I guess that's what I planned to do, at the beginning of this process. I knew it wouldn't be easy to turn a blog into a book - after all, I post without any proper editing; sometimes I write in present tense and sometimes in past tense; sometimes I just post photos. I knew that in order to get that stuff into book format, I'd be doing a lot of rearranging and fixing.
But then I downloaded all my text into a word document, and I found out that the real issue is not typos or editing or tense or any of that other kind of stuff. The real issue is pace.
Do you know what I mean by pace? Pace is, basically, how quickly the interesting things happen in a story. A good book has a reasonably constant sense of narrative tension running through it - this narrative tension acts like a tug on a string that is tied to the reader, pulling you forward into the next chapter and the next and the next. Some books pull you gently and others yank you in and give you whiplash, but an interesting story will always leave you wanting to turn the next page. To make this happen, authors need to make time behave in strange ways. Look at nearly any book, and you'll notice that three weeks happens in half a page, then two chapters are devoted to a one-hour party*. This is usually because no interesting things happened during that three-week stretch, and then lots of interesting things happened at the party.
This is basically the opposite of how blogging works. A blog is a chronicle of life as it's being lived. I post about once a week, so that means that I had about a hundred blog posts on waiting for a match (when nothing interesting happened) and ooh, about one on being in Ethiopia (when lots of interesting things happened). Yeah, that's not going to make for a very interesting book.
In the end - because of this stuff about pace - I basically ditched everything I had blogged and started writing again from scratch; I knew that was the only way to start winding a thread that might draw a reader in. And it made me think a lot about the difference between how we remember things, how we tell things, and how they really are.
Why don't we tell stories as they really were? Why don't we take the same amount of time to tell something as it really took to happen? I think the answer is - the hard bits, the waiting, the not-knowing, the uncertainty, the suffering - all those bits of our stories? Boring! So boring. This is why Hollywood gave us the magical thing known as: the montage. You know what I mean - a song is playing, the hero/ine is working** for something they believe in, and we see everything happen, but quickly, with music and drama. It's very clever, because in in two and a half minutes all the effort and waiting is over. We feel like we've been there, without any of the pesky, you know, actually being there. Here's the most famous example:
But what does this scene from Rocky have in common with your life? Oh yeah, that's right: nothing. Real life does not have montages. In real life, the the hard bits, the waiting, the not-knowing, the uncertainty, the suffering - those bits don't have any drama, and they don't have any music either. They're just hard and horrible and make you crazy. And by you I mean me.
The strange thing is, when we remember things, we don't really remember them they way they were - we tend to remember them the montage-way, remember them more like stories. We put put the stages we went through into neat little boxes - or I do, anyway. When I'm thinking about what we went through when we adopted, all the bits fit into one of these little boxes: The Fertility Horror Show, The Deciding, The Waiting, The Meeting, The Transition, And Then The Final Bits. So, even though the Waiting took approximately a hundred times longer than The Meeting, they kind of occupy the same space in my head. They are the same amount of story, even though they took vastly different amounts of time. It was a shock to me to go back to old bits of my blog and see just how long it all took.
I know that it was years between me getting an unwelcome, fertility-affecting genetic diagnosis and me becoming a mother. I know that I waited years - and I'm still kind of mad about it, sometimes - but that's not really what the memory feels like. Now that I'm out of it, the Waiting doesn't occupy a hundred times more space in my memory than the other bits, even though it took a hundred times as long.
Sometimes, if I'm honest, this probably makes me unsympathetic to people who are still in the middle of those things, whether adoption things or other kinds of hard-ness-es. I get bored when people continue to suffer and it's outside my limits of patience.
I need to remember to be kinder to people I know who are still living in the middle of a montage, who are in the thick of things. And today, I just wanted to say, if that's you, I hope you're doing okay. I'm sorry if the world's impatience with your suffering is making you sad.
Because I can remember that I've suffered, I think that I know what it's like, but I'm not really sure that I do. As someone who is out the other side, the memory of Waiting is just a tiny piece of my brain -whereas when I was a person who was Waiting, I'm pretty sure it took up all of my brain, entirely.
Once it was my whole life, now it's just a remembered montage. Now it's just a few pages in a book.
I'm trying to remember that this isn't what it felt like at the time.
*Unless you're reading something like 1984, by George Orwell. There are very few parties in Orwell.
**Or, in the case of Pretty Woman, shopping. Worst movie EVER. (And that's from someone who loves shopping).