Over the past four months, I’ve been wrestling with whether to publish the manuscript that has sat on my laptop for the past three years. For a variety of neurotic reasons, I have vacillated about what to do with it, but I’ve never been able to simply ignore it.
Every time I embark on a new path of creative exploration or growth, this book surfaces again. It has coaxed me through two spiritual crises, followed me through a creative awakening along The Artist’s Way, and, most recently, positioned itself in the middle of my six-month Playing Big journey. This time, however, it locked me in a holding pattern, cleverly keeping me from moving my story forward until I dealt with the indecision. And in the last month, I have finally uncovered the source of my resistance: while the book may be factually accurate, it isn’t wholly true.
Let me explain.
I write about the journey of life. I write about growth, creative expression, showing up, faith, serendipity, and being happy. And I try to write with as much integrity as I can about my flaws and occasional moments of insight or grace. But on this blog and throughout the 60,000 words and six rewrites of the manuscript in question, I never once specifically mention my partner in crime and life, Kim, even though she and I have been together for more than six years.
You are probably thinking, “Gee, Carolyn, that’s a pretty big omission.”
Gee… you think?
Of course, now it seems incredibly obvious, not to mention ridiculous. But I couldn’t see this gap in the telling of my story, in large part because I was in the middle of actually living it. On a day-to-day basis, the cycle of growth of three steps forward and two steps back feels slow going—until you realize that the story you’ve been telling about yourself is no longer true.
Sometimes we need a little distance to fully see how our stories are evolving—how they have already evolved, usually without our noticing. Inevitably, that broader perspective changes the arc, moving the dramas of the past to their proper place, as supporting characters certainly, but no longer the central plot.
Without much conscious orchestration on my part, over the past six months, I have begun to tell a very different story. Suddenly (give or take six years), censoring the part of my life that teaches me the most feels completely unsatisfying. And hypocritical. At best, it yields only half the story…and barely a blog post a month.
Frankly, I have tormented Kim about what to do with the manuscript for nearly three years, since I finished it the first time. She’s sick of hearing about it. Publish it. Don’t publish it. Burn it. Make a decision. And I can’t blame her. But this time my questions have changed, sounding less neurotic and more just honest.
What if the manuscript on my laptop is only a piece of my own puzzle meant to inform, rather than supplant, a broader story? What’s possible if I free myself from having to sanitize or neatly button up my latest life lesson? What might I write if I give myself permission to tell the whole story, to show up on the page and in life as the whole, yet still in-progress me? More importantly, who might I become?
Admittedly, those questions feel big and a little unsettling, which is likely why it has taken me six weeks to finish and post this article. But there’s a lot of freedom in them too—and probably another book or two.
In its current incarnation, the manuscript has more than served its purpose. That’s not to say I won’t borrow a good story from it as my own continues to unfold. But when I described all of this to Kim—what I want to write and how I want to write—she looked at me with a big grin and said, “I think you have the answer.” I’ll credit her for having the grace not to voice the thought that passed between the two of us: at last.
And so begins The Whole Story…