Friday, November 7, 2014

The inevitable question

When I tell people I am a writer I almost always get asked if I became a writer to “tell my story” and in most cases, I know they are talking about widowhood.

It is a common inquiry that doesn't anger me, or make me feel bad, but I want to address it because it happens quite often so it merits some attention.

I did not become a writer the day I lost my husband. I, as do all of us, had a story to tell long before that horrible event. We all have a story. We may not all have the means, interest or ability to write it, but it is there.

I was always a writer. I did not always believe I was. It took some convincing from some writers much wiser than me (thank you Bonnie Christensen, Betsy Partridge, Rita Williams-Garcia and Martine Leavitt) to become comfortable using that word as an adjective describing myself. I thought of writing as something that much smarter, more articulate people had the privilege to do. My stories were mine and only those closest to me even knew they existed. In fact, I think the only person who knew was my husband. He was my sole reader for years and always told me that I had talent and should share it with the world. He was my husband so I thought he was being loving and kind. I kept writing for myself, sometimes for my daughter, but mostly because characters entered my head and wouldn't leave me alone until I released them into a story.

Those stories taught me about myself; about how I absorb my surroundings; how I judge and accept 
people; what I feel when I allow myself to do so unfiltered. My stories were personal and fiction was my means of journaling, writing out my thoughts in the most natural way I knew how. My characters were people I wished I could hang out with, talk to, and laugh with. I felt honored and obligated to get their stories right, to give them a place and time to live.

I sometimes revisit my stories and while I may see sagging plots, run-on sentences and other common craft issues, they make me happy because they take me back to when I put those words to paper. I can tell you where I was sitting as I typed those scenes and what was happening in my life when the character first visited me. In some cases I even recall what I was wearing when I started the story. That is how much they are a part of me. Not all the stories are finished. Actually, most are not. But the character is always there, ready to greet me back into her world and allow me to tinker with it as I see fit, and then let it rest until my next visit.

But I have totally digressed from the intent of this entry so I’ll go back.

I may never write a memoir about what happened on the night Warren died. Aside from the pain it will unavoidably force me to face, it is a small part of my story. Focusing on it as “my story” means that it defines me. It gives widowhood, death, grief, loss and sadness a more prominent place than the other stories that have been, are, and will be my life.

Could it be healing? Possibly.

Could it help others? Maybe.

But I am so much more than what happened to me that night. It was horrific and epic and the stuff Lifetime movies are made of and it will always be a part of me. That is why I have no doubt that it will come to the surface through the characters I create. The most intimate moments of that dark time will make an appearance in my writing because I don’t know how they can’t. They are a part of the world as I know it, of how I react and live and love every day. Those feelings, those events, the struggle it takes to live with the hole of losing the person I loved most in the world, and who made me feel most loved will seep through my stories, be part of my characters. There is no way that it won’t taint every word that I write.

But it may not look the way most people expect when they ask if I’m going to write “my story”. I will tell it the way I need to tell it, the way I best know how. It may be subtle, or it may be an in-your-face-this-is-how-it-happened scene. It may focus on the love and not the loss. It may spill into a single tear drop of a loved character. I cannot predict how, or when the story will come out. All I know is that it is part of my story, so yes, I will write it, but I will also write beyond it because that is who I am.

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