Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can't remember who we are or why we're here.
—Sue Monk Kidd, 'The Secret Life of Bees'
I was in Michigan this week at our annual girls’ weekend—two wonderfully lazy days spent by the fireplace in a cozy inn, catching up with seven old and new friends. We ate and shopped and laughed and it wasn’t until I got home that I remembered one friend mentioning how stressful her job was.
I have no idea what her job is. I never asked. And because I never asked, I missed a chance to connect with her in a more meaningful way.
Last night, when I went to kiss my 12-year-old daughter goodnight, she burst into tears.
“Why can’t I see them more often?” she wailed. She was talking about her friends, the triplets, who had been at our house for a sleepover.
My daughter met the three sisters several years ago at a family summer camp, and the four of them have remained friends despite the 70 miles between them. They had a wonderful visit, crammed with movies, make-overs, homemade cake pops, and late-night giggles—the stuff of memories. But none of that stopped her from sobbing in grief.
I was walking my dog today when she spotted two other dogs behind us on the other side of the street. She kept stopping to look back at them, making strange little growling sounds. Since it was only twenty degrees and I didn’t want to be out in the first place, I quickly became annoyed. I tried to point her in the right direction and convince her that what was a block behind her wasn’t going to hurt her.
When I got home, I sat at my computer and felt the same annoyance. I struggled to get my writing going in the right direction and to remind myself that looking back at past events can’t hurt me.
Creating compelling characters is challenging, and writing about the real people in your life can be downright terrifying! How much do you share? Will those close to you recognize themselves? What material is yours and what is off-limits?
Whether you’re writing fiction, memoir, or blogs, you WILL face these challenges as you write about what—and who—you know. So how do you write from a place of love and integrity while remaining true to yourself? Who gets to say where your story ends and another person’s begins?
I’d been looking forward to the visioning workshop for a few weeks. It was an annual event hosted at my spiritual center and would be held after Sunday services. The day of the event I made all the necessary arrangements to be gone all day: I scheduled a dog walk, made a lunch, and took an Uber so my son could have the car for the day. I was ready to vision my new year!
What I’d forgotten to do was pre-register. As the church service was concluding, the pastor announced that the workshop was sold out. I felt myself caving with disappointment, followed quickly by outrage. It can’t be sold out! I’m supposed to go!
When I was going through my divorce eight years ago, I had a handful of friends contemplating, initiating, or reeling from their own break-ups, so at least I had company. (Granted, not the kind of company you want for dinner unless you plan to hide the sharp knives.)
What we all wanted was resolution. Not a silly list of do’s and don’ts. Real resolution—an end to the re-hashing, the second-guessing and what-ifs, a giant kiss-off to quitters, cheats, Peter Pans and control freaks, a rousing ‘up yours!’ to the judges and lawyers playing God in our lives.