Or unwriting. Or, as my autocorrect would have it, unwitting.
I have been working on a picture book biography of late, and I am really in love with my subject and quite happy to work on it for hours at a time. Which is a good thing, as there is a great deal of research to be done, as well as figuring out which facts to include, and which to leave out.
I have a full four drafts on my computer - basically versions of the first full draft, each one too stiff and adult and boring to be allowed to stand. Plus I have two additional drafts: one is essentially a reworking of that/those first draft(s); the other is a new draft from scratch, which is starting to go the direction I'd like it to.
Still, I continue to research and look for the small details that will make my subject come alive for contemporary readers. And maybe for something like a common thread through her lifetime to create something like a theme, besides "here's a life". I so admire what Amy Novesky managed to do in Cloth Lullaby: The Woven Life of Louise Bourgeois
, which relies on an extended spider metaphor, but alas, there is so far no such thing in this woman's life.
And I am thinking today, too, of Lin-Manuel Miranda's remarks in his commencement speech at Penn
The simple truth is this: Every story you choose to tell, by necessity, omits others from the larger narrative. One could write five totally different musicals from Hamilton’s eventful, singular American life, without ever overlapping incidents. For every detail I chose to dramatize, there are ten I left out. I include King George at the expense of Ben Franklin. I dramatize Angelica Schuyler’s intelligence and heart at the expense of Benedict Arnold’s betrayal. James Madison and Hamilton were friends and political allies, but their personal and political fallout occurs right on our act break, during intermission. My goal is to give you as much as an evening as musical entertainment can provide, and have you on your way at home slightly before Les Mis lets out next door.
This act of choosing—the stories we tell versus the stories we leave out—will reverberate across the rest of your life. Don’t believe me? Think about how you celebrated this senior week, and contrast that with the version you shared with the parents and grandparents sitting behind you.
That is the trick, is it not? As Bob Seger put it, "what to leave in, what to leave out."