Writer’s Week #3

Madison Street

I broke through 65,000 words on the current draft this week. What’s different this time is completion of the narrative from the beginning through 1970 without breaks in the text. It actually reads like a story.

There is a lot of editing to do. There is nothing to edit unless words get on paper. The writing went well and about a third of the main text has been drafted.

Once I established the process and got going, the words flowed. The section just finished, about where I lived with my family for the final eleven years, is by far the longest. I compressed many potential stories into fewer to make the key points of the autobiography. I wrote smaller inserted parts to set up some of the major themes.

I’m interested in dealing with a couple of themes.

When I was injured and hospitalized at a young age, I learned how interdependent we are in society. It helped me realize how much besides myself is going on. Learning about and leveraging our interdependence has been a part of my life for a long time. My outlook is what I call Cartesian, and I’ve written about that before. Is there anyone else out there? In the context of my hospitalization, the answer is definitely yes, and they can be helpful. We also have an obligation to give back.

My early experiences discussing ethnicity with Father led me to believe I was “American,” whatever that was. What I came to know through life experiences and research is there is a gaping hole in the oral history or what I’ve been calling “family lore.” My focus has been on the coal mining culture. Yet there were enslaved humans in Wise County, Virginia where the family came up, and a climate of racism that was never mentioned among family. The way I learned about Virginia and the Civil War, the enslavement of humans, post-Civil War racism, and the rosy portrait of Robert E. Lee and other southerners in school books, was problematic. Today I recognize being born into white privilege. How I came to that awareness is a major theme.

Lastly, in the first part of the narrative is a discussion of losing Father in an industrial accident when I was age 17. That affected my decision to leave home to attend university. It shaped my life ever since. Having a father and then suddenly not, was traumatic. There were no guideposts on how to handle it. Tracking the change and how I learned to cope is another theme.

What is new to me as a long-form writer is how setting these themes in the narrative is done. Simply put, I had no idea before now. Now that I am figuring it out, and as I do, the pace is snowballing. After writing thousands of blog posts, the challenge of writing in longer form is a voyage of discovery. I’m liking what I see.

It looks like it will be cold again this week, and a chance to stay indoors to write. The pace of social engagements is picking up and somehow I need to blend everything in and stay the course to finishing the main part of the narrative this year.