In 2009, I was writing and raising awareness about an issue that was being overlooked by the mainstream media. I wrote an article that was published about this particular issue. Then my life turned upside down and I walked away from my advocacy because it was too painful to continue (for personal reasons).
Today, an acquaintance from those advocacy days announced on Facebook her publication of a book about this issue. I congratulated her and she told me she used portions of my article in the book with permission of the entity that published it. I am fine with that, of course. But I’m not going to lie, it hurt. It hurt because in 2009/2010, I wanted to write this book, but I didn’t. I didn’t and she did.
It has been said that comparison is the thief of joy. I can attest to the truth of that statement today. And it sucks.
I am telling myself that if this was the book I was meant to write, then I would have written it. In fact, this book contains stories that needed to be told. The problem, of course, is that I wanted to be the person to do the telling. But I wasn’t and I have no one to blame for that but myself.
As much as I don’t begrudge her this success, I hate the way I am feeling now. I hate knowing that I walked away from the idea. I hate knowing that I could have pursued it but didn’t. I hate envying her for doing what I didn’t.
If it hurts this much, there must be a lesson in all of this. I can’t change what has happened, so I might as well learn from it, right? I think the lesson is that I should never give up on a story that I want to tell because it will hurt like hell when someone else tells it for me.
I am struggling with my current work in progress, Emergency Landings. An important element of the plot is inspired by real life traumatic events. In order to make the writing less painful, I am doing everything I can to make the novel characters different from the real life characters, with varying degrees of success.
I recently blogged about the importance of continuing to write even when it is hard, emotionally and/or imaginatively. Although I believe this to be true, I have been avoiding flashbacks for that very reason. As much as I try to justify not having any memory-based scenes, I am coming to the conclusion that such scenes are necessary. Emergency Landings is about the journey of a young widow. Without the backstory, the current story doesn’t make much sense.
Tonight, the deceased husband made his first appearance. Contrary to my intention and expectation for this scene, the husband was loving and somewhat supportive. It was then that I realized I am diving into choppy waters. Abusive partners are unpredictable. Any time this man appears, it will be an emotional coin flip. And it will pick at my own psychosocial scabs in the process.
I wonder, however, could I tell Claire’s story without illustrating what it was that caused her to dislike her deceased husband so much? I am reminded of The Blair Witch Project. I loved that movie and part of what I loved about it was the fact that the evil spirits/witch were never visible to the viewer. I thought that was a brilliant decision by the filmmakers, allowing one’s imagination to fill in the missing pieces.
Would it be possible to tell the story of Claire’s emotional journey without providing the exact details of her relationship with her husband? Wouldn’t this allow each reader to have their own interpretation of Claire’s story, something of a blank canvas upon which a reader could project their own understanding of the story? Or would this leave the reader frustrated, angry, or disappointed?
Am I on to something potentially interesting (for the novel) or am I just trying to rationalize my way out of the hard parts?
What do you think, as a writer and/or as a reader?