I think I’m finally admitting it to myself: I am not good at wrapping things up. I’ve been working on a pretty big writing project for the past 4 years, and have been working on the current version of it for about a year and a half. It’s a project that started to unfold when I first visited Kenya and learned about female circumcision in 2010. And it really started to unfold when I went back in 2012 to interview girls and women on the subject. It is now a series of stories from these girls and women, and also includes my story of going to Kenya. I love this project; it’s extremely close to my heart, and I’ve learned a ton from both the story subjects and the writing process. But, man, am I ready for it to be finished!
It’s almost done…really…it is. The bulk of the writing has been finished since, I’m embarrassed to say, probably last June. But I still haven’t done anything with it, shared it with anyone, or used it for any kind of good. Why? First, because all the tiny details of wrapping it up have been more overwhelming to me than going to Kenya twice, interviewing multiple girls and women, writing and rewriting and rewriting their stories. Seriously. The thought of choosing a damn title and designing a cover stopped me in tracks faster than any of the major steps. It’s silly. Second, I wasn’t sure what the best way to share these stories was. I thought about splitting it into magazine stories, trying to find a traditional publisher and selling it as a book, and publishing it as an e-book. I researched each of these extensively and turn and became only more overwhelmed, feeling like I had to launch an entirely new career to be successful at any of these.
Here are some of my major challenges with wrapping this project up:
Outrunning my own inner critic/ confidence:
The thoughts constantly run through my head: Are all my facts right? Am I representing the truth of this story? Is the writing of high enough quality to share? Have I chosen the best publishing avenue? Am I handling this delicate global issue with grace, honesty, respect, and truthfulness in my writing? Will anyone even read this? Will it even end up being worth all my time and effort?
Sigh. It makes my brain tired just to think about all this…which I am constantly doing!
I must have confidence though, and realize that the answers are yes, yes, yes, yes, I think so, and I am willing to find out!
Sometimes, with big, personal projects, it’s so hard to get out of my own head, take a leap of faith, and put it out into the world.
Lack of writing community:
If there’s one thing I’ve longed through throughout this whole process it’s a community of writers. A solid, lasting community. I’ve had multiple writerly eyes on my multiple drafts of this mini-book, but no one that’s lasted. And, worst of all, no one that I’ve felt it wasn’t a burden to send them drafts.
It’s been a huge hole in the writing process and, I believe, a big part of my confidence issue and indecisiveness. There’s really been no writer to consistently give me solid guidance, critiques, affirmations, or help me through the endless list of problems and challenges I’ve faced in doing this project. There have been people here and there, and I thank them!
Writing is solitary, but sometimes I need to come out of my shell and work with someone.
Like I said, the writing has pretty much been done since last June, but I wasn’t sure what the right publishing avenue was. I want people to read the stories, and I want to raise money for the Olooloitikoshi Girl’s Rescue Center, where my story subjects live. I couldn’t decide how to present this mini-book to the world.
I will openly admit that I hate dealing with technology and am not good at it. Therefore, something like designing a book cover to self-publish this mini-book has paralyzed my progress for way too many months. Even the thought of sitting down and trying to do it…ugh….it just deterred me from doing anything at all.
I have to face my demon [technology]…or pay someone else to 🙂 .
Challenges completely out of my control:
These include but are not limited to: having permission to publish people’s story revoked by the story subject and then reinstated months later, working through the Kenyan cultural norm of not talking about female circumcision, receiving conflicting answers on whether or not I could use real names of minors in my story, having to send any fact-checking with people going to Kenya (there is no email or even postal address, so I literally had to wait for someone in the church community to be going to Kenya to deliver even the simplest questions to fact-check), stories and information changing constantly…as is the nature of life/nonfiction.
I’m sure I could think of more 🙂
Now, it’s all finally coming together!
All along, I wanted to use this project to raise funds for the rescue center I visited to interview the girls. And now I’ve finally decided what to do with this thing. I plan to self-publish this mini-book and sell it through the church in Greeley that helped build this rescue center in Kenya, as well as selling it on my own. All the profits will go to the Olooloitikoshi Girl’s Rescue Center in Kenya. I am hoping that by sharing the stories with a community that already has ties to the story subjects, I will raise funds, as well as help those people spread the stories to people outside the church community.
I do not know if this will be very successful. I certainly don’t see this book being a national bestseller or bringing me fame…or much money. But I can say that the amount of writing stuff I learned through this process was worth….a TON. And as long as these stories are shared and at least a little bit of money can go back to the story subjects, I will be happy!
I hope it will all be wrapping up this month, so check back in to get your copy of In the Place of Many Zebras: True Stories from Kenya.