Vulnerability. Much easier to talk about and expect from others than to live that way ourselves. After all, one definition is to be exposed and open to attack. Rarely do we want to put ourselves in that position. Yet we long for authenticity.
I came face to face with this dilemma when I hit the send button and distributed the draft of MarriageAbility to those who agreed to be beta readers. These people read the book and shared their honest feedback with me. They did this in several areas I asked about, as well as one broad “What else do I need to know?” question. They responded anonymously, enabling them to share freely.
Others read part of the book in small segments before the beta readers. My husband for one. And many of my friends from Word Weavers were engaged with the reading and critiquing of every chapter. An editor went through the manuscript and tightened it up and improved my writing in ways I was too close to see.
But this was different. This time it was going to friends who live with disability in their marriages and families. Some know me very well. Others are acquaintances. When I hit send, I was sharing with my comrades-in-arms who live a similar reality to Jerry and me. This was the ultimate vulnerability.
What would they think? Would my writing ring true to them? As I state in the introduction, I never intended this book to have all the answers about living with disability. But I hope it offers some commonality, encouragement and ideas.
I asked for responses to be submitted in three weeks. Those weeks were some of the longest of my life. About ten to twelve days in, I received notice that my first response arrived. I was excited and nervous. I waited until a second response came in before I read the first one. In case it was negative, I was hoping it would be balanced by a second one. I was so nervous I didn’t even tell Jerry the first response came until I was ready to read them.
I think I held my breath as I opened those first replies. I began to breathe normally when I read,
“I liked that you made your suggestions from your personal experiences and shared so much of the relationship that you and Jerry have. It was easy reading and informative. I learned some things and have a better understanding of the challenges of every day disability. You both have a shown how a good Christian marriage can thrive through adversity.”
Perhaps my favorite comment were the first three sentences below.
“I accepted your invitation because you are a friend. I really wasn’t excited about reading it. But once I got into it, I really enjoyed the book. I think there are three points to note. First, I enjoyed your openness, letting your readers get an insight into your personal lives. Second, you provided very useful tips for dealing with disability. Third, I found myself saying this information is not just about disability – this contains practical helps for anyone with or without a disability.”
All the responses were helpful and encouraging, even those suggesting changes, or encouraging me to ponder something a little deeper before rewriting a section.
This kind of feedback makes MarraigeAbility a stronger book. The version you will read is enhanced because of each beta readers response. I still have a sense of vulnerability as the book goes public, but I’m grateful I no longer feel naked on the street corner!
Thank you, dear beta reader friends, for your excellent feedback, the time you took, and for loving me enough to be honest. Thank you for investing in the lives of those who will read, and Lord willing, benefit from this book.
If you haven’t purchased your copy yet, you can do so here.