your life is worth writing about? Who do you think you are? Why should anyone care? Etcetera.
The thing is, those are interesting and valid questions when they're not hostile. In the course of introductions a few nights ago, a friend mentioned that I had a book coming out. The guy wondered what it was about, so I gave him the short answer, which is that it's a memoir about family life.
"Why is your story important?" came the question. In another tone of voice, it could have tripped my defenses, set off the mental alarms that warn, "ATTACK! ATTACK!" But his expression was sincere and interested. He wasn't trying to be the provocateur; he was just curious.
The answer came so quickly and easily, it sent lightning along my spine. I don't think it came from me at all. At least not the me that sits in the control booth behind my eyes.
"For the same reason yours is," I told him.
I try to keep a lid on my expectations of this book. Now that it's written, my attitude toward it is that of a mom, sending her grown child off into the wide world. Good luck, let us know how you're doing. Send money when you find work. Its success or failure is largely out of my hands now.
The book is about belonging, about becoming a family. It roughly covers a ten-year span. When Patrick read the manuscript in full for the first time, he said he couldn't believe how much we had lived through in those ten years. Nor could he believe how much didn't make it into the book. Not just trivial things, either. Big stuff, whole chapters, left out because there wasn't room, or it simply isn't time.
Life is epic. Mine. Yours. It begins with birth; it ends with death, and in between is a hero's journey: love, agony, comedy, horror, struggle, victory, defeat. There are no ordinary or extraordinary lives. There are only ordinary and extraordinary storytellers.
If I could ever be counted among the latter, may it always be in service of the former. Because what matters most to me, what will make my book "important," is not whether the critics are impressed, or the academy, or even other writers I admire. What matters is that it makes people believe that their own story--told or untold, written or unwritten, published or unpublished--is just as important.
Labels: the writing life