I have been a journal writer, as I have said, for most of my life. What I found when Robin and I began to write our book was that I was not at all used to writing for an audience. One of the modules on the on-line course we were taking was on “storytelling,” and gave some tips and suggestions about how to do this better. In my experience as a writer at that time, I had almost never even written dialogue! I never found a need to write about people talking to each other when I was recording my own thoughts in my journal. And, I had no real practice in terms of writing descriptively. I’d certainly read enough books to know I needed to do these things, but I had never really practiced the art of actually trying them.
My first attempts at storytelling, I have to say, were less than successful and brought less than enthusiastic feedback from my classmates in the course. I was given helpful tips and suggestions, and made another attempt. As we began the blog, my friends and family were all supportive and the feedback was generally positive. But, one voice stood out.
I do not have children, by choice. I spent my twenties in school, and my thirties immersed in my new career as a psychologist. It actually never occurred to me that having children would be a good idea for me. I was too busy devoting myself to my marriage and career. Thankfully my husband agreed, as this would have been one issue that would not have allowed for compromise. And, I am equally grateful that my older brother and his wife decided having children would be an integral part of their life. I love being an aunt!
I was blogging away, enthusiastically telling the story in Chapter One on the blog, when I suddenly got an email from my oldest nephew, Daniel. He, at that time, was in his senior year of college and was getting a minor in creative writing. Ironically, he had no idea I had been learning about storytelling in an on-line course on how to write a book. His feedback to me was so honest and so direct, and completely true:
You are very good at giving us the information we need from the story, but amid this I think we lose a bit of your voice. The way you are writing now is very straightforward. You relay the information almost like a clinical report. I don’t know if this is how you want to come across or not. But having heard you tell many stories before, I think the way you are writing this story is not how you would tell it. I think you can find a good balance between relaying the information and inserting a bit of yourself into the story. I know your writing is mostly about Robin, and that she will be writing too. But I think as a reader, I don’t just want to hear a psychologist’s perspective of what happened, I want to hear a specific psychologist’s perspective and reaction to this, aka you! I want to hear a bit more about your emotions and reactions. If you were telling me this story in person I would have heard you say, “And I’m thinking to myself at this point, ‘OH MY GOD.’” at least a few times by now! (It’s one of your standard phrases, haha) Well, those are my thoughts so far. It’s just a few thoughts from a 21 year old student, so don’t give it too much weight! Excited to keep reading your posts and find out more about the story!
It is hard to describe the myriad of emotions I felt when I received this feedback from Daniel. This is the kid who was born two months before I graduated with my Ph.D. I changed his diapers. I was always the fun aunt who would have him come to my house as a child and let him do whatever he wanted, as long as it was safe. We went to Disney World together when he was about twelve. How did he get to be such a smart adult? And, how completely cool it was that he felt comfortable giving me his honest thoughts about the writing I was putting out to the world! I was so grateful, and so touched. And, I immediately began to work harder at storytelling.
Daniel is now out of college and we have hired him to edit our book. He was the perfect choice for our editor, as far as I was concerned, as he had already proven to be so able to be honest and direct and his writing skills were highly recognized by his college professors. Daniel is working hard, and we are almost done with the editing process. He is also an artist and is working to design the cover. Two days ago he sent his first preliminary idea about how the cover might look. Wow! It is coming together. Robin and I are so excited!