Writers write to make sense of their experiences and share their insights. Readers read memoirs to find inspiration, hope, and perspective.
“I haven’t read your book, but I can see why you wrote it,” one of my physicians said to me at a follow-up appointment. “It must have been healing to write.”
I’ve reflected on this comment for two months now, not quite sure why I feel unsettled by it. Yes, writing Standing at Water’s Edge helped me process and make sense of my young son’s leukemia and the impact it had on our lives. Reliving (required, and very much a part of the process) and writing about those stressful years of “getting through” uncovered hidden feelings and helped me to face my fears and guilt and let them go. The process was healing. (I wrote about it for the Huffington Post – just out today)
Writing the book solely for me, however, wouldn’t have required the four years I invested learning how to write creative nonfiction (and undoing all those years of writing objective, scientific, data-based papers), four additional years crafting a compelling story that readers would want to read and could benefit from in some way, and four years getting it out into the world. Writers write to be read.
A writer’s job (yes, writing is work) is to craft a narrative of a story that resonates with readers in some way and informs, enlightens, inspires, or entertains them. The story can be fiction or nonfiction, made-up or real life. Readers of nonfiction often say they “feel less alone”, “found new meaning” or “saw a new perspective” after reading about another’s experience that they could relate to. Reading about someone else’s strength and resilience—and how they changed over time—can give us the strength, courage, and hope to adapt to whatever our circumstances may be.
That’s what I hope readers take away from Standing at Water’s Edge. You may not have had a child with cancer, but we’ve all had to face fears and overcome loss and adversity. We all come through our experiences changed in some way. (Click here to read the essence of my story in 6 minutes).
Comments from readers
Comments readers shared about what they got out of Standing at Water’s Edge:
“To read something that an oncology nurse wrote about her own family’s personal experience fighting cancer really opened my eyes and helped me gain a new perspective.” (Goodreads review)
“Your experience reminded me of moments of fear and doubt that surfaced in me after my son’s injuries. It was good to revisit them, because I never took the time in the midst of the crisis and then just moved ahead. Your book makes it safe for your readers to visit their darkest thoughts and fears without falling apart.”
“The author’s vulnerability made me feel seen; her perspective gave me important food for thought; and her strength gave me hope.” (Amazon review)
“I could relate to the parts where you grapple with being present with your children while balancing everything else…and your journey in letting go.”
“You didn’t just survive; you also created a work of art.”
Now that I’ve taken time to reflect on and write about my physician’s comment, I have a better understanding of why I wrote my book (for me, for you, because I could); why readers read memoirs (to find inspiration, hope, perspective, and more), and why I was unsettled by thinking it was all just for me (I’m a teacher and caregiver, and 12 years is a big investment for personal gain alone). I doubt my doctor will read my book, and I’m okay with that. I believe that books find their readers when the time is right to be read.
May you find inspiration and hope in whatever you are reading or writing.