Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Blood, sweat, tears.

I stopped typing mid-sentence. The rest of the paragraph continued to unfold in my head but I just couldn’t get myself to keep typing it out. I studied my partially-written essay, rereading the same sentence that drew a major tide of hesitation from within. Do I really want to write about that? The question lingered and as I envisioned all of my old friends/enemies/acquaintances and “people I hope to never see again” reading those words. I had the same gripping fear when I wrote the TIPS book; I’d received a fair dose of teasing and bullying during my school years and dreaded over how all those, ahem, “people” reading my words and laughing over something they thought was wrong/stupid/silly, etc.

In this case, though, I dreaded even my most barest of acquaintances reading what I’d just written for a book because it was something personal. It wasn’t something THAT personal – there’s stuff I’ve been through that I could NEVER write for publication even if I was paid a million bucks to do it, because I just can’t talk about that sort of thing or open those old wounds. And while what I’d just written WAS personal, it didn’t fall into the same category as those never-to-be-published episodes. Still, it was something I just wouldn’t bring up in a conversation with someone I barely knew, let alone someone who was voluntarily reading a book I was writing now.

When I’d first mentioned this book to a friend, who is also a nonfiction author, she suggested that I keep it personal. I kept this in mind as I wrote about how I’d endured episodes of my father constantly reminding me of how hard it will be to be a deaf parent, how I’d gone through times where I couldn’t even understand my own child and how I’d cried from the frustrations of having a hand disability while trying to care for my child. But here I was now, writing about how I’d been too terrified to hold my baby the day after I’d given birth to her. It’s not because I thought she was so small and fragile (which I did), but because I was afraid I would drop her, because of my bad hand. And this isn’t something I tell just ANYONE. I mean, why would a stranger even care? They don’t know me and, unless they have a physical disability themselves, they wouldn’t really care. But I did. I cared because it’s not really something I can easily admit to.

When we write our books, we somehow manage to put a piece of ourselves into them. When I rewrote my novel, even as I wrote from several different points-of-view, I know that some parts of myself showed in my characters or even in the scenes. That stuff just has a way of getting into the books and into the stories. Even with Anne Rice, John Grisham and Michael Connelly, that can happen. We all have written our books literally with our blood, sweat and tears.

But this was nonfiction. I have control over what I’ll put of myself into this book and what I won’t. My muse may have thought it was okay to share with the world my initial fear of holding my baby or how I’d walked into my bedroom to see her hanging over her crib on a day she’d tried to climb out of it, but I was having a problem with that. I don’t have a problem sharing SOME things about my life, but other things won’t make it into print. Not by my hand, anyway.

Then I think about what that kind of writing has done for readers. So many people have written to me about the things I’d written about being deaf, thanking me for inspiring them with these stories, and that’s what keeps me driving full speed ahead. I think about what people might say about the more personal things I write about. Would all of this make me appear more “human” to my readers? Would it help them to relate to these experiences in some way? Does it give the book as a whole more staying power?

Another thing I think about is how others have commented on other authors sharing such personal snippets of their lives. When I’d read about how Jenna Glatzer was able to “talk candidly” about her rape experience, I was floored. I though, ‘My God, she was able to share THAT?! In a book??’ I wanted to write to Jenna and ask her how she’d found the strength ... and the courage to write about something so horrible, so personal. I never did (because I know she’s busy enough!) but I’m still taken aback over how she was able to do it. I know I never could.

But what did writing about it do for her, as a person? Did it help her amend her pain in some way? Did it make her realize that she has the capacity to share something like this in a medium that stretches out to the whole world? Did it help her come to terms with it? I may not be proud to admit that I was too scared to hold my baby after she was born, but it’s still something that I’d rather not discuss at length. As I reread my essay and thought about how it did warrant the mention since I was talking about my physical disabilities, after all, I realized that sharing this with readers DID serve a purpose. In this way, I would not just be making myself appear more human to them, but I’d also be sharing with them that I’ve been through the exact same thing. I’ve been there. And I got through it. If I can give one other physically disabled new parent out there the strength to overcome their fear of holding their newborn thanks to my story, then there really isn’t any harm in letting that one out of the closet.


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