How honest can you be on the page? When you read a non-fiction book (but not a memoir) how much do you really want to know about the author’s life?
A few months ago, I felt like God was telling me to give my family a flippin’ break (that may not have been God’s exact words) and stop writing about them for a while.
I’ve got amazing teenagers that I actually enjoy, I didn’t want to jinx that. Like every marriage, mine has both joys and challenges. My kids and husband applauded my decision. I began writing books when my children were one and three—they’ve provided anecdotes for books and blog posts ever since. Because family life has taught me much about God. But I just sensed God telling me to just live with them and find other things to write about.
Um, what else do people write about?
Just kidding. Sort of. This sabbatical from self-disclosure, or rather, family disclosure, has been freeing. I still take notes in my journal but I am free to simply enjoy my family. I think not writing about my husband has strengthened our marriage.
This self-censorship also brought a revelation. Previously, when people asked me how I was doing, I would talk about how well (or not) my kids or husband was doing. If they were okay, I was okay. By keeping them off the page, I also began keeping them out of conversations. Instead of complaining about what they were or were not doing, I began to focus on positive things that I was doing with my work, my friends. I began to focus my energy on my own growth: in my spiritual walk, in my career.
But this week, as I mentioned in my previous post, I received the edited manuscript for Deeply Loved. Written before my resolution, it came back from the editor with a request: in places where I’d written about others, I needed to get their permission. Turns out I had stories about my dad, my brother, my daughter and my husband in this book. They’re good stories, but the editor wanted signed permission slips saying it was okay to write about each of them.
I also realized I wrote this manuscript last fall and winter (such is the long, winding road of traditional publishing) during a particularly difficult season of our lives. So while the stories of my dad, brother and daughter are positive, several mentions of my husband allude to his unemployment at the time, and how that impacted our lives. They are stories of how God provided in the midst of a needy season, how challenges forced us to rely upon God, but still…
We’re in a different season now–a much better one.
So do I take out those parts of the book? Deeply Loved is about knowing and experiencing the love of Jesus, personally and individually. Those challenges forced me to trust God more, pushed me into his strong and loving arms. In a difficult season, I saw God provide for us: spiritually, emotionally, even financially.
But how much of the struggle do you reveal? If I say “trust God” without at least mentioning some of the challenges, will readers say, “easy for you to say, you don’t have the same challenges I do!” As readers, when an author writes about how they have come to trust God even when things look bleak, do you want to know about the specifics?