Saturday, July 18, 2015

Naked under the spotlight

You’ve probably heard the cliché that says everyone has a book in them. I know beyond a doubt that everyone has a story in them worth telling, but I don’t know if everyone has a book in them. Since writing my recently released spiritual memoir, Threads: Pulling Meaning from the Tangled Mess, I'm thinking you have to be a little cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs to write your story down and lay it out there for the whole world to see. 

Anyone who writes a memoir worth reading has to be honest about who they are. I’ve tried hard to do that, so far as I’m able to see myself as I truly am. That’s a struggle for all of us. We can have a blind spot the size of Texas that keeps us from seeing the truth about ourselves. Growing older has diminished the size of that blind spot for me, so this was the right time for me to write my memoir. 

Although writing the book was somewhat cathartic for me, during the writing phase I didn’t think a whole lot about the reading phase. It wasn't until I was approaching submission for publication that I began thinking about the possibility of people actually reading this stuff. Holy crap!

I realized that I wasn’t only telling my story in this book. I was also telling the stories of people who have impacted my life along the way. Sometimes their stories were positive and other times, not so much. I went back through the book and did my best to disguise them by changing names, genders, occupations, etc. Of course, all those who lived through these stories with me will know exactly who I’m talking about, but those who weren’t a part of the stories won’t know the identities of the people I mention—at least that’s my hope. It's not my intention to malign anyone else in my book. However, the one person in the book whose identity I could not protect is me.

The closer the time came for Threads to be released, the more I started to panic, and I seriously thought about pulling the plug on the whole thing. Some people from my past, and perhaps even a few from my present, aren’t going to be happy with me. There will be those who wish I hadn’t mentioned them and those who wish I had. I imagine more than one pastor-type will cringe at my theology. Grammar Nazis will find errors. Thoughts that I have only shared with a select few people in my life will now be exposed to anyone who cares to read them. It’s terrifying. I’m one of those people who tries to live as if I don’t give a rat’s ass what other people think about me, but truth be told, I do give a rat’s ass. Over the past couple of weeks I've realized that both the rat and the ass on said rat are a lot larger than I'd like to admit.

Well, the deed has been done. My memoir is out there, and I feel like I’m standing naked under a spotlight for friends and strangers to scrutinize my every flaw. But here’s a thought that hadn’t occurred to me until this morning. Now that I have released it into the world, my book will take on a life of its own. I could control the writing of it, but I can’t control how it will be read. Yes, some people might not like what they read, and that’s okay. There also will be those who will. 

Here's what I need to remind myself. I didn’t write my memoir with reviews in mind, negative or positive. I wrote it because I had hoped that people of faith who struggle to find meaning in their lives might be encouraged by reading how another person of faith has struggled to find meaning in her life. That’s still my hope. 

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