Project Update #8, 19.02.20

As well as 9 months, my arse, I have made Caz aware of the song that I have written with the aim to release and promote the charity, pre-term labour, and mine and Gemma’s story: To You, Our Son. Where I had not heard from her or SSNAP since our discussion about who else could write features for 9 months, my arse, I thought it best to make contact again – keeping aware that, 1) there is only so much I can chase her and the charity due to the book being a long way away from being finished, 2) they are a charity and the work they a providing me is charitable itself, and 3) they are currently in the process of finding a new charity director and, due to it, are busier than usual.

I approached Caz with news on the song – and she loves it. I explained my plans for the charity promotion, and she said that she and the charity would love to help promote the song too. Reading her email, it has really made me start to realise how writing can have more purpose than to simply entertain, or to make you – the writer – income. Your writing can move people, and it can help people too.

Caz, for example, highlighted how ‘absolutely beautiful’ To You, Our Son is and how it blew her away: ‘I love the music and lyrics are incredibly moving.’

Regarding 9 months, my arse, I have started adding another section to the book wherein I reflect on each counselling session as I have them – having started last week (11.02.20) and just been to my second one (18.02.20). Considering that the book is supposed to be a healing process for myself, but to also as honest as it can be, I believe that this section is necessary – especially where, in the book, I will most likely suggest or promote the benefits of counselling in such a situation, knowing that (as it was for myself) it can be a daunting idea and an easy one to put-off or convince yourself you do not need.

Looking back at my previous updates, I have asked a lot of questions throughout the process of writing 9 months, my arse, working with SSNAP, and asking various family members to write features for the book. During this time where SSNAP are busy, thus the project has slowed, I will turn back to these questions and begin answering them.

Let’s begin with those asked about my parents’ features they have written and sent me:

  • Have my parents held back on their features to protect myself?
  • If I read of my parents hurt, would I be likely to succumb to the same feeling(s), with or without knowing it?
  • Are my parents [still] in a position where they think I will do what a kid does?
  • In other words, do they still see me as a child?

Looking back to the articles mentioned in Update #5, plus the two books, Adult Children; The Secrets of Dysfunctional Families by John Friel and Linda Friel and The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read (And Your Children Will Be Glad That You Did) by Philippa Perry, these questions can be answered somewhat.

Both books mentioned show the huge connection between parents and their actions and how their children are affected. In the former by John and Linda Friel, “At least 90-95% of us” are “adult children of dysfunctional families” – an astonishing number. Therefore, when in Perry’s book we’re told that “Children do not do what we say; they do what we do.” Evidently, if my parents show they hurt, then there is a sense that I will hurt too. If my parents show the full extent of their hurt, then I will feel the full extent of it too.

In my 7th update, I reflected on the parts of Breathe, Baby, Breathe! I had read, asking in the blog: ‘In the case of preterm labour then, can the man be there for the woman to the fullest extent if he does not know how to cope with the situation himself?’ This came after the observation that, from what I had read so far, Breathe, Baby, Breathe! offered little on the man’s perspective throughout premature labour.

When reading and researching on the subject of a writer’s readership, it comes clear very quickly that readers want to relate to your writing. Therefore, it is good to know who you are writing for, so that you can make your work relatable for your targeted readers. This is seen in Alastair Fowler’s How To Write, for example. He tells you – the writer – to ask yourself when writing and editing: will your reader understand what you are writing? (p.107-108). This is followed by questions of a similar nature – all with an emphasis on your reader’s capabilities of understanding and literary ability.

With this in mind, when Annie Janvier chooses to write her book for mothers going through what she went through, her writing naturally caters for her chosen readership. Therefore, it is still readable for a man – a father of a premature baby – but there is less relatability there. When Janvier is under bed rest alone, what is her husband doing? What is he feeling? As a man reading these parts of Janvier’s story, I cannot help but wonder what her husband is thinking and feeling – after all, if I were to find myself in this situation, it would be his shoes I would be walking in.

Though Breathe, Baby, Breathe! gives the man an insight into what the woman maybe going through or feeling, which in turn, will help the man when in a similar situation, he has nothing to compare his own thoughts and experiences too. Janvier often warns women reading about various things that may happen or be thought, and she tells women it is OK to think particular thoughts they would feel guilty or shocked thinking. However, she does not say: “And for the men reading, Keith was thinking or doing this.”

Therefore, a man who reads a book written for the women in situations similar to that of mine and Gemma’s, he will still go into similar situations with questions about his own well-being, experiences, and conscience. This is why I want 9 months, my arse to offer an aid for these men – but also allow the women reading to have the same insight the likes of Janvier offer to men on women.

Meanwhile, Thomas Larson focuses on memoir in his book, The Memoir and the Memoirist: Reading and Writing Personal Narrative. In it, he says that a reader of memoir needs to trust in the narrator (p.123). Therefore, can the likes of Janvier be trusted if she offers parts written from her husband’s POV? After all, she is not her husband. I suppose she could tell her readers that she has written these parts with the assistance of her husband, or that she is simply relaying what he has told her. But will the reader always wonder – whether they are aware of it or not – if Janvier is wielding the pen, then will she still be implementing her own POV into it? It could come down to the little features of writing, such as word choices. Her husband could describe their baby with one word, and she chooses another – for example.

Reflecting on this, Larson’s claim that readers want and need to trust the narrator in memoir is part of the reason why I have wanted and will keep wanting to have other people write features, rather than me write them instead. I want these features to be written with their words. Their thoughts. Their experiences. I will simply edit these features minimally, ensuring that they are grammatically correct and structured. Any further edits I would either avoid or communicate with the writer first, allowing them to have the final decision.

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