Previously published in the Hughson Chronicle-Denair Dispatch
I ran my finger across the cover of an original Nancy Drew book cover. The edges were neatly trimmed off, the binding removed and, with sharp quality materials, the maker drove holes into the left side and sewed a new binding, with crisp white sheets filling its insides: a new story to be written.
There were other author’s remains as well, something old and something new; Captain Kirk and Charles Dickens. The Hardy Boys sat beside Nancy Drew. “That book was desecrated with a crayon.” The maker took books that could not be salvaged.
Sean Connery’s William Forrester tells to his protégé, Jamal, “No thinking — that comes later. You must write your first draft with your heart. You rewrite with your head. The first key to writing is… to write, not to think!”
He directs him to begin with Forrester’s own essay, then allows Jamal’s words to take over.
Variation on a theme.
When I share with others that I have a book coming out this year, the news elicits stories of their own dream to write their story. It is a practice I whole-heartedly encourage.
Why are we afraid to write our stories?
There is fear of the writing itself. I don’t write well. I need someone to look at it. In reality, once school has passed, with the exception of work reports, many meet few requirements to write, even less so introspectively. Life is too busy, emails too short, texts too full of emojis. Our world is increasingly visual; thoughts become harder to communicate. Let the books tell themselves. We will join along for the ride, not sure exactly how to even begin the journey of allowing our mind to explore the treacherous paths of imagination, paths neglected since childhood.
Some suffer from imposter syndrome: who am I to write a book? They know in their hearts their stories are worth telling, but putting it on paper, beyond the Facebook post, beyond the blog, to commit it to a Word document with the intention of one day pressing “print” is asking the world to see it, asking it to be found, to be seen, to be examined. What moments are more vulnerable than that? It is childbirth with all the good and the bad exposed. It is frightening to be seen, to offer ourselves for judgment. It is safer keeping it locked up, to tell our stories inside our hearts when we cannot sleep at night. Will anyone think the story worth hearing, the tale worth telling, the narrative worth recommending?
Are we committed? Do we really want it? Or is it just the trend, the level of success in the social circle one inhabits?
If you love it, then begin.
If your heart is aching to pour these words out in some lasting way, to create a legacy, to open an opportunity for your children to inherit more than just plates, but the lessons of your life journey, then write the story.
Maybe we need to see that we can fit our story within the greater narrative. Those book cover journals have a place. If I can see that my story fits inside the canon of the greats, of those that I revere, of those I have loved, then maybe…
“Books are our friends” a podcaster explained. Can I imagine the author cheering me on? Do I hear Rochester asking me, instead of Jane Eyre, about my mind, “Has it other furniture of the same kind within?”
The greatest literature takes on a life of its own. Once written and set down on the page, in a way, it ceases to be the sole property of the author. A new person holds the words in her mind. An editor may alter the phrasing, an artist designs the cover art defining how the book will be judged.
So in a way, I imagine the frightening thing about putting our story down on paper is not the grammar, the imposter, the fear of judgment, but the bigness of the moment, the significance of the reality that I am not alone in the universe. As the movie teaches, we are all part of The Neverending Story. We share in the stories of others, they become part of us. Our story has the power to take root in the heart of others as well.
But don’t let that stop it from happening.