This Is Not About You

By Rosemary Mac Cabe

A memoir about dating and romance, or lack thereof – from one terrible man to the next

Thursday, 26 May 2022

Of old scars and new blood

I submitted the manuscript for This is Not About You the day I flew home to Ireland, for the first time in over two years. Somehow I had got it into my head that I couldn't enjoy my time at home without getting rid of the book, exorcising the demons of romances past and landing in Dublin with a clean slate of sorts.

A few months previously, I had emailed my editor, tentatively, to tell her that I would be submitting a "first draft" in coming weeks. "Don't send anything you're not happy with," she told me. "Just send it to us when it's as closed to finished, the best version you can write." (These are not direct quotes, but you get the gist.)

I felt panicked. I needed someone to look over this for me, to give me feedback about what I'm leaving out, and what, indeed, I should leave out. It's difficult, I find, to truly edit your writing when it is autobiographical. How do I know what's worth sharing when, at least in my own opinion, all of my life experiences are equally thrilling and important?!

I went back to the book. I sent it to a friend. She told me she loved it (I hoped she wasn't lying). She also gave me some pointers, mostly about how not to get sued by the men I'm talking about. I took her advice on board (mostly). I sent a few chapters to another friend. She gave me some more suggestions. 

There are certain chapters that I read over and over. I bathed in the memory of those relationships, the first whiff of romance, the first frisson of passion. I squinted my eyes and I looked into the rearview mirror of my life and I tried to remember each and every detail. 

There are others that I couldn't bear to re-examine, once I had mined them for content, as I mine so much of my life. I dug out what I thought was relevant and I tried to be honest and kind, both to myself and to the other person, and then I turned the page - quite literally - and did not go back. It is difficult to be objective when the object of your writing is your own trauma which, when revisited, breaks open like an old scar, begins to bleed anew. 

I know that there will be further edits. I will need to trawl through these archives once, twice, three times more, and I am prepared to do it, but for now I am enjoying the quiet, the relief of having rid myself of this thing, the monkey on my back. I have written it all down and I am hoping that it will turn into something powerful and meaningful, at least to more than just me.

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