I wrote an essay about boarding school and it might get picked up by another magazine and the second editor asked me to include a brief paragraph about what we are doing in Djibouti. I wrote an essay about women selling tea on the side of the road and the editor asked me to include a brief paragraph about what we are doing in Djibouti. I wrote an essay about Third Culture Kids going to school in their passport countries and the editor asked me to include a brief paragraph about what we are doing in Djibouti. I wrote an essay about fear and Somalia and the editor…you get the picture.
I wish I could write up that brief paragraph about what we are doing in Djibouti and copy and paste it into the first paragraph of every article I write. Then again, I don’t want to do that because, how boring. I figure most of the people who read these essays are people who have read my other essays. But maybe that isn’t true, maybe there are always newcomers.
I’m trying to write less about myself but even in these essays that aren’t about me in any way, apparently people want to know who is behind the story and what I am doing in Djibouti.
This life is crazy, sometimes beyond imagination, doesn’t make sense in any way, even saying ‘my husband teaches at the University of Djibouti’ doesn’t suffice and I have to add something about how I would like to live in the same country as him and I have to add something about whether or not we live in a constant state of fear and about the initial decision to move here, which takes us way back eleven years or more and now I’ve forgotten what the essay was originally even about.
I’d like to start writing about other people but when I interview someone who only speaks Somali and then translate that into an essay, people want to know how I know Somali and so I have to say that I live here and then they say why do you live there, what are you doing there, aren’t you afraid, what about your kids? And the story turns around, turns against me, turns into being, yet again, about me.
Its like this kind of life isn’t normal or something.
I should not be complaining, and really in my heart, I’m not complaining. I’m just trying to understand so I can learn to write in the best possible way – communicating without being boring. That people are interested in what I’m doing and why I’m doing it here is a good thing. I’ll just have to write a fantabulous book about it that everyone in the world will read and then I will be able to simply direct them to that book when I want to write about, say, Djiboutian female athletes instead. Oh wait, I tried and that book has sort of died.
I’m sorry to bore all of you who already know these tedious details. I’m sorry that I can’t come up with more interesting ways to say it and that I have not yet been able to convince editors that I don’t need to say it. I guess they are right, in my case the editors pretty much always are right. On the boarding school piece, people’s primary complaint was that I didn’t explain why we chose boarding school or where we lived that would have led us to that choice. Which I have done in many other places and didn’t want to bore people with the same old same old. But new people showed up to read it (a great thing!) and got confused and a little angry (a not great thing).
So, I’m wondering – are readers bugged about reading the same general intro like I am sometimes about writing it or is it really not that big of a deal?