Editor's Note: Lori Duron is the author of Raising My Rainbow: Adventures in Raising a Fabulous, Gender Creative Son, her personal account of raising a child who doesn't adhere to any conventional stereotypes. At some point, during her writing process, she learned to let her guard down. Here, as part of Signature's Lessons Learned month, a month of authors sharing lessons they've learned while writing their book, Lori Duron speaks to the invaluable role of vulnerability and sincerity in writing, offering, "Dig as deep as you can."
Wit and sass have long been my coping mechanisms of choice. I wasn’t always that way; I was a quiet and shy child. But after my first use of wit and sass to deal with something -- or, more accurately, to not deal something -- I was hooked.
Raising a gender nonconforming child was no exception. When my son explained that he is a boy who only likes girl stuff and wants to be treated like a girl, I could see only two trails to trek: one gloomy with anxiety and worry and one paved with wit and sass. The choice was easy. I chose the latter. But, it was a lonely trail.
To curb my loneliness, I started a blog about the adventures in raising a fabulous, gender creative son. It started off saturated with wit and sass. One year later, when I started writing my memoir, my editor told me to trim the majority of that tone from my writing. To her it felt forced. As I wrote for months on end, her notes were always the same. “Dig deeper.” “What were you feeling here?” “Be more sincere.”
The shy child in me grew uncomfortable. I had been using wit and sass most of my life to protect myself and appear less vulnerable than I really was. I mistakenly thought that people wouldn’t appreciate the sincere and raw version of me. Most importantly, I didn’t think that I would like that version of myself. I was wrong on both accounts.
As I penned my memoir, my voice on my blog started to shift as well. It was less snarky and cheesy. I wasn't pushing for a laugh. I bared my soul and exposed my feelings. It felt good and people responded much more warmly than they ever had to my wit and sass.
My editor had been right. Her main argument for me to be the most sincere version of myself was to protect me -- even though it made me feel vulnerable.
You see, when you are writing about your son who wears dresses you get a lot of criticism. Constant joking made my intentions and motivations seem so much less than they were and are. Sure, I still see the humor and happiness in my unique son and our special lives, but there is no punch line. There can’t be. My son is not a joke or character for amusement.
He’s a teacher who has taught me lessons in patience, the consequences of expectations, and the magic of a free, brave, and creative life. My editor taught me lessons in the power of vulnerability and unbridled sincerity.
“Dig deeper,” she wrote to me again.
I returned another version of my memoir’s manuscript to her, while thinking to myself “I’ve dug as deep as I can.” I held back tears.
Her next editorial note congratulated me on a completed manuscript. And then I let the tears flow.
For all Lessons Learned articles, visit the archive here.