Sunday, July 19, 2009
guest blogger Peter Jurich
I’m starting out the week with a guest blogger, Peter Jurich. Peter has an interesting story, and he tells it in his book Typing with One Hand, available at www.typingwithonehand.com and http://stores.lulu.com/store.php?fAcctID=2472901. Peter has learned quite about the writing process, and himself. Here’s what he has to say:
Sometime last year, I met a very successful author -- as in internationally bestselling successful. I excitedly blurted out that I had written a book and wanted advice. "You can't be older than 21!" he told me, albeit being two years off. "Your job right now is to be sleeping with the wrong people!" I was bitter about this for a long time. I was not discouraged, but disappointed that a true author -- one who has really made it -- would try to dissuade young writers from chasing their dreams. I was angry that he would be so narrow-minded as to assume that no good could come out of the mind of a 23-year-old
Only a few days ago, though, it hit me -- while I'm very proud of the book I published through Lulu, I can't stomach reading it. Not because it is bad, mind you, but every time I open it up, I squirm over passages that I would now have written much differently. Even though it is being very well received by many readers and I'm still selling copies, it feels to me like it is written by a completely different person. I suppose that is what happens when you start writing your memoir at 19.
Typing With One Hand is a coming of age story with a twist. When I was three years old, I was diagnosed with three brain tumors and two strokes. Surgeries went well, but I've since had limited fine motor skills in my left hand and an odd little gait. The story addresses issues that every boy deals with in adolescence to young adulthood, coupled with a unique disability. The narrative follows me from first grade in a private Catholic school that made me both hate my first name and question my faith, to high school where hormones explode and bullies run amok, to college where I moved into my first real apartment... and then moved home again.
Writing the memoir was oftentimes a very frustrating experience for me. Not only was it my first book (so I was in over my head right from there start), but I began writing it at a time when I was still trying to develop my literary voice and find myself as a person. How is it that anyone can write a memoir when they aren't even sure who or where they are yet?
Harper Lee once said that there's a difference between people who want to write and people who have to write. I suppose I was the latter because of my determination, but I was going against all odds because of my age. I never set a schedule for myself; when I did, I wouldn't stick to it; I wrote without purpose; and I wrote with no specific audience in mind ("A book for everyone" is really a book for no one). The results reflected the technique I'm sure, as the first draft was 120,000 words of incoherent nonsense.
The book was finished in two and a half years. The second draft was 80,000 -- one-third the first -- and far more focused. My routine was still pretty sketchy, but I had at least decided it should be a YA book seeing as I'm a young adult myself. Those who had read it online at www.typingwithonehand.com -- most of whom were total strangers -- proved that the book had marketability, so I self-published using Lulu in January.
Even today, I get a strange feeling when I see someone with my book. It is a strange feeling because, while I know I wrote it, it was written by someone very unlike myself. Someone who was more undisciplined, unorganized, and unhardened by the pile of rejections letters that did not yet exist in his desk drawer.
But, oddly enough, that is also what I like about the book. It's totally representative of the person that I used to be. I understand now what the author was trying to tell me because he had probably been there himself -- determined to write a book while changing hormonally and chaotically as a person. Sure, he could've been a little nicer about his message, but that's OK; I assured him, in the meantime, I can BOTH write and sleep with the wrong people.
What do you do when you read old work that is different from your current style? Do you go back and rightfully correct it, or do you accept that it was written by who you were at the time and proudly let it be? What is the better choice?