Writing, Like Life, Is a Process – Don’t Push the River
by Christine Enking
I wrote my first book over the course of 15 years. Life simply got in the way. I can’t tell you how many times I tried to write and would hit a wall. I was so frustrated that I wanted to give up. But I remember what I learned early on; life is a process. Like a flowing river, you learn what you can, integrate and cultivate who and what comes along, and leave behind what will benefit others. Most importantly, don’t push the river because if you do, guaranteed, the river will push back.
The old cliché, “You write what you know,” certainly applied in my case. I worked in child protection, assessing safety and risk for children who were abused and neglected by their caregivers, primarily their parents. After the first three years of doing the work, I decided I wanted to write about my professional experiences. Little did I know that writing a book would actually serve as a catharsis for my own experience.
Initially, I thought about writing a work of creative nonfiction, using my own words and citing the work of all the authors who’d written books relevant to the topic of child abuse. But, that sounded boring. So, I began developing a story with characters who would provide the vehicle for what I had to say. I was learning so much about all the things I had worked so hard to suppress. And now, I was like a sponge. I couldn’t get enough and, at the time, it seemed important for me to tell the world a story about abused children.
A few years into my writing process, although I could envision all of the characters and the storyline, I didn’t feel I could complete the project alone. I approached my very dear friend and writer, Mark Storry. After I explained the book to him, he said he thought it was a great story with an important theme and terrific ending. He, too, brought his own perspective to the story and, between us, we were able to write a powerful narrative of human struggle.
Mark tells me that he feels lucky to have been involved in writing this book. “While I do believe that my contributions have not been minor,” Mark says, “I recognize that they are only contributions and that the essence of the book existed before I ever become involved.” I say that I could not have finished the book without Mark. He has been a true friend and has been my support and inspiration both in writing this book and in life.
Our book was published about a month ago. Looking back, I know that it could not have been finished one minute sooner or one minute later. I describe my writing process as perfect. If I had pushed the river, the end result wouldn’t have been our final version of the book, A Protocol for Grace.
Early in her career, Christine worked in the for-profit sector, primarily in positions related to accounting and business. After four years of work in a program with Mark Storry (her coauthor) and his partners from Partners Institute (Partners in Prevention), she decided to go back to school. She received her MSW and began her career in child protection, helping parents who were involved in the system learn to reduce the risk to their children. After 15 years, she moved on to work with a nonprofit organization that provided support and services for survivors of domestic violence and their children. In her own way, she continues to make a difference in the lives of children, one child at a time. Christine has an adult daughter. She is winding down her professional career and plans to become a full-time writer. Visit Christine’s website: AProtocolForGrace.com.
Great post, Christine! I am participating in Camp NaNoWriMo this month which is all about pushing the river. The whole thing goes against the perfectionist grain for me. In a little more than a week I will stop, look back at what I produced and know whether or not it was worth it. Fingers crossed.
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Welcome to the blog, Christine. I like your website and will be ordering your book. Some day, I am sure we’ll meet, probably at a Meetup!