Sharing the lessons along the way…

Book update…help!

After a busy and quite ouchy week last week, I wanted to share a status update with you about my book project and ask for your help.  As many of you know, I have been in the flow writing the stories that best capture my journey through Primary Lateral Sclerosis.

All of the stories that I found to be the most telling about this, 9 year and counting journey, are written!  Their first drafts anyway.  Well, all except the last year, which could be its own book quite frankly.  I have not quite figured out how to tell that part of the story yet.

My trusty editor friend and I are now working on the structure of the book.  This will be the organizational glue that pulls each of the stories together into a cohesive narrative.  I do not wish to share my story chronologically because linear stories tend to bore me as a reader.  Instead, I would like to organize it by life theme/lesson.

Each story has at least one main life theme or potential life lesson with some other lessons or themes introduced by the end of it.  That is just how the stories went and how I viewed what was happening at the time, so these things are there without necessarily having to say it.

Anyway, here is where I could really use your help.  I have a rough list of these themes/lessons that I would like to narrow down into main themes, and perhaps sub-themes beneath them.  Many overlap or could be combined. 

Me and my boys in 2005…together again!

The problem is that I have been looking at this list for a couple of weeks and I cannot seem to trim it down or combine categories.  Perhaps your fresh eyes can help. I will share this long list with you, and if you could comment here on the blog, send me an email or somehow let me know how you might amend the list.   You can even add to the list based on what you have read here in my blog about some of my experiences.  I am open to any feedback you are up to offering and really appreciate any time you might be spending doing any of the above!

Here is the rough (and long) list:

  1. Being present/mindful
  2. Being vulnerable
  3. Asking for help
  4. Receiving help
  5. Perspective of priorities
  6. Illusions
  7. Flexibility/adaptability
  8. Surrendering
  9. Cooperating (with symptoms, pain, fear)
  10. The power of belief
  11. Cyclical nature of grief/loss
  12. Impermanence
  13. Slowing down (value of stillness)
  14. Letting go (of expectations, outcomes)
  15. Not taking things personally
  16. Honoring commitments
  17. Playing (importance of; learning to)
  18. Being open (to options, outside of the box coping)
  19. Humility
  20. Impact on others
  21. Paying attention (to body, others, self, animals)
  22. Dogs as teachers


Next time, I will share an excerpt of one of my draft stories with you.  That is, of course, if something else doesn’t jump out at me that I feel the need to share!



Comments on: "Book update…help!" (1)

  1. Tawny,

    I believe that you can solve your dilemma more easily by looking at two areas: technique and story-telling.

    You are struggling with finding a structure in which to organize your ideas. Don’t try to organize the ideas. Organize the stories behind them.

    The stories that illustrate the qualities that you’ve presented in this list are accessible to a reader–and interesting. It may be impossible for readers to connect these ideas without a narrative frame…but they can easily connect with the stories that illustrate the qualities.

    In fact, I’m guessing that few readers will *want* to read about the ideas without the foundation of the stories. Then they can grapple with intangibles like grief, belief, mindfulness or vulnerability the way you grappled with PLS.

    For example, the personal unconscious is free to organize information and lessons any way it chooses when we dream. Yet the content of dreams is narrative. We may be gripped by powerful feelings during dreams, and left with equally strong feelings upon awakening. But the part that we can hold consciously is the story. Same with the collective unconscious: myth is narrative as well.

    Why not organize the stories that illustrate the qualities on your list. You’re right, sequence does not have to be chronological. But shaping intangibles? Might as well try to build a castle with water. Use your intuition to organize the stories into a sequence that satisfies your heart.

    Second suggestion: technique. That’s what brings ideas and emotion into the tangible world. Two recommendations. “Stein on Writing” by Sol Stein, and “The Writer’s Journey” by Chris Vogler.

    Stein is perhaps the greatest editor of the twentieth century. His authors include James Baldwin, David Frost, Jack Higgins, Elia Kazan, Dylan Thomas, Lionel Trilling, W. H. Auden, Jacques Barzun, and three heads of state. His text is lively and fast-reading. Half of his book is devoted to fiction and you can apply the technique of fiction to your writing. Second half of his book is on the technique of non-fiction writing. Guess what? Non-fiction is about story-telling.

    Chris Vogler took Joseph Campbell’s “Hero With a Thousand Faces” and reworked it to use movies to illustrate the Hero Myth. Very accessible. You are presenting your personal version of the Hero’s Journey. So, understand the structure of the Hero Myth and it may help you organize the lessons of your own journey.

    Can’t wait to read it!


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