Mother said I was born with a head full of chatter and a pen in my hand. From an early age I scribbled notes on whatever paper was available. I was secretary in most clubs and church groups, on the newspaper staff in high school, and wrote community news articles for our local paper.
When friends and family needed help writing facts and feelings in letters, I was there. At work or church, I was the girl with the pen creating newsletters or sending out appeals for help or encouraging notes.
While I did keep my pen busy, I never intended to write a book. For me, smaller projects worked better. I never thought my attention span could meet the requirements of a book; I mean, there's a lot of words in a book!
No, writing a book was not on my bucket list for sure!
My beautiful, red-haired mother was very outspoken and never one to mince words. I recall many other remarks she made; some quite hurtful at the time although I never doubted her love for me. A dinner cook and baker in a large, crowded restaurant, she worked long, hard hours. Weekends our family traveled miles to care for her parents. When finished there, we drove another thirty miles on rough dusty roads in the Missouri hills to do what we could for my father's parents.
I loved her so much. I marveled at her patience with my grandparents and her wisdom in caring for them. I knew I could never do that for her. The mere thought of me becoming Mother's caregiver someday absolutely froze me in my tracks. I could never do it to suit her. I wouldn't even try.
No, caring for my mother as she aged was not something I would be doing. No, not at all!
Circumstances quickly change in a family; I suddenly found myself by Mother's hospital bed, staining the sheets with my tears. What began as a joyous time in our lives turned tragic when she suddenly became ill. At her bedside, I begged God to let her live and I promised to take care of her the rest of her life.
He was gracious to us; Mother recovered slowly and came to live with us for eight wonderful years. Changes in her health made many of those days challenging at best; I felt helpless at times and so alone. Yet, I had faith and strength and patience that could only have come from above.
From those experiences I wrote My Mother My Child; a very personal journey as Mother's caregiver. Early in her care I knew God was telling me to write a book. While I clearly didn't know how that would happen, I was confident as I began journaling my experiences and my feelings.
When the time came to work on the book, I made a list of chapters I wanted. I would have one chapter to introduce the characters of the book and the circumstances leading up to the caregiving of my mother. I would also need chapters on my experiences with hired caregivers and hospitals, and the changes in Mother's condition through the years.
I finally settled on eight chapters. I titled them and began to move paragraphs into the proper place. I was sure there was no need for more than eight chapters to keep the reader interested and informed.
I quickly learned that forming a book is not like building a building. A building of wood and stone must have a well-defined plan and cannot deviate from that plan. A book has a mind of its own - a voice. My book had more it wanted to give to its audience than simply eight chapters. It must include dealing with the death of a loved one and the importance of preparing for the future. Another important chapter was needed on relationships; how caring for Mother affected the relationships in our family.
I would encourage any writer to allow time for your manuscript to speak to you. We often hear fiction writers discussing what their characters taught them as they wrote. The same is true in non-fiction writing. If we but take time to listen, our writings can speak volumes. The chapters that have meant the most to my readers have often been those added after I thought I had finished the project.
Give it a try. Your readers will be glad you did.