Thursday, June 18, 2009

Jim's Nightmare

The first hibiscus of the season.

This was going to be a post on how the garden is growing. I exhibited my utmost patience trying to upload some photos and the internet connection kept going out. Eventually my impatience won and I decided to try again later. Like tomorrow.

So I finished writing my book. At first I was thrilled. Two and a half mind boggling years of writing, organizing, reorganizing, reading through journals, emails, typing, writing, and editing and finally, it was complete. It was a larger than life undertaking. At one point it ran 185 single spaced pages with over 120,000 words. I edited again and again and rewrote until finally I burdened a few friends with the request of reading and commenting. Two of them couldn't read it yet, they were too close to Jim's nightmare. Three others did read it and have given me positive reinforcement with constructive comments.

However the final verdict was a big disappointment because the book has one serious problem: It is just TOO sad! I tried to add comic relief wherever I could throughout the story, but the truth is there WAS no comic relief during the ordeal. Frankly I'd completely lost my sense of humor and it took me a long time to get through the anger, frustration and hopelessness. I am still working on restoring my sense of humor.

I thought a book about one couple's battle with cancer would be insightful to so many of us who are close to someone with the disease. My goal was to share our experiences with the intention of offering coping tips and a bird's eye view into how cancer affects everyone in and around the patient's life.

Jim lost his battle but he put up an incredible fight. I thought that by writing Jim's story and my overcoming the grief of his subsequent death, I could give the book a happy ending. A hope redefined. I picked the pieces of myself up off the ground and glued them back together by writing and venturing out into the universe to give life another try. My goal was not just SURVIVE, but THRIVE.

My satisfaction of finishing my book was short lived. The fact is, my book is NOT done. No one has discouraged me with comments or suggestions. I agree with most of the comments I have received. I just wanted it to be done. It may take a while to regain any sense of objectivity toward this project, so reworking it sounds overwhelming to me at the moment. I have to let it sit and breathe. My great work of art turned out to be only a rough draft. Just a little reality bullet that hit me square between the eyes and has blinded me a bit.


Islagringo said...

Think of it this way: you wrote the book for yourself, for your own healing. If others gain anything from it that is a bonus. Your thriving is more important than trying to teach others.

Nancy said...


It is a rare book that doesn't need to be edited over and over again. And they take long enough to write that your perspective changes once you get to the end and you need to go back and review and edit again.

Give it time, give yourself time, and then take another look. It sounds like a wonderful project as therapy for you and that it really could help many people facing cancer.

Linda Dorton said...

How true. I am glad to have accomplished the task, and as time passes, I wake up more willing to dive into it again. I get discouraged but I don't really GIVE UP too easily!

Linda Dorton said...

More truth....good thoughts and reassuring! I will be more patient and let myself ease into the reshaping of my work. Meanwhile on to a more fun project! Next up, I want to write about our sail trip to the south seas with two crazy guys and my slightly less crazy husband!

mcm said...

I don't think I've commented on your blog before, though I read it frequently (and enjoy it!).
But I'm very impressed that you've completed a draft of this huge project, and can empathize with the let down and frustration.

And, a thought popped into my head, that may be worth pondering, when you pick up again:
It sounds as though you've written a linear, narrative account of Jim's battle and death. But, maybe it's backwards. For me anyway, "dealing" with death and tragedy comes when the bad outcome is beaten down by the good memories -- the joys/funny stuff/day to day ways that you dealt.
So, maybe you can turn the book around -- start with the "end", and build Jim up again, finishing with the memory of how he lived. Or some permutation of that (like, maybe, pairing before/during chapters that both illustrate aspects of Jim, or something). You've done the hard work -- you've got the narrative of the tragedy down on "paper".
Good luck!

Linda Dorton said...

mcm, Thanks for your comments and suggestions. I appreciate that you are reading my blog.

I am letting the story sit for now, and as the days pass I feel I will be ready to dive back into the project pretty soon. I do need a new perspective and am giving consideration to all the suggestions I receive. It is a huge undertaking and I of all people need to understand that any project like this will need lots of rewrites and rework. I am accepting it now. I had a few hard headed Aries days when I just wanted the damn thing done!