When I started writing chapters of my book, Tough Love: A Wyoming Childhood, I did not have a concrete vision of what the book would be about. All I knew in the early phase was that I had a lot of childhood memories inside of me – good and bad and fun loving and challenging – and a lot of people who had done their fair share in shaping those memories. There was a lot to explore. And those memories and stories were pounding inside me, pleading to be let out, pleading to be set free.
Something surprising happened as I continued to write and revise, write and revise. The book chapters largely started to become an exploration of my complex emotions toward and relationship to my grandparents.
Now that, I never intended.
The writing was hard. It was agonizing at times. Some sentences I pounded out through tears. To see my thoughts, black and real, staring back at me from the computer screen was at once alarming and freeing.
In this act of writing I was communicating some hard truths. I was knitting together a story I never actually set out to tell. But it was, at the time, the story that needed telling. Among the thorns and roses of memory, a story of complex love emerged.
So often, writing is an act of faith. You recognize a single loose end of a thread and you start to pull it, unsure of how it’s going to unravel. You don’t know where you’re going. You know you have to keep going.
That’s faith. It’s having the courage to take the next step, even though the rest of the path is still dark. Sometimes, you only have enough light to see directly in front of you.
Through the tough writing and the unraveling of some momentous events that, years after taking place still needed mining, I finally set a complete story free. Tough Love: A Wyoming Childhood, recounts my years as an only child growing up in the harsh and untamed country of western Wyoming, being molded by and learning to love the very people – those grisly, hard-bitten characters – who you’d think would have been the last to teach me about life’s greatest gift.
Prompt: “Number a page from one to ten and write down every topic you could write about right now. Go with whatever ideas bubble up.” (from The Writer’s Workout: 366 Tips, Tasks & Techniques from your Writing Career Coach, by Christina Katz) (Writer’s Digest Books 2011)