On Editing, Overcoming War Trauma, and New Projects

It’s been two years since I finished writing the first draft of Thirty Days with My Father:  Finding Peace from Wartime PTSD, and it’s gone through at least fifteen edits (most of those rewrites heavy ones) since then. One would think as many times as I’ve read my own book–not to mention the thousands of times I’ve lived each scene over and over in my mind–that the trauma my family experienced when my father came back from Vietnam would no longer affect me. It seems reasonable to expect to become at least somewhat desensitized to painful memories if one relives them over and over enough.  Or is it?

I’m not yet at that place.  It’s much easier to talk about what happened back then than it is to read what I’ve written. Perhaps this is because in casual conversation, I can answer questions about my childhood in a general sense, but in reading and writing scenes, my entire self is transported into the story.  Like many writers I know, I will likely never read my book from cover to cover once it’s actually published.

People have been asking what I’ll write next, and I honestly don’t know.  Some days I share the mentality of my friend Margaret Edson, who won a Pulitzer for Wit, the first play she ever wrote, and never published anything else. Other times I am convinced I owe it to people–and to myself–to continue to write and to spread the word about the ripple-effects PTSD can have on families. And at times, a part of me wants to write about something completely different.

In the end, I know that once I finish marketing this current memoir, I’ll likely go back to writing again–and hopefully, will be able to find something else to say that matters, and that will make a positive difference in the world. In the meantime, I’m patiently on the lookout for the subject of my next book to reveal itself.

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2 Responses to On Editing, Overcoming War Trauma, and New Projects

  1. Anthony Brunt says:

    Thank you, Christal. I came to this site after having read your CNN piece online today. I will read this book. I too have struggled my life with both pains and damages very similar to yours and my efforts to live in and through it. Our secret was my father’s heavy handed inability to be faithful to my mother. I never confronted my father, really. I waited. He died suddenly at 88. I have learned (I believe) life is about coping and also watching and adjusting expectations.

  2. Peter Warner says:

    Congratulations to you. I did not serve in Vietnam – I was a little too old – but a great many of my friends did, and for them I thank you. I will plan to read your book sometime in 2013. But for now, if you never do it again – if you only publish one book – you can be OK with that. Think Harper Lee. Pretty good company, that. Best of luck. Peter

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