I’ve been rejected by over 200 agents.
I’ve failed to sell as many books as I’ve sold.
These are two of my war stories from writing. I have plenty more, like how I lost my first two agents. How I spent the entirety of one Christmas vacation editing a novel. The list could go on and on.
Over the past month I’ve also heard many war stories from parents and nurses about dealing with type 1 diabetes. I’ve shared my own:
I had to use a syringe after I’d dropped it on a filthy bar’s bathroom floor.
I was so embarrassed about my disease I never talked about it.
We tell these stories, not necessarily because we enjoy what they reveal about our failures, but rather what they demonstrate about life. There is a universal desire to speak about how we have been there and have done that, not to boast, but to educate, to possibly save someone from the same mistakes we have made.
But these stories come at a price, as does anything told honestly. We are vulnerable after the telling, and may appear weak to others. But I don’t care about that. I have always been a staunch advocate for telling the truth, even when I couldn’t. I believe that transparency is fundamental in understanding our own lives, but that doing such is most often easier said than done.
I am an awful person when I am editing for a deadline. I might as well move out of my house.
My heart breaks every time my daughter says she likes having diabetes. I know she’s coping, but I also know what’s around the corner.
In Tim O’Brien’s masterpiece, The Things They Carried, he dedicates an entire chapter to “How to Tell a True War Story” and the message is thus:
“In a true war story, if there’s a moral at all, it’s like the thread that makes the cloth. You can’t tease it out. You can’t extract the meaning without unraveling the deeper meaning. And in the end, really, there’s nothing much to say about a true war story, except maybe ‘Oh.'”
Writing and chronic illness are not Vietnam, and I do not mean to belittle the atrocities of war. However, there is truth in O’Brien’s words for us in these battles. We may not be able to listen to the story told and immediately know how it applies to our own life. And possibly we never will. But we may also, out of the blue, have a sense of recognition so profound that the “Oh” is more epiphany than confusion.
Keep telling your war stories. They matter. Possibly more than you’ll ever know.