The story behind the story

For any book, there is the story depicted between the covers—the “official” story that people will read. Hopefully, this version is somewhat tidy. It has been edited and polished and made as presentable as possible.

But then there is the story of how that story came to be. This one is a big sloppy mess, filled with tears and self-doubt.

Because this same duality applies to any creative endeavor, I wanted to share a little here about the story behind my book, A None’s Story. My hope is that it encourages you to continue on the path of something important that you may be trying to accomplish at this very moment.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve considered myself a writer. This makes no sense because I didn’t necessarily enjoy the act of writing for its own sake and I almost never wrote anything that wasn’t an assignment. I longed to be the kind of person who crafted short stories for fun or religiously kept a journal, but I wasn’t that sort of person. Sometimes I’d start one or the other thinking I could make myself that person, but the effort would peter out after a few lines. I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to say—much less how I might say it.

I’d read interviews with writers I admire and they almost always said their brains were bursting with words they had to put on paper ever since they could hold a pencil. I thought if I wasn’t like that then I must not be a real writer. A real writer has a story or an idea or a message that needs to get out of them bad enough that they will do the hard work of committing it to paper.

I wrote for a grade and, later, a paycheck. I would arrange words around other people’s ideas and actions. It was writing, sure, but it was writing as more of a technical act, from which I could keep a safe distance.

Yet, a faint voice kept telling me I was a writer—and it meant the kind whose writing originates from her own heart and mind regardless of whether she has anyone to whom she must hand it upon its completion. At first the gap between what it was telling me and my reality was small enough that I could easily ignore it. But the more years that went by, the vaster that chasm felt. The misalignment went from a nagging discomfort to a much deeper ache, which I tried to soothe with food, television, inebriating substances—anything, everything, but my own writing.

At last I grew so miserable that I decided to talk back to the voice. I said: If I’m supposed to write, tell me what I should write about.

I didn’t think it would have an answer, and then I would have won. But it did. It replied: Religion.

That’s when I understood this voice was a fool.

Religion? Of all the topics in the world, religion was the least I was likely to pursue. I knew nothing about it. I had grown up with no religion. The depth of my ignorance on that particular subject was bottomless. Wasn’t the advice about writing to “write what you know”? Religion was the stupidest answer it could have given me.

You don’t write what you don’t know, dummy.

At first I felt better because I had a new excuse to ignore the voice. Then I felt sad because the voice hadn’t given me a better answer. Then I got depressed because I still had nothing to write about.

Finally, it got bad enough that I once again engaged the voice.

I told it: But I don’t know anything about religion.

I was in bed, wallowing in despair, when a reply came. It said: Then learn, and write about that.

I sat up.

Now this was a new twist. I had been extremely curious about religion for as long as I could remember. Was it possible that somehow my lack of expertise on the subject could work in my favor? Maybe my ignorance didn’t make my voice matter less; perhaps, in a strange way, it made it matter more.

Still, the logistics of such an undertaking were overwhelming and I put it off until the pain of not doing it was greater than the pain of taking one tiny little baby step at a time toward the goal. Even then, the two sides—the one saying I could do this and the other telling me I was an idiot for even trying—duked it out daily.

I was lucky in that the voice saying I could do it, though much quieter, was more persistent. It didn’t win every single day. In fact, it lost more times than I care to recall. Then, for a time, I would feel defeated and ridiculous, eyes swollen from crying, ready to give up.

For five years, the battle raged.

That’s how this book got written.

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33 thoughts on “The story behind the story

  1. Oh my goodness! I had no idea you went through all that, Corinna. I’m amazed at the voice, and its persistence, and your conversation with it. The voice is you and it’s not you. At the same time. There’s some “religion” for me today.

  2. I have been having the same conversation with myself since I picked up my first crayon at age 4 (first I can remember, that is). I really appreciate that you kept listening, and that it has led to a ‘birth’ in your new book. I will use your experience as a touchstone, and as I remind myself that I CAN be Grandma Moses, lol.

    Looking forward to your book. With much fondness,
    Yours in Christ,

  3. Perfect for me today. It shares my God beliefs to a “T”. Whether we call it spiritual or religious it’s a personal experience. Not one that needs to seek converts or one that needs to be defended. It just is and it’s your experience.

  4. Corinna,
    Many of your blog readers have come away richer and fuller in life because of that quiet, persistent voice. Thank you.

  5. Corinna,
    I remember talking with you about this when you had us at your house for dinner, several years ago now, but I recently stumbed upon it through Facebook and all I can say is wow. What a wonderful accomplishment and what an amazing journey. I hope to be able to read your book, but right now, I am just really appreciating the story of how the story came to be. This post touched me more than you can know. You are courageous; determined; funny; authentic; and so beautiful. Inside and out. Thank you for never giving up on this endeavor, and more importantly, never giving up on yourself. I wish you nothing but the best.
    Jaime

  6. When you first mentioned your idea
    I thought wow, hard. Why not something about dogs?:) But instead
    You stuck to gods and we are all so happy you did!!! We celebrate you & the journey. Looking forward to reading your book. Congratulations big time
    Love, bec

  7. Corinna, you are inspirational. I enjoyed your “unofficial story” very much and I will be delighted to read the “official story”, too!
    (I’m a friend of your mom’s in Paris)……………. bonne année 2016, may this year bring the best of luck to you!

