And fall on my face I have. In my latest manuscript attempt, it took me twenty pages to realize that I was lying. Lying. The only rule of nonfiction is that you tell the truth. If you lie in your memoir, Oprah will yell at you on national television and everyone will hate you forever. Please don't tell her what I did.
I was writing about our first month in Kosovo and how I was transitioning into the role of homemaker. In the story, it was a battle between me and the kitchen. Cooking was difficult. My oven hated me. Dinner was ruined.
It shouldn't have been difficult to tell the truth—after all, I lived this story myself—but I found myself falling into a trope that was easier than the real story. In reality, the transition into homemaking had been difficult for me, but not for any of the reasons I'd seen in the movies. (Cue scene of housewife wrestling with a chicken.) During that time, I struggled with how much I liked being at home. I felt like I didn't deserve it. All the other young, intelligent women out there were working nine-to-five jobs or earning graduate degrees. And I was at home, baking brownies. I couldn't wrap my mind around it. Something had to be wrong, so I invented a problem. An easy problem. A problem I could laugh about.
As I scanned the manuscript, I found more of these lies. In the story, I dramatized fights between Sam and I. In real life, we rarely argue, but a book about marriage seemed incomplete without a few broken lamps. So I smashed them myself. Easy.
Not only was I telling a story that wasn't true, I was telling one that was less beautiful. I settled for the pre-packaged version—the stereotypical desperate housewife—because I didn't know how to talk about things going right.
Being married to Sam is ridiculously easy. I don't know how to write an entertaining story about that, but it's true. And I'm guessing there are some people out there who'd like to hear about something going right for once. If that's you, let me say this: there is a lot going right in the world, but it's a lot harder to talk about than the bad stuff. The thing about goodness is that it comes from God, and He doesn't make pre-packaged stories. They're always more wild and more beautiful than we can cram into a neat little box.
It might take me a hundred more manuscripts, but I'm pretty determined to get this goodness on paper. Because sometimes the truth hurts, and sometimes it's just more complex and lovely than anything we could have imagined.
Wishing you the latter, in every part of your life. And hoping that you'll join me, as readers and friends, on this journey towards telling the truth.
Liz (and Sam)
As always, support can be sent to
Sam & Elizabeth Steere
3601 Ginger Creek Dr.
Springfield, IL 62711