Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Aching to write

"Wait until you are hungry to say something, until there is an aching in you to speak."

I have a secret, a tremendous secret. For the last thirty years I have been researching my family history, and I have a book I want to publish. It's not the shadow of a book, or the idea of a book, or the talk of a book - I have a real life honest-to-God book about my great-grandmother that I desperately want to publish. But I know in my heart that it's not finished. And so I keep putting off what I need to do transform this book from the giant binder stuffed in my desk into real book, one with a spine and pagination and amazing cover art that whispers READ ME when people pass it in Barnes and Noble.

I ache to tell her story. I tell it out loud to everyone I meet, but I want so much more. If novels were created via hypnotic word-weaving in thin air, publishers would be fighting over my creation, my book would fly off the shelves, movie producers would be clamoring for the rights to her tale. I'm not lacking research or ideas or a heartbreaking ending. I have a fabulous, wonderful, amazing story of the triumph of the human spirit, and I can't finish it.

The reason? I have to write about myself.

While I have fictionalized my great-grandmother's story, there's definitely something missing - the entire back story of how I got here. The story of my eleven-year-old self watching my Little Grandma's mile-long funeral procession and realizing there were dozens of relatives I had never met. The endless hours spent with my great-aunts, my grandmother, and my cousin Loretta, painstakingly creating genealogy charts for long dead family members. The breakthrough that sent me, a new mom, packing for a trip I couldn't afford to Boston. Flying across the Atlantic for the first time to Italy, to the tiny mountain town where my great-grandmother had grown up, using the language of my hand gestures and a pocket dictionary to speak to the city officials there. A surprise family member that necessitated another trip to Boston. So many documents, pictures, genealogy charts, and letters. Dozens and dozens of letters in their original envelopes, yellowed with age, letters that launched me on this quest in the first place.

But why is this so difficult? I'm blogging, aren't I? Writing about my most cherished secret? Yet it is so hard for me to construct these stories, some of which stretch back decades, to recreate them in my mind and put words to page. I'm also stymied by the living  - those aunts and uncles and cousins that may take umbrage with my memories, or be offended in some way, or who may repudiate my version of events entirely.

There's also the matter of revisiting my former self, warts and all, at particularly emotional or embarrassing parts of my life. I've spent many years trying to free myself from the stranglehold of my past, and yet I cannot do that and simultaneously tell the story of my Little Grandma's past - they are inextricably intertwined.

I must find a way to reconcile this fear, for I find that as 2015 dawns, I am once again aching to write.


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  3. Nice job; you offer your readers an authentic voice. Using the article's focus, you manage to reflect and share.