Finding a Story
After my son was born, I knew I would never write again. I would also never sleep through the night again, or have a full, beginning-to-end conversation on the phone without ear-splitting interruptions. I’d let a tiny human into my world, and so many doors in my life seemed closed for good. Well, one door was definitely staying open. My glory days of using the bathroom with any degree of privacy were officially over.
I was right about the sleeping and the phone calls. I was right about losing my dignity. I was wrong about the writing. After about 8 months of motherhood, my tired brain started piecing together a story. The story wasn’t anything like the painstakingly researched biographies that I was used to writing. The story was about me. It was about my son. It was about how noisy he was and how I just couldn’t take it anymore.
My son was always the loudest child in every room. At first, I could keep it between us, I mean, the dog knew, but he wasn’t going to tell anybody. Once my child became more mobile, however, his volume was undeniable. He made people stop, stare, and urge their children into other play areas. His booming personality kept me on the edge of my seat. Every outing brought joy, hilarity, shame, frustration, and doom.
At first, my new story was about my desperation, but it turned into a book about love. I loved my son’s big, beautiful, loud spirit. I loved him so much, I needed to tell the whole world about it.
Was I really writing a book?
My laptop always seemed a million miles away and too fragile for my new fluid existence. I mean that literally, there were fluids everywhere. And pounding fists. And paws. Besides, the top of my lap wasn’t my property any longer. It was a warzone occupied by my son and then the dog and then my son again.
Was I really writing a book?
I’d abandoned my work routine. My desk was buried under a pile of tiny socks. I was jotting text onto the backs of envelopes. It didn’t really matter. The idea rang in my mind as loudly and clearly as my son’s sing-shouting. It was louder.
The story’s refrain got stuck in my head. “You turn the world into a drum…You turn the world into a drum…You turn the world into a drum…” and I started living a double life. I could look like I was having a perfectly normal conversation with my child, or my husband, or the spider plant, but really I was writing and rewriting in my head. By the time I finally typed the book out, it was perfect. I was done.
Then I shared it with my writing group and found out I wasn’t done. I wasn’t done? What?
My critique group had shepherded me through my last biography. I trusted them. We were all practitioners who took our work seriously. We used our insights to build each other up. That wasn’t always the case for me. I used to be a jerky critique partner. I gave feedback that made me feel smart. If someone asked for my help, I was darn sure going to give it to them, whether they liked it or not. I urged authors to make changes to their stories not so much because I wanted to make their work better, but because I wanted to make my mark. I liked the sound of my own voice so much! I wanted to hear it in other people’s writing too. It took me a long time to get over myself so I could become the generous, trustworthy reader my colleagues deserved. I’m still working on that.
When I gave my critique partners my story, they didn’t take shots or undermine my vision. They asked helpful questions. They brought out the best in me. Even so, it was hard to process their feedback. I wasn’t used to editing something so personal. Even the rhythm of the story seemed like it came straight out of my mommy-fied heart. I gathered their thoughts and put them in a drawer so I could gather mine.
When I was ready, I got back to work.
Text and images are courtesy of Sarah Warren and may not be used without express written consent.
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