Writing & Freelance

Kickin’ Ass and Changing Names

I don’t know how long Paula and I have been Twitter friends, five years? Ten? But I know that when she commented on Monday’s blog post asking “why not start a book?” it wasn’t the first time she’d suggested the idea.

My standard response to anyone who has ever nudged me to write a book is essentially this: I don’t know what to write and I don’t have any ideas. I was raised to follow instructions, not create.

I wish I was a freer spirit. I’ve been trying my whole life to be a freer spirit. But I don’t think I have it in me. So, yes, I thought, it’s a wonderful idea. But, no, I don’t think I’m the woman to pull it off.

I stepped away from my laptop and walked my lilted walk to the kitchen to make a sandwich. And as I was digging the turkey pastrami out of the fridge, I let Paula’s suggestion swirl around inside my head a little bit more. I paused briefly with my hand on the handle of the refrigerator door. The I idea of writing something more life-affirming than 500-word blog posts for technology startups was enticing. What if?

What if I could write a book?

What if I could write a few hundred words every day?

What if I could get an agent?

What if I could get that thing published?

What if I could make a living writing stuff for me instead of other people?

The thoughts were too tempting to let go of this time, and so I started writing. I got a few thousand words down about my brain cancer—because I love memoir, and that’s what I want to write—before self-doubt pulled the brakes on that train.

You can’t write about that other stuff though.

There’s not enough material here for a book.

You think you can eke out 75,000 words writing this kind of drivel?

Everything you plan to write about is going to get you sued.

I slept on it, and woke up determined not to write but to research memoir writing. And I started thinking about the theme and about how different snapshots of my life fit into that theme. And then I thought about the story arc and how I might order those stories for the reader. And then I read something magical about how to deal with horrible people from your life that might want to sue you: put a disclaimer in the front of the book about how you’ve changed names and some details. Fudge the locations. Bump the time forward or back a year or two. Give that guy a mole he doesn’t have in real life.

Duh.

After reading that, the ideas that were damming up behind a wall of doubt swelled until they took the wall out.

And now, if you need me, I’ll be thinking up villainous names for all the miserable people who’ve come in an out of my life.

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3 thoughts on “Kickin’ Ass and Changing Names

  1. Go for it, Emily. I never wrote before I started my memoir, and my writing has grown in lightyears since then. And I think there’s no better way to really process all that has happened until you write it.

  2. Hooray! I want to be the first in line to buy your book. (Autographed, of course!)

    Funny side note: when I was in grade school and learned what an autobiography was, I told everyone I was going to write one. My brother (three years older than me) and my best friend both started saying they’d sue me if I wrote about them. I must have said something super dramatic like, “You’ve ruined my career!” because for what felt like forever (but was probably a week or less) my friend kept saying, “I’m sorry, but [turning to slap her own behind for emphasis] you’ve ruined my career!”

    Hmm…what names can I come up with for them….?

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