The problem with the biography we're writing is that the guy is still alive. I'm glad he's alive, because he's the one paying us, and he continues to make huge contributions to society; but an on-going life means more honors, more memories, more interviews, more photos . . . and it's hard to wrap things up!
Obviously, I like to write. And the subject of this book has had fascinating experiences in politics, community service, church and business. I've soaked up a lot as I've compiled oral interviews and Dee's research into chapters. But now I'm even dreaming his life! I dreamed about their house, (I was catering a barbecue) and I've never even been there! I know his opinions on everything and he's intruding into my conversations: I quote him right and left. (My brain first types what I think he'd say, then cuts and pastes his comments into my own remarks.) We've become altogether too close.
But I see the light at the end of the tunnel. My plan is to finish the last of the last chapter (of those I'm working on) tomorrow. Then, of course, there's the scary interlude between handing it over to Dee, his re-edits, and then getting the reaction from the client. Was he portrayed honestly? Did we catch his subtle humor and quirks accurately? Did he like himself in the book? Will he be pleased to share it with those closest to him?
A biography is much more than a time line---it's a concise analysis of someone's character development, their individuality---what happened when to whom, and why and how it mattered. I feel a heavy responsibility to present a person authentically. I've done this dozens of times before, but I want to continue to honor the trust I've been given.
Even though I won't miss his weight on my stiff right shoulder, I'll miss the guy. I've been inside his mind for eight months now, studying the way he thinks, scrutinizing his philosophies. I have enormous respect for him. He's got a good heart, pure motives, and integrity.
The funny thing is, he doesn't know anything about me! He knows Dee's work, but our paths have never crossed in a personal or social way. I wonder if he'd want to scrutinize my philosophies, or analyze my childhood experiences? Highly unlikely...he's busy piling up achievements for another chapter!
I'm reminded that we are all compiling chapters for our autobiographies in our everyday activities. I hope my ultimate editor sees the best in what I hand over.
What if someone was writing your biography?
- Who would you have him interview?
- What events were life-changing?
- Do you have letters or journals that chronicle your life?
- What would the first paragraph say to introduce you?
- How would the last chapter condense your convictions?