We Both Wrote Everything

How do you learn something new about your life mate* after being together for decades? Undertake a big project together, for example, write a book. In our case, How to Be a Care Consultant and Care Manager: Working With Elders and Their Families With Compassion and Respect. Most of our collaboration did not yield a whole lot of learning something new about my lifemate. Joan would rather be interacting with people, her garden, her recipes—most anything rather than her keyboard. I already knew that. I don’t believe she ran for and served on the Edmonds City Council just to put four additional years between her and the distress of being an author, but I don’t disbelieve it. On the whole, the process of being co-authors fit, for better or worse, what we already knew about each other—that we had each others’ back, that we knew how to persevere through the inevitable boredom of a large undertaking (after all, we both made it through grad school), that commas are the most difficult grammar decisions. What I learned about Joan is the key to why she’s so good with her clients, something that should have been obvious to me. But first...

Who wrote what

Friends and relatives ask, in regard to co-authoring of How to Be a Care Consultant and Care Manager, who wrote what? With a bit of thought we decided on this: we both wrote everything. Here’s why we see it that way. 

Soon after Joan and I first conceived of our book, we began to take nightly walks after dark. During the 45 minutes or so, we’d discuss her work, mostly specific client issues that came up for her, but also general ideas about her work with elders and their families. We’d often follow the discussion with, we should write about that.About five percent of the time we did. Much of the book material came from those walks, with the balance from other random discussions. 

Who typed the actual words is another story, but first, here’s an example that illustrates how we both wrote everything:

Our original theme for the book was working effectively with families. It was to be based on a nineteen-page outline Joan created for a presentation she made at a national conference held by the Aging Life Care Association (at the time, called the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers). However, we soon changed direction to cover not just working with families, but the whole of Joan’s work with elders. 

In the early planning, Joan and I divied up the chapters. After I finished my first drafts, I decided to give the chapter on working with families a try. Early on, concerned the first section of the outline was too much of a shift into theory and would be a poor fit for the rest of the book, I suggested we leave out the section that was once going to be the anchor of the whole book. To my surprise, by just forgoing the more theoretical parts, I was able to guide Joan’s outline easily into a draft. When I remarked to Joan what a great outline it was—how easy it was to use to cover the subject—she responded by reminding me that the outline was hatched from the many conversations we had. In short: (1) We had conversations over the years on working with families. (2) Joan wrote the outline from our conversations. (3) I wrote the section from her outline. 

In terms of ideas, we both wrote everything, but we separately created the first drafts of the various chapters. As I looked through the chapters, I realized, with surprise, that I wrote in Joan’s voice and Joan wrote in her clients’ voice. While that may seem strange, it fit. I can see and understand Joan's work without her emotional investment. I can report on Joan's work without her concerns that she always wishes she could do more: maybe this would have worked better, maybe that would work better.

Regardless of who wrote what, we wrote in the first person as Joan. That was the best fit for how we want her work to be understood. Rather than a manual—this is how it's done—we presented this is how I do it. The book presents a model that worked for Joan, but leaves room for the various personalities that might be attracted to a career in care consultation and care management. 

What I learned about Joan

Despite the many conversations with Joan, and despite the many hours editing her book chapters, it wasn't until I reviewed the manuscript to prepare for this article that I realized how Joan’s compassion and insight into her clients’ internal world translate into her work: she views her clients not for what they've lost, but for who they are. 

How to Be a Care Consultant and Care Manager: Working With Families With Compassion and Respect, was published on October 5, 2019.

*Life mate (lifemate) comes from the graphic novel series Elfquest