Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Courage to Write

Corrine had a great idea yesterday. Why not turn our experiences in adoption into a short memoir? From a man's perspective - a father's point of view? Start from about a year ago when we took four weekends of classes together, and finish when B is legally ours, which would be sometime next June (if the current schedule holds.)

I loved the idea. It makes perfect sense, in fact. I'm a writer, a father, a man, and I think I could easily fill a couple hundred pages on the subject. I think people would read it, too.

Now, before you spew coffee through your noses this morning, please understand the motivation is NOT to profit off the adoption of our son. If you're a writer reading this, you're smiling. Because you know only about a half a percent of writers actually make money from their writing.

This is not a get-rich-quick scheme, Alice.

Corrine's argument (I was skeptical at first) went something like this: "Do you know how rich we could get off this!?!?"

She's a hustler, that girl of mine. Always checking the angles.

Actually, what she said was that a story about the adoption of a child, from a man's point of view, would be a welcomed change. People associate adoption with women, I guess. Or with sentimentality. Or with things like feelings and emotions. You know, stuff guys don't really have?

And God knows men are not sentimental creatures. Well, unless we're watching Brian's Song or Field of Dreams or The Natural.

I, on the other hand, am a well of emotion. A veritable spring of gushing sentiment. I can cry on cue, almost.

So, I agreed with her. A little memoir about my feelings and experiences with adoption. I've started scribbling notes. Some ideas about theme. It can't be just a chronology of events. That would be boring. There has to be a thread through it. What would it be? Well, I can't determine that now. It will expose itself in due time.

And as I sat jotting initial thoughts down, pieces of my life started creeping into it. Things not specifically associated with the adoption itself. Things about being a father, about having a father. Some funny anecdotes of my childhood. And poignant scenes, too, like when Fallon was first born.

And after about an hour of this brainstorming, a fear crept in. If I'm to write about my feelings, and if the sphere of storytelling continues to expand so that it includes Fallon, and Harrison and my parents, etc. ... how much do I put in? Naturally if I write about parenting, then it stands to reason I would have to include Fallon and Harrison's mom, from whom I am divorced. Do I include the sordid details of the divorce, too? And will she balk at the idea of her being in a memoir?

Ahhh, the bogeyman has paid a visit. The age-old dilemma of memoirists: can you be true to your story without violating the trust of those who share a life with you?

Now, listen. I'm not saying I want to write bad things about these people. But, you know, there are things in my life (as there are in everyone's life) that are painful. If I am to be honest - and that's what a memoir is, honest - then I need to include some events that may or may not reflect too well on myself, and therefore, not too well on my loved-ones.

How far is too far? Do I need these people's permission to even include them? Do I change their names to protect them? But then again, let's be real, people will know who they are, I mean, come on.

This is not a tell-all. It's not an expose. It is, however, an exploration of my feelings about parenting, in a broader sense, and as it relates specifically to the adoption of a child. Naturally, I don't live in a vacuum. I interact with other humans, many of whom have helped shape my personal history. Including (significantly) my first wife, my parents, my siblings, my children.

Do I tip-toe, for example, around my divorce? Do I delve into the specifics (scandalous, many would say - sorry, but that's a part of my life, too) or do I just say "Voila! one morning I woke up I was divorced)? This passage of my life affected my children both positively and negatively. And it called into question (in my mind) my skills (or lack thereof) as a father.

The thing is, some parts of my life, when exposed, will not reflect very good on me, but it will reveal me as a human, with flaws, particularly as a father. It will also delve into my relationships with my own parents, some good, and some bad. That's the whole point of this. No one wants to read a story from a guy who comes across as having nothing wrong with him, who has made all the right choices and lives a trauma-free life.


So back to the memoir. What was a great idea yesterday is now scaring the hell out of me. Which means I have to do it. There's no turning back. I've been presented with a challenge: to be brutally honest about who I am as a human, a father, a man, with all the blemishes, but within the context of this adoption. People I know may or may not embrace it. I will have push back, I'm sure. Resistance by some who will insist that either my version of events is flawed (and therefore a big fat lie), or that I have no right whatsoever to mention them.

Oh boy.

Deep breath.


  1. YES! I'm with Corrine. This is a book that totally wants to be written!

    And stop putting the cart before the horse!

    Sit down, write the first draft. Put it all in, don't hold back, don't sweat anyone else's feelings.

    Then write the second draft.

    THEN... and only THEN... go back, see what you have, consider what to put in and what to exclude, etc.

    Let your publisher worry about the legalities, permissions, etc. That's why they have legal departments!

    Happy writing!

  2. Congratulations on having such a powerful, inspiring idea. The feelings you are having are normal, and they will come and go as you write. The act of writing, as you know, is cathartic, and this subject matter will be no exception. By writing all that comes up for you, you will give yourself a powerful gift of healing and release. Then you can cut later. You will know what to do when it's time. Good for you!

  3. Great advice from you both!

  4. I think it's a terrific idea (Corrine is so smart) and you should go for it. I love reading about your life and experiences - you have such a great point of view and that twisted sense of humor that makes it all so enjoyable.

    Do it.

  5. I say write what spews from your heart and ask permission later from those whose opinions matter. And hey, are you sure this wasn't MY idea? I feel like I suggested it a while back. I can't believe you would put more credence to your wife's suggestions than to mine! Sheesh!