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Too Much Detail

February 17, 2017

How does one accurately, honestly and engagingly describe what life is like within the adult social care system? That is the conundrum I’ve been wrestling with the past couple of days. How can one narrate the daily grind of the system without the reader switching off in boredom?

I got some feedback from the publishing company who approached me, expressing their interest in my new book. They have decided not to offer me a deal and one of the reasons is “the level of detail currently written”. It’s a fair point. Obviously, when you write a book you want people to read it and you don’t want the reader to discard the book 20 pages in because the content is such a slog. The trick is (and I haven’t discovered the way of executing the trick yet) to present the slog of your life in a way that doesn’t become a slog to read.

Having been turned down by the publishing house, it is back to Plan A of self publishing and yesterday I was setting up the basic details (book size, format, description etc) on the publishing site. The book has been through five drafts so far and I have been surprisingly ruthless with each draft. For draft two, I culled nearly 50 pages from the original manuscript. Each subsequent draft has seen similar shrinkage but when I created the A5 book size PDF yesterday, it still came out as 394 pages! It’s certainly not 394 pages of relentless whining but I have tried to portray the grind in a way that shows how it affects the act of living. Here is a typical, three sentence entry from May 2016:

“Steven is in the living room having a meltdown because he wants me to participate in his commentary of Grease. I’m in the bedroom trying to get on with the monthly personal budget audit which is due on Monday. The poor support worker is on sentry duty in the hall, trying to keep the peace but it’s pointless, because with the noise and my tears, I’m not going to get this job done”.

It’s honest but how many times would a reader want to read a paragraph like that. As Paul Heaton sang, “This is my life and this is how it reads” but what if the repetition of your life stops people reading?

Most of the discourse about social care these days puts the problems squarely at the door of the person requiring services. “Bed blockers” is now a common term to shift attention away from chronic under funding. How often does discussion of assessment and treatment units get shut down by dropping in the phrase, “complex needs”? Justification achieved and conversation ended in just two words. One thing that I hope comes across in everything I write is that Steven isn’t the problem. He isn’t the cause of my grind. Perhaps, rather pompously, I wanted to present an extended piece that makes this point loud and clear. With all the funny bits of our life in as well.

Bollocks! I know who will read the book. I’m not going to convert anybody. I’m sure most people will skip three pages of intense analysis of personalisation to get to a piece about Steven musing over Simon Le fucking Bon. That’s my audience. I can hear them in the Newport Pagnellshire book club: “Yes, a very interesting argument about the problems of the social care Panel but wasn’t that story about Steven’s crush on Sybil Fawlty a hoot”.

Writing my blog as my own personal therapy tool. I think I’m just going to press that key marked “publish”.

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9 Comments
  1. emily permalink

    I’d buy it. There are so many fun times in between the heartaches and bureaucracies. Living with a super kid on the spectrum makes everyday different and exciting. Indeed, bollocks to the publishers. I’d love to hear about Steven’s stories

  2. I would’ve bought it. And I know lots of psychology grads who would have read it – they were amazing when I gave a talk – very passionate. It would have been on their booklist as essential hearing the voice of the voiceless.
    I suppose that’s one publisher. There are others.
    Or just print it on demand, and have it as a reference library book..

  3. swanarchie07 permalink

    Mark I have followed your blogs for a good few years now, I have read your last book and most likely would read your next, yes sometimes the life of a carer is a daily grind, but what you write is powerful and influenced me to shout and not just put up and shut up, now my son is 10 but I also cared for my father too who was disabled and it made me more aware of adult social care been nothing like children’s, but also has helped me to try shape children’s social care and improve the services we receive. You say writing is your therapy well reading your blogs is mine, so keep going as I love your stories of Steven and also sharing your knowledge of the services and how they operate thank you x

  4. Five edits takes a lot of stamina! When you give your talks, I’m sure you can sense what works from the atmosphere in the room. Not so easy for a book. Without an editor (professional or friend) it’s hard to find the right perspective for any personal story. Is it an uplifting story of humanity winning out, or are you trying to show what works and what doesn’t?

  5. simone aspis permalink

    Out of interest Mark does Stephen know about your blogs about himself and what is his views – this is an open question?

    • Yes. I don’t read him everyone I write and he’s generally non plussed by them but he loves it when he meets someone and they quote one of his stories.

      • simone aspis permalink

        thanks Mark – I love your blog as well

  6. arbrown permalink

    Dear Mark,

    Just want to thank you for your writing and encourage you to keep going. I have been getting your weekly musings/stories/occasional rants for some while now. Sorry if I missed the fact you are writing a book; this was the first mention I remember but according to my wife I miss at least half of what I’m told. However, I thought you should know that you are also writing for people like me, who don’t have anyone trapped in ‘care’ regimes but who find your insights into a world where systems manufacture dehumanising policies a useful reminder of the world we are walking into on a Monday morning. Please keep writing, your voice is one of sanity in a world slowly consuming itself in its own madness. I really appreciate it. Thank you.

    I had intended to write over Christmas and the thought had occurred to buy you a small present as a way of saying thanks. Then I realised, of course, that you’d be mad to give your address to someone you don’t know, but if it is the thought that counts, you did quite well out of it! Actually, I would have sent you the book Soul to Soil by Alistair Macintosh. It’s an account of struggles that at one level are refreshingly different to yours, and at another are strikingly similar. I thought you might enjoy it and even find it gave some new perspectives on your own tribulations. But you’ll have to buy it yourself now for being too sensible to give out your address.

    Anyway, a lot of the power in the systems is the perpetual lie that no one cares about you or the ones that matter to you. I just wanted to let you know that I do. I read what you write and allow it to inform me as I work out for myself what it is to be human in a world that seems affronted that creatures like us should exist. And few pieces of yours, I thought, sum that up better than the one where you wrote about the lady who sniggered at you for admitting you love your son. Honestly, mate, please keep writing! The most powerful thing you have is your story.

    Keep up the good work,

    Andy

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