I am new to writing nonfiction. In working on my birth essay, I have really struggled about what should stay in, and what should not. As I mentioned here, it’s one of the hardest things I have ever written, maybe the hardest. I think I understand part of the reason why.

There seem to be at least three layers to the story:

1) The first layer is what happened. The truth. Or maybe The Truth. The Facts. The situation. The lived-experience.
2) The second layer is “Our story.” Like the details about the interpersonal relationships that were created and sustained on that day, during that prolonged moment.
3) The third, final, and possibly publishable layer: What I choose to construct so that it fits in the (hopeful) market and will be interesting to readers.

Readers might not care about the little inside jokes between my husband, my doula and me. They don’t necessarily care what the sky looked like as we drove to the hospital, and so many other textures and details that just don’t fit in the 2500 word limit.

It’s disorienting and difficult to construct something tidy from the messy, complicated, ineffable nine months, and then 36 bolded hours of my life.

2 thoughts on “The three layers

  1. I’d like to see “the colors of the sky” and the rest of the sounds, smells, tastes and textures. I think that’s what makes a book personal and believable, and interesting as heck to read. :-) Go for it.

  2. Hi pj,
    Thanks for posting! If I write a book about it, I will include all that stuff. But limiting myself for this publication–in this case, to 2500 words–I have to try to figure out which words do the most. A major challenge! But I will include a few hopefully evocative descriptions. And some day, in my numerous draft files, my daughter will be able to read it all, in its messy, embryonic glory.

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