What is the book that only you can write?

I love the title of the recent She Writes contest:ย Passion Project. It perfectly sums up how I feel about my current work in progress, which is based on the diaries of my great aunt. For my family (and anyone else who is interested), I am publishing excerpts of her entries on “Hattie’s Blog,” choosing representative years’ entries for each day. Here are some examples from last week (Will is her husband):

August 2, 1931, Sunday: In the rain Friday evening Mrs. Elshire and I dried little chicks, about 4 weeks old, and then today the hogs got all of them but 2, there were 80 of them, so I am just sick about it.

August 2, 1939: Will fixed the window in the north porch with new bolts and washed the window, and we doped my bed springs, and it has hundreds of bed bugs underneath. I couldn’t get at them unless it is tipped over, so I hope to sleep well tonight.

August 5, 1920: Was a hot day but breeze cool at times. I raked in forenoon and Howard and Will mowed rest of hay on Daveโ€™s then went to Spencer for Rope for stacker about 11 a.m. and returned at 1:30 p.m. and never brought ice. I was disappointed as I had freezer cool and cake made. In p.m. they stacked hay and Harlan drove stacker team. Will is all in from another Fistula and I am all in from, Oh my!

August 8, 1929: Louise was out riding with Harry Furrey when we got home.

August 8, 1935: We were all ready at 9 a.m. as Thomas, Lemoyne, Lee, Boyd, Lawrence and Sydney carried Daveโ€™s body to Jakeโ€™s truck and into the church, where Requiem High Mass was said by Fr. Grether.

Some of my passion for this project is personal. The Louise and Harry who were “out riding” were my grandparents, not yet engaged at the time of the entry. However, I am also drawn to her entries for the glimpse they provide into one woman’s life and, on a larger scale, another time. I am struck by how Dave’s body (her brother) was in the house where the family stayed the night before the funeral, and how he is carried to the truck, then to the church, a reminder of a time when death was not nearly as removed or sanitized as it is today.

I love her voice, her candor, her obvious passion for life. I lose myself in Hattie’s diaries when I work on them. I lose track of time and feel as though I am exactly where I should be, doing exactly what I am meant to be doing. Here. Now. I am in flow.

That is how we find our Passion Project. I am still working through exactly how I will transform Hattie’s life and words into a book, but I’m getting closer (and welcome any thoughts or ideas). What I do know is that I must write it, day by day.

As soon as I read it, I fell in love with this quotation:

“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” ~ Toni Morrison

I’d like to offer a companion quotation:

“If there is a book that only you can write, then you must write it.”

What is your Passion Project? What book can only you write? Are you writing it?

18 thoughts on “What is the book that only you can write?

  1. I love the quote! Death’s Island was a passion project, and I do have two others project lined up – one of which I’m currently working on, but I don’t want to say anything until it truly becomes a WIP. Right now it’s concepts and scenes in a document (completely random thoughts).

    • I can absolutely see how Death’s Island was a passion project. I also am like you in the sense that I can’t talk or write about writing ideas until they have reached a certain progress point. In fact, I struggle when friends ask me about what I’m working on and I’m not ready to talk about it. Another topic for another post, I guess. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. In Wake of a Following is my passion project and similar to yours, is based on my grandmother’s journals from the 1950’s. This is a personal story and sometimes I wonder if my passion is only because I find the story interesting. I love it and I love writing it! Great post,

    – Jennifer Swan

    • Jennifer, ever since I first learned of your project, I’ve found it fascinating! I’m sure others will, too. Your passion comes through your writing, especially in posts like this one ~ Lisa

  3. Lisa,
    I can see why you are so passionate about your project. That does sound like something to simply get lost in, to picture in your mind her days and to imagine her life in detail.

    I find myself so resentful these days. Too many projects on which to focus my attention, and my attention wanes so badly on those things which I try to focus. Not only do I want to finish just ONE project (not that there’s time for that), but there are others impatiently waiting in the wings.

    I am frustrated at telling them “wait, just a little longer…” They’re like small children-they don’t understand “wait.” Adding to that frustration–is the question, “Where do I go from here?” The first story is written and still out with reviewers. Still needs an editor. I know it needs a rewrite-but then what? The sequel is 36 pages/over 18k words down. I started a third today–had to get it out of my head. Just the first three pages–the rest is going to require extensive research. It’s definitely going to be a screenplay. The fourth…has to wait, although I have made notes. AHHH

    This writing thing…I’m more insane now than I used to be! I didn’t think that was possible!

    • DiDi, I completely understand your resentment, and I love the analogy of your projects as needy children. ๐Ÿ™‚ Perfect.

      Something I have done in the past that I think I’ll try again is to devote full days to one thing, rather than switch back and forth so much during the day. So, instead of doing a little on each of three writing projects, some of my volunteer work, and indexing work every day, I’ll try to focus on one writing project one day, an index the next, and so on. Or maybe one thing in the morning and one in the afternoon. When I’ve been able to do that, it works really well. The trick is ignoring the other children pulling on my pant legs. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Great post, Lisa! I entered the Passion Project contest with my memoir (I mentioned briefly in my WIP post). It really is a great title for a contest, and a great way to view our intimate projects. I love your quote, too – it complements the Toni Morrison one very well.
    I hope you are having a great day.

  5. How wonderful to find those gems to inspire us. I just received a hand-written journal this week from my 90 yr old second cousin with wildly beautiful, detailed memories of her childhood (and my mom) from the 1920s to 1930s. It was the best gift ever!

    As we have discussed, this is part of my passion project. It may only be read by family, but it is the most important book I can write.

    • Anne, we are truly following similar paths with our Passion Projects.

      “the most important book I can write”

      That sums it up perfectly.

      P.S. I just saw your blog award post, and I’m sooo excited and pleased!! Thank you. ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. What a great post, Lisa. I can see why this is your Passion Project. My Passion Project is researching and writing about my paternal family’s history, especially my great, great-grandmother, Tempy Burton who was a slave and her owner, also my great, great-grandfather, Col. W.R. Stuart. I too am still working out how to structure the book, but like you, the more I learn about them, the more I know that this is the work I was meant to do. We’ll both find the way to present it, I’m sure, day by day. Thanks also for the Toni Morrison quote. I love her, but never came across that quote before!

    • Dionne, thanks so much for this comment and for the encouragement! Hattie and Josephine will guide us as we write our books. I’m sure of it. ๐Ÿ™‚

      I tried to find where the Toni Morrison quote is from, but all I’ve been able to discover so far is that it’s from a speech. Maybe someone reading this will know which one.

      Anyone who is interested in history or genealogy should visit Dionne’s blog, Finding Josephine. I promise that she’ll have you with hello!

    • Anne, thank you for such a generous comment! I like to think that Hattie would love being a blogger. Your blog is delightful, by the way! Great title for your novel. ๐Ÿ™‚

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