I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why I’m writing the book I’m writing, and especially about why I’m writing it now.
The book is a memoir about the year I lost my father, and it’s been percolating in my head for just over four years. My dad died in 2008, and sometimes I think it would have made sense to write about what I was going through at the time, if only as a way of processing his loss.
I did write three personal reflections for The Canadian Jewish News, which seemed to strike a chord with many people. I wrote about my eleven months of Kaddish, when I attended synagogue services twice daily to say the prayer that Jewish mourners say in the presence of a quorum of ten men (or men and women, at egalitarian servies).
The year was full of surprises for me. That I enjoyed the services – and sometimes actually had fun there – was probably the biggest surprise. There were life lessons, unanticipated new friendships, and long-lasting changes to my life and my outlook.
I found the year extremely compelling, but didn’t take notes or keep a journal at the time. I thought about it, but it didn’t feel right, almost as if a notebook would put distance between me and what I needed to experience.
I like to think that what I’ve lost by not taking notes, I’ve gained in perspective – and much of the year is still sharp in my mind.
I also like to think that good things can come from bad, and they did.
After my dad died, I was hungry to read books about mourning and loss. In a way, I’m writing a book I would have liked to read, but that’s not why I’m writing it.
When I worked as a reporter and campus page editor at The CJN, I advised student columnists who weren’t sure what to write about, to think about what they found compelling, and what kinds of things they were talking to their friends about.
In a way, I’m taking my own advice. I wasn’t looking to write a book; the book started writing itself in my head. But sometimes a subject is so compelling that it “asks” to be written about.
Maybe, if I find my subject compelling, other people will too.