I just sent off an email to an editor of an online literary publication asking her to consider publishing an an essay I wrote about my Dad. I’m both excited and nervous to have sent it out to someone. Mostly nervous, I think. I’m not so much nervous about whether the essay gets accepted or not as I am nervous to share something that was terribly difficult for me to write. Then there’s the nervousness that goes along with writing about family and the fear that the piece will not be appreciated, especially by my family. Oh well. Nerves and fears be damned! I sent the essay off anyway. I felt like it was something I had to do.
I started the essay several months ago at one of Kate Hopper’s writing retreats at Faith’s Lodge. I know that Kate gave us many writing prompts during that retreat but I’m struggling now to remember what prompt got me writing this story. I think it was something about stepping back in time and writing a scene in detail. Or maybe not. What I do remember is that I wrote a quick bunch of material then wrote some more and soon found I had a story about my Dad who, due to injuries and dementia, isn’t driving anymore. I found writing about my Dad so terribly difficult that I went outside and ran and screamed and swung on a swingset until my whole body ached. And I cried. Boy, did I cry.
So it’s no surprise that I cried when I read my draft to our little retreat group that evening. And it’s no surprise that I got home from the retreat and let the essay sit there for awhile before touching it again because it felt just too painful to work on the story.
But I felt like I needed to get back to it – and I felt like I needed some guidance so I worked with writer and friend, Kaethe Schwehn, to edit the essay. Fear and sadness came to play again and I felt like I could not revisit the story and I let the essay sit there again for, oh, several months before deciding that I simply needed to get the essay done.
It scared me to work on the essay again, I feared I would end up an emotional wreck, but I found that the work of editing actually wasn’t too bad. It’s likely that giving the essay some time to sit gave me enough emotional distance from it that I could finish it. Or maybe writing the story helped me deal with my sadness. Whatever the case, the essay has been edited to the best of my ability and I’m glad I finished it and sent it off.
I think it’s fitting that a story that got its start at a writing retreat has now been sent off while I’m at another writing retreat, this one with two of my writing friends, Joy Riggs and Christine Lienke. I think it’s also fitting that I read the story for them last night and, yes, I cried, but it also felt good to share it and the good feelings outweighed the sadness.
Thanks Kate, Kaethe, Joy and Chris for helping me bring this essay to life!