Where to begin

I am coming home to my writing life. It feels good to be home. My writing life has been enriched and interrupted by choices, detours, luck, and blessings. I have lived and observed and experienced and survived and thrived in this journey. With that in mind, I hope my writing reflects a life well-lived.

My books line the walls of my office. And my bedroom. And the bathroom. And the hall. I have a library of e-books on my smart phone, but physical books are as necessary to my environment as the art on my walls. I like the smell and sound of turning paper pages. And the visual heftiness of bound books. They invite me to add to their existence with my own creations.

I’ve been reading annual reports, newsletters, curriculum materials, and other material about my mother and the prison school system she headed. I’ll be honest with you. This project—gathering material to write my mother’s biography—is a hefty one. I’ve got so much in my head right now, I feel like my brain is going to explode. And I still have dozens of people to interview. I wonder how I will get the narrative shaped into a book. Is there too much? Not enough?

I get overwhelmed when I think like this. My courage as a writer dissipates and my internal critic screams defeat in my heart’s ear. But other writers have been here, and I instruct my heart to listen to their metaphorical advice. The best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time… the way to write a book report about birds is bird by bird… D.L. Doctorow says it best when he likens writing to driving at night in the fog. I don’t have to know how this biography is going to work. All I have to do is write what I know as far as I know and be open to what else appears.

I have always said: “The hardest thing about writing is to begin.” It’s time I listened to myself. It’s time to just begin. I can deal with where to put it on my bookshelf—and yours—later.