After I finished the first draft of my memoir I went to Office Depot and had it printed and spiral-bound. It was satisfying to have something tangible in my hand after so many months of only seeing my words on the computer screen. When I read through the manuscript I realized very quickly that what I had written, in addition to being the classic shitty first draft was also a Dragnet draft.
If you’re of a certain age you might remember a TV program called Dragnet, and a character named Joe Friday, who is credited with the quip “Just the facts, ma’am”. And that’s what I had written – just the facts. Even though I had written about difficult and painful periods in my life, the birth of my children, and the first contact with my birth family, the manuscript was devoid of feelings.
I struggled for many months doing rewrites trying to inject feeling into my words, I sought the counsel of other published writers, but I couldn’t seem to put my feelings into my words. Eventually I realized the reason I was struggling to write about feelings was because I was also struggling to feel those feelings.
At one time my ability to disconnect was a survival mechanism but it serves no such purpose anymore; my life has radically changed from those days of disconnection. The problem with using disconnection as a coping mechanism is that, while it becomes very easy to slip into a disconnected state of mind, it is much more difficult to reconnect and get back in touch with those feelings that have been suppressed.
Moving beyond the Dragnet draft has not been easy but it has been necessary. The process of writing, remembering, and allowing myself to feel has taught me new things about my experiences and about myself. I hope it will also result in a book that readers will be interested in.
My questions for you today are: have you ever written a Dragnet draft? Do you find it easy or difficult to write about your feelings? What tools to you use to help you translate what you feel inside to the written word?