What I Know After Two Weeks

Don’t be in such a rush, hot rod (Image by Logan Weaver, via Unsplash)

When I did my dissertation research 28 years ago (!!!), I knew that it would take me a while to be recognized and considered trustworthy within the high school community I was studying. It turned out to be somewhere between a month and three months for most of the kids, some never; between a week and a month for most of the teachers and administrators, some never.

Nora put me in mind of that this evening. I came downstairs after a day of writing, and said, “I just feel like there’s a distance between me and these people.” And she said, wisely, “They don’t trust you yet.”

Part of it is the structure of the story. The story that presented itself was of the later-adult James facing a major life change. But I wanted to see how he’d gotten to that place, which meant writing about the nine-year-old Jimmy, and the high school and young-adult Jim, as well as the older James. Plus Jimmy’s dad, and his mom, and his little brother and sister, and his mom’s lover. None of those people volunteered for this, and I could make them look bad if I wanted to. So I have to earn their trust before they’ll really tell me what they value. And that takes time.

And even with that, I’m a fair ways in, and I think it’s a viable story. I’ll tell you more next week.

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