  8. Your journey is universal, Corinna, but your introspective insights impress me as unique and so worthwhile. I love your writing and this blog post feels like a great way for old and new readers to get back into your voyage of discovery. Really looking forward to “A None’s Story.” (Hope you’re getting ready to face the nun/none question/comment a hundred and one times.)

  9. Hi Corinna,

    You have a way with words that makes what you say quite compelling. I’m envious, as it’s quite a gift and talent to possess….

    Just curious, though: is this voice you hear a real perception, or is this voice not real, but used as a literary device?

    I ask, because there’s been brain research conducted over the past decade on those who claim to hear voices in their head (typically schizophrenics, but also those undergoing significant emotional distress, such as hearing the voice of a recently-deceased loved one: there’s many causes).

    It turns out that such voices are a real perception, as their existence has been validated by functional MRI studies which show increased activity in those areas of the brain associated with hearing external sounds. These studies show signs of activity in a completely silent room even as the voice hearer report hearing a voice (they push a button whenever the voice says something).

    The cause? Apparently there’s crossed connections in their brains, such that they misattribute their own inner voice to an external source with its own agency; however, it’s simply their own inner voice “in disguise”.

    The implications for believers are profound, when one considers that all the main characters in the Bible (Adam, Noah, Abraham, Jesus, etc) are recorded as having heard the voice of God. The Bible seems to have been written by voice hearers for voice hearers, since it’s narrative is especially compelling and resonates on a personal level for those whom also hear voices (Google “schizotypal voice hearers” for more information).

    Anyway, now that I wrote that, I vaguely recall posting this same information a few years ago on this blog (I guess that’s the problem with suffering multiple episodes of closed-head trauma and suffering skull fractures when falling unconscious from seizures: it plays Hell with one’s memory and cognitive capabilities! Don’t worry: after regaining consciousness in the ICU for the 3rd time with a massive headache from a sub-arachnoid hemorrhage, I finally got it through my thick skull that it might be a good idea to control the condition by remembering to take my meds).

    🙂

    Anyway, congrats on the book! I’ll keep an eye out for it on the shelves (I spent a lot of time around books these days).

    C

    • Hi C, The voice I engaged with was not audible in that I thought it came from outside of myself. It was more an idea that popped into my head that seemed a bit illogical so that it felt like it came from a source that wasn’t my logical self. In that way, it would often spur an argument–but it was me or my voice on both sides of the conflict. I’m fascinated by brain chemistry and function. Thank you for being here and sharing your experience.

  10. Corinna, it was a true honor to be part of your journey. If nothing else, it proved the people of goodwill, regardless of what faith they followed, or if they followed none at all, could still find common ground and respect each other’s opinions beliefs. You gave all of us a gift that’s all too rare these days.

    • Yes! That was my hope, Tim…to see if we could have a dialogue even if we are coming from different angles. I think it is possible and I hope for more of it in the future. You’ve been a wonderful example of how to do it with grace and humor.

  11. Wow! Hey all! This is like “old home week” to those of us who have followed your journey, Corinna.

    I only got around to reading your background post yesterday. It touched me deeply and I think we have something in common for sure: I used to do the same ‘journal’ thing….what I found was that I loved to string a bunch of great words together, but when I went back the next day or later it said nothing! 😦 But, yeah, there was something in me, maybe not a voice, but definitely some old tape that kept saying that what I had to say didn’t really matter, and if I said what I really thought, well, no one would want to know me. I my case, the voice that first broke the tape was my Father’s, who delights in me….so the rest of the voices don’t really matter, except when I let them.

    I have eagerly followed what you’ve written and look forward to your book. You are an inspiration to me, and again, thanks for sharing your journey and your heart with us. It has truly made me think about life and what we’re all about–which is the main criterion for most of what I read. I’ve missed you, too.

    Walt

  12. Hi Corinna,

    Interesting blog post, as usual. Always good to know what goes on inside someone else’s head; as long as no one expects me to post what goes on inside mine. . . 🙂

    * she waves to her blogging buddies *

  13. I too found your journey worthwhile and appreciated the common ground that was shared. I think Frank said it best, in that it all comes down to our own personal experience with the divine, however that manifests for each of us. It was a pleasure seeing the sincere and heart felt variety of posts and slices to the pie of the eternal teachings, and thank you for including us in your spiritual adventure. Look forward to seeing your book in my hands. And thanks for the additional view behind the scenes. Reminds me of how important it is to listen to the inner voice within ourselves and to trust IT has our best spiritual interests at heart. Thanks again Corinna…….May the Blessings Be……HU

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