The “ouchy” process about writing a book about the hospice dying process
My first version of From Sun to Sun had a different title, and was written in a chronological, reportorial manner. I assumed the reader would come to awareness about the end of life experience through factual stories. But “awareness” was not exactly what people sought. They wanted gentle, honest, non-religious, not dogmatic stories of people they could relate to when it came to the process of dying.
Three literary agents kindly offered me advice on how to improve “this little gem” so I returned to my manuscript with a new set of “eyes, ”excited to create a book that reached a broader audience. I began the process of approaching my hospice patients’ stories from the view of the non-medical reader, which challenged me to write with a deeper intellectual, more colorful, emotional, and tender approach to the process of dying. I knew my readers wanted an honest book.
As From Sun to Sun: A Hospice Nurse Reflects on the Art of Dying began taking a different shape, the agents and editor advised me that I needed to share more intimate facts about myself, or readers wouldn’t fall in love with my hospice patients as much as I did. This fact didn’t sit well with me because I’m a private person. But I knew from my personal love of reading that I owed readers an experience and story that would be worth their precious time and would teach them to approach the topic of dying with an open heart and open mind. I knew the readers might be cringing and hesitant to read about a life-topic they really wanted to run away from; their own dying process.
My purpose was to give an honest account of my patients while building awareness of the need to get going with the conversation about what how you want to die, and to know the facts about the dying process. I wanted the reader to come to their conclusions about what the dying process may look, sound, feel, smell, and “taste” like. I honored my patients for being courageous and at the same time wanted to give them a hug for simply being on this earth.
Eighteen months, sixteen revisions, a sore neck, strained wrists and an added fifteen (body) pounds later, From Sun to Sun was completed. The process of dying now had twenty-one diverse “faces,” and bits and pieces of my life as a nurse. These personal stories are important for the reader to understand as they navigate the “why’s” and “how comes” and the question asked me so often, “How can you do this work?’
I want to encourage you to document your story in any manner that resonates with you. Be it poetry, music, puzzles, short stories…you will find your voice, learn a lot about yourself, be confronted with your false beliefs and, I believe, will respect the time and skills it takes to be a writer.
Whether it’s a book on the process of dying, a how-to book on making the perfect truffle, or a wonderful adventure into your life, I encourage you to try. Just keep going. You owe your knowledge to the world.
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