Someone Else Wrote My Book. What Now?

I’ve been working on a book about my time with hospice for about five years now–or rather working on it for two years and then procrastinating for three.  On the advice of an agent, I originally started this blog to build an author platform and then got hijacked.  Publishing blog posts is a lot more fun and immediate than slogging away for years on a book that may or may not ever see the light of day.

But while I was thusly blog-distracted, some upstart hospice nurse back east snuck under the police tape and wrote my book before I could finish.  It’s called Transitions by Becki Hawkins and, while I haven’t read the book yet, I did read the press release:

For the most part modern western culture has distanced itself from the celebratory and positive aspects of the dying process, instead either ignoring it, or focusing on only the negative aspects of death…Becki felt there was another more joyous and beautiful side that she was learning from her patients that she wanted to share with others.

That’s exactly what I was going to say.  Shit.

Now don’t get me wrong here.  There does lurk an altruistic/decent person inside me who says thank god and good on her for getting the word out when I was too lazy and undisciplined to get it done.  Ms. Hawkins’s accomplishment is everything good and noble and generous, and Transitions is a wonderful boon to the world and thank you a million times over for writing it.  There.

But I’d be lying if I said there isn’t also a poisonous/jealous writer in a dark corner of my soul, nursing a double and hissing a pox on her for stealing my idea.  (Inner writers are all neurotic, not just mine. Hold the stones please.)

So what now?  Do I shoot my languishing book in the head and put it out of its misery once and for all?  Or do I buck up and take the immortal words (and graphics) of Chuck Wendig over at Terrible Minds to heart?

Well, I’m either a writer or a masochist because I printed this puppy off and taped it up on half the cupboards and all the mirrors in the house.  Guess I’m still in.

The other voice haunting me belongs to the ever wise and balanced Linda over at Rangewriter, and in its own way, is both finer and more compelling.  After being informed that my book was already written, she thought about it for a second then gently asked:

“Do you think one book on this topic is really enough?”

That sobered me.  I looked up from my whiskey and suddenly recalled this one basic truth I heard about writing once that I’d somehow forgotten:

Everything under the sun has already been written about before.  There is no…NO…such thing as a new topic.  Ever.  There are only new voices to express them in different ways, and each one of those voices is important because there’s at least one reader waiting out there that only that voice can reach.

So, do I really think that one book about the joyous and beautiful side of dying is enough?  That Ms. Hawkins and Transitions can (or should) carry the entire burden alone from here?  That all the mindless terror of dying out there in the world has now been forever eased?

Probably not.

But truly, even if her book WAS enough–even if that one truth I know about writing turned out to be sheer self-delusion and there wasn’t really a lonely reader waiting anywhere out there for my unique voice to reach –I could still fall back on this completely selfish reason and finish my book anyway.  It’s from Mr. Wendig again, from his post 25 Things I Want To Say To So-Called “Aspiring” Writersand comes in at #24:

“As a writer, the world you create is yours and yours alone. Someone will always be there to tell you what you can’t do, but they’re nearly always wrong. You’re a writer. You can make anything up that you want. It may not be lucrative. It may not pay your mortgage. But we’re not talking about that. We’re talking about what’s going on between you and the blank page before you. It’s just you and the story. If you love it and you want to write it, then wire your trap shut and write it. And write it well. Expect nothing beyond this — expect no reward, expect no victory parade — but embrace the satisfaction it gives you to do your thing.”

Amen to that Chuck.  Back to the keyboard.

copyright 2012 Dia Osborn

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