This weekend marked the 25th anniversary of the first Persian Gulf War, when the war actually started. For us, it started in the middle of the night because of the time difference, and by morning, planes were coming in low over our tents.
There were a lot of things I discovered while I was writing Soldier, Storyteller that I was glad I didn’t know then, because it would have make the non-stop onslaught of fear worse. But one of the things I remember from immediately after I returned to Washington State was that I needed books about other veterans’ experiences.
And there wasn’t any. The Vietnam books were just starting to come out, but they were only about the men. So that was what I read. I heard that it takes 20 years before something war can be written about.
But a year after the war, I wanted to write a book about. I thought there was a story in it. I thought I had a story. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was an attempt to bleed off some of the poison of everything that happened.
The story never amounted to much. I’d get three chapters done, and it just felt wrong. I was focusing too much on details that no one would understand or care particularly about. Details were things I could focus on without touching things that were worse.
I’d revisit it over the years, even as a novel, but it just didn’t stick past the first few chapters. I had some people telling me I ought to write a book, and I don’t think they really understood that it was going to be in its own time.
One of the problems was that when I first thought about the project, it was to bleed off the poison, not to really tell a story. The creative brain put its feet down (being as my muse looks like a Golden Retriever) and said, “Uh uh.” I think a lot of memoirs probably never quite work because the writer is trying to get back at someone or exorcise the proverbial demons, not tell an actual story.
But it was like one day, it hit me how to write it, and I did. I guess it was time, and I was ready. Finally.