I received the first piece of feedback for a book I started three-and-a-half years ago. I’d sent it to an English Literature post-doc friend of mine. It was about our crossing on Quest. I called it The Flip Side.
‘Acceptable,’ was his general consensus, ‘except that you may want to reconsider using the narrator as the main filter. This makes the story feel burdened and heavy with opinion.’ Oh-uh I thought. That old chestnut.
This is because I’ve always struggled with the concept of being likeable. Must be the phoenix feather in my Harry Pottermore quiz wand. I just enjoy doing my own thing. You know. I’m definitely not alone with this. It’s paradise to think your own thoughts without wondering if a. other people understand them and b. caring what people think. But sit down and write a travelogue memoir and things change. You become aware of your own voice. And whether you’re coming across as likeable. The reader has to either love the narrator’s voice or love what’s being said. And inevitably, unless you have unbreakable confidence, you can begin to hate your own voice. ‘Go away!’ I like to shout inside my own head. ‘Why are you talking to yourself?’ comes the reply. Cue: Hit head on keyboard.
When I started this book, we’d just started our crossing on Quest. Our communication as a family was used to a different and land-based – read lazy 🙂 dynamic. Suddenly there was Quest to look after. We now had a car, a house, a wind-based propellor and life raft all rolled into one. When something broke, you fixed it. When everything worked, you wondered what was going to break next.
I didn’t even understand our own quest. Sailing away from our problems at home, facing an aching vulnerability during star-studded nights in the middle of the ocean. Jack had just recovered from cancer. Delphine had been rescued from blindness. And no matter what we could do, she was going to be disabled forever. That was her shitty fate. So, how would we survive as a family? Leaving our comfortable home and, on top of it, trying to run our business which paid for everything from the boat? Add the hot-headed streak we all possess, plus the fact that we took our Portuguese Water Dog, Fin who refused to pee except when standing on real Earth. Just remembering makes me want to lie down.
I’m not the naturally adventurous type. I just get bored in one place. Enough for me to agree to get my arse on Quest. Visiting different places while having my own kitchen to cook in. Win, win. Right? Or more likely lose, lose. Statistically more couples break up after they’ve crossed an ocean together on a sailboat than at any other time. That was the big sailing saying… and we were right there in that statistical group.
My opinions at the time were mixed. Confused. Focused on holding on. But here’s the thing. You’ve got to lift your opinionated burdens. Understand what you’re doing. Try not to drown.