Don’t Let Your Stories Die Inside You

I’ve said here before that I like reading about the process of other writers. So, buying a book about writing or writers is always a safe bet for a gift for me, (you know, if you’re wondering) and my husband was certainly well aware of that. I usually give him lists of possible books I’d like and he can pick but one Christmas, after Sam was born, he gave me one I didn’t ask for, one that, the truth is, I was a bit taken aback to receive. It was one of a series of books I had kind of rallied against, had definitely ranted against. He bought me Chicken Soup for the Writer’s Soul. Now, I had nothing against the Chicken Soup for the Soul books when they started. Good bathroom book, probably, although I didn’t read them. Little stories, inspiring stuff, how could it be a bad thing? But then I started to see more and more of them and soon I felt my soul sucked away a little every time I saw a new one. There was something to soothe every soul. I think Chicken Soup for the Golfer’s Soul put me over the edge. I just googled and found titles like Chicken Soup for the Chiropractic Soul and Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul. All souls, it seems, seek inspiration and the creators of the Chicken Soup series have really taken that to heart and maybe over the top.

So I took the book my husband had kindly bought for me and put it away, feeling a bit lesser for owning a Chicken Soup for the Soul book. But, as is often the case, my close-minded opinions are usually turned around to show me how wrong I can be and such was the case when I needed a book to read in the bath and there, in the pile was Chicken Soup for the Writer’s Soul. I was in the mood to read about writing so I picked it up. And I enjoyed the stories. But there was one in particular that changed things for me. Me, who at the time, had two novels completed and safely in a drawer, another two well on the way to getting finished and portions of more in boxes and drawers and shelves all over the place. Me, who had never tried to get any of them published. I read the story of Dierdre W. Honnold and her mother. Honnold’s mother wanted to write her own story, a novel, and it would sell big and they would be rich and famous, at least that’s what she kept telling her children. But as she got older, Honnold began to get impatient with her mother because she knew that in order to be a writer, you had to write. Talking about it wouldn’t do the trick. When her mother died, on a snowy night surrounded by family, Honnold wrote, “her book died too”. Her mother never followed her own dream to write that novel, and this inspired Honnold to write and to ensure that her children could read their mother’s stories.

So, there I was in the bathtub, tears rolling down my face as I read, and while some of my stories were no longer inside me, they’d made it onto the page, but they weren’t doing much in my drawer. And I was doing nothing to get them out in the universe. I knew that I didn’t want the little napping baby in the next room to ever think I had let the things I wanted to do, craved to do, die with me. And I started to write more and work harder on stories I liked. When my friend Kathy called me, later that year, to tell me I should pitch one of my books at the Pitch to the Publisher event at the Word on the Rock Literary Festival, I at first dismissed it outright. The thought terrified me. But Honnold’s story about her mom had stuck with me and inspired me to actually do it. The idea of my child not knowing my stories or that I’d even tried to follow my dream of having them published made me draft a pitch. And although threats from Kathy and my friend Pam to physically drag me to the Pitch to the Publisher were very inspriring and immediate, down deep the thoughts of having my books die with me someday, having never tried, was the real impetus to stand in front of four publishers and tell them about a partially finished novel called this much is true.

So, with book number two out there now, my youngest child points and says “Mama” when he sees the cover of A Few Kinds of Wrong. At almost two years old, he knows now, even before he has the words to understand it, that this is my story I wrote. And recently at school, that baby who’d been napping when I first read Honnold’s inspiring story, had a chance, during literacy week at his school, to write the name of his favourite author on a big piece of paper in the school hall. Two teachers–one who didn’t know me or Sam–contacted me to tell me how this sweet, six-year-old boy wrote “Tina Chaulk” on the wall.

So, don’t let your story, or the painting you’ve been dreaming of trying, or the poem you imagine writing for your child, die when you do. I really do know how easy it is to procrastinate, and I certainly know how hard and scary it is to try, but isn’t it scarier to have your story or your painting or whatever it is you want to do or create, die still inside of you? It was to me. I hope the idea gives you a kick in the pants to get going on your dream. Or maybe you’ve set about doing it already. If you have, what has inspired you to follow your dreams?

2 thoughts on “Don’t Let Your Stories Die Inside You

  1. Roxanne, thank you! I remember you contacted me about this much is true before. I am sorry to hear about this terrible thing you went through and hope writing about it helps you with it. I have a good friend who has written about a family issue as well and she has not been able to send it out in the world yet. I’ve had many chats with her about how hard it would be to put out the stuff that also belongs to other people. But it is your story too and when it feels right, you will be able to let it go out there, I think (and hope). Maybe fictionalizing it is the way to go but not everyone is even comfortable with that. Just write it and figure out what to do with it later. Get the clay on the table as I always say, then you can sculpt it as you wish and decide whether or not you keep it for yourself or share it with the world. I hope you find the right way for you.

    Take care,
    Tina

  2. Dear Tina
    I loved “This Much I Know Is True”. Thank you for your writing. This blog piece has really inspired me. I have been writing a Blog about my personal journey regarding my mother’s suicide when I was a child. I have been told it is good. Good enough to put “out there”; even a mutual writer friend has told me that I need to get it out there… but I have been holding back because it is deeply personal and my family would be upset to have their family tragedy and sister’s personal thoughts for public viewing… but you have inspired me that I have to find SOME WAY to write it. Before it dies with me. Just like she did.

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