A co-worker, a friend, and a doctor, among others, have all told me in recent weeks that I need to write a book telling my story. It’s a good one, I think, though difficult, and I don’t come off well in the telling, but I have seriously begun. I’m writing it longhand, with a Pilot G-2 fine point (0.7mm) blue ink pen in a Punctuate notebook with a bright floral design cover. This notebook won’t hold it all, but it’s a start.
There is a challenge to be truthful, but not to hurt others. The Orthodox morning prayer that asks that we would not belittle or embarrass others rings through my head. So telling the truth with gentleness toward others. How to be truthful about oneself?
There is a challenge to the memory. What memory is fact? What has been altered by time and imagination? How shall the story be told? Do you go chronologically? That’s rough for me because I don’t have a chronological memory like my husband does. Give him a song and he will remember where he was and when it was that he first heard that song. My memory isn’t like that. My memories are jumbled, with some of the details unclear. In one of my earliest memories, I remember the chair my dad was sitting in, the lamp next to him, I remember the stinging, burning of the peppers, and I remember him laughing, but I can’t remember if he had a beard. I don’t think so, but sometimes my memory tries to paint a beard on him, as he wore one through most of my childhood.
For some reason, I seem to work better writing longhand, as if longhand accesses the memory better. For this, a comfortable pen with a smooth flowing ink is really helpful. I think of folks who have written on whatever they had at hand, be it toilet paper, whatever, and with whatever they could manage and I realize this preference is a luxury. But then writing is a luxury, even when it is necessary for the spirit. The riches of language stored and disseminated is an incredible luxury.
Sometimes I go to the local bookstore and am overcome. I’m overcome by the sheer number of stories that are told on those shelves and by the uncountable number of writers telling them. Take that times the number of hours spent putting ink on a page or tapping at a keyboard, then the amount of time getting an agent, perhaps getting many multiple rejection letters…it is a wonder. It makes me feel simultaneously big, that I get to select from among those stories, and small that I am but one small voice in a world of voices, one small story in a world of stories.