Is it time to let my dream die?
After I finished the manuscript for my memoir two months ago, I took a few days from writing off to celebrate. Three long years of working on my book finally came to fruition, and I felt a certain amount of pride having finished what I started.
During those three years, even when I felt too scared to write, the book kept calling to me and urging me to get it all out in the open. Every joy and sorrow of my adult life lies within its pages. Whenever I’d give up on writing it, which happened many times, something always pulled me back to finish.
The book centers around redemption, mine in particular. It chronicles the darkest days I’ve ever had, the mistakes I made, and how I recovered to live the life I have today. Writing it was incredibly healing. The scary things that happened weren’t so scary anymore. Getting the words down helped me look at things more objectively and see where I went wrong as well as right. I also learned that I’ll never go back to the person I was in the bad days. Writing about the events briefly took me back there, but I didn’t have to stay.
One thought ran through my mind as I wrote. What if there are other women like me who can’t envision a better life for themselves? What if my book showed them there is a way out of their toxic situation? If I got through the bad stuff, maybe they could do it, too. I felt disheartened at the thought there were people out there who felt completely alone and like nobody understood them. If they felt like they could relate to my book, that could only be a good thing, right?
After my short celebratory break from writing, I read every book on self-publishing I could get my hands on. I enlisted beta readers and even paid for professional editing to make everything look perfect. It was full speed ahead with the planning process, and my level of excitement grew with every milestone I passed. I was shooting for the end of the summer to publish, feeling like everything was ready to go. However, there was something in the back of my mind the whole time. Eventually, it got so big I couldn’t ignore it anymore.
There’s no way I can publish this book because it might hurt my children.
My oldest son is 21, my middle son is 17, and my daughter is 12. I love them more than anything on this Earth. When I was at my worst, as detailed in the book, I wasn’t able to spend much time with them, so I cherish every loving moment we have together. I wouldn’t hurt them for anything in the world.
There are a lot of stories in my book I think they already know, but I’m not sure about that. I end up looking pretty bad in most of the 300 pages. There were things I did that were shameful and selfish. Would it be too much for them to read about my former drug addiction, or would my story fill in some blanks they had when I was in the middle of it? I’ve heard it said that when you badmouth a parent, the child takes it to heart as an affront to themselves. Would that apply if I was saying bad things about myself?
I know my boys particularly feel protective of me. Would they feel that even more strongly if they read my book? I don’t want them to feel like they have to take care of me. They are still young and going off on their own soon to make their way in the world, and I don’t want anything to hold them back.
What about the parts where I talk about the boys’ dad and our divorce? Again, I’m not sure how many details they already know, but I don’t want to do anything that might cloud their relationship with their father. What happened in the marriage was between the two of us, but would the kids feel involved and like they had to take sides? I harbor no resentment that things didn’t work out, but would I be placing that resentment into the minds of my sons?
What about my daughter? She was too young to remember the bad things that happened. What will she think of her mother, and will she take that burden on herself? My plan was not to tell her about my book until she grew up, but what if she found out about it somehow? Even though the story ends with a positive arc, would she focus on the negative and hold it against me?
I hoped when my daughter was older, she would read it and see how I put my life back together after surviving tough times, but I can’t guarantee that will be the result. What if she is angry with me instead? What could I say to her to undo the damage already done?
It has been my dream to write a book since I was in the fourth grade. Whenever somebody asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I always said “author” without hesitation. I’ve been writing on and off since then, including short stories, journal entries, and later online articles. I never thought I would have an actual book ready to publish. It makes me feel proud of myself. Writing my memoir helped heal so many wounds that still scarred me years later.
Can I let that be enough? Is it okay to simply give up on your dreams? As much as I desperately want this book out in the world, could I instead stuff it in my junk drawer or run it through the shredder and never talk about it again? Would I be able to ignore how much doing that would break my heart?
If it came down to reaching my dreams versus potentially hurting my children, the kids would win out every time. I’m a mom first and a writer second, and I never want them to shed a tear because of me ever again. Maybe some dreams are better left unfulfilled.