I’ve been aware of steadily building to a ‘writing crisis’ for over a year now. It reached a horrible crescendo over the New Year and I was close to building a great big bonfire and walking away from 80,00 words which seem to have a gravity all of their own, dragging me back to misery even when I don’t open the document to work on it. It’s always there.
The biggest part of the problem has been deciding what my book is about: It’s about cancer but that’s only initially. It’s about survival but where does that start and where does it end? What is survival anyway?
And I think I’ve been waiting for the glorious joy of a life without any struggles, irritations, questions, doubt, fear – the Disney Castle and the ‘happily ever after’. Others would say – Get real. That doesn’t happen. Well, duh of course it doesn’t – to you – BUT I’m different. I want more!
Anyway, over the Christmas break – after a dragon moment – which will be defined some other time but think breathing fire and you’ll get there, Max offered up that kind of advice a parent recognises as their own words being played back to them. The insightful slap in the face paradox.
For every barrier I threw up – the ‘Oh, I’ve tried that’ or ‘what you don’t understand is..’ He just threw something else back.
This was in the context of telling me about an ex-convict, a murderer, who had been a speaker at his school. This chap had gone into prison with an impoverished background, having made the ultimate mistake in a brawl but come out with an English degree and become a writer and speaker.
“If he can do it, you can.” was Max’s view. “You just need to decide what’s going to move you from where you’re at, at the moment.” And he started throwing the ideas at me that I would throw at him:
- Act as if you are a writer – write anything. Do more on your blog. Write another, easier, shorter memoir. Write newspaper articles.
- Get together with other memoir writers.
- Find a course.
And because you just have to set a good example to a 17 year old who can come up with all of that, I have.
Act as if you’re a writer
- I’ve quietly gathered (out of the Ikea bags) materials I could write a short memoir on being parent to a dyslexic.
- A friend happened to hate writing so I have ghosted some website forum discussion pieces for a client of hers. She may want me to write some blog posts in the future.
- On my own blog, I have already published 4 x the number of posts I managed all last year – Ok! Ok! That was largely due to nightmare back issues – but I have a quiet commitment to publish something every week.
Get together with other memoir writers
- I’ve ditched the local fiction writing group – wrong emphasis and frankly not very rewarding. I have way more fun at the Carrot Ranch.
I couldn’t find a local non-fiction writing group (not even within 100 miles).
- Non-fiction does seem to be a solitary thing – so I’m slowly going to try and change that. It’s not coming to me so I’m coming to find you! I’ve started with a call for authentic memoir reviews to be shared on Twitter so I’m not reliant on Amazon best sellers.
- I’m also trying to focus my blog interaction time a little more around the few chatty memoirists I know – Irene, Sherri, Jeanne. I’m prodding some I’ve lost touch with and they’re looking friendly – Sherrey & Maureen – hello.
- Finally, all wrapped up in number 3, I am actually going to meet up with others face to face.
Find a course.
- Talk about serendipity! I’d googled to no avail – I didn’t want one of those lazy ‘life writing’ courses that are for beginners and too general for my needs. And then a friend sent me a prospectus for CityLit in London so we could choose a photography day to do together and by chance I stumbled upon “Advanced Autobiographical Writing” – It required a work-in-progress and covers all sorts of issues and problems. Having been accepted onto that, I suddenly realised I knew someone else it might really help and contacted her. Sherri Matthews is joining me and I cannot wait to meet face to face!
Sharing the Story
We have both decided that sharing our progress on our blogs will only add to our commitment. And it may be that I will want to pick your brains about specific issues and or passages of writing as I go. This has to work.
The course runs on Tuesdays for 11 weeks starting in 2 weeks time. I plan to share a catchup on my progress at the end of each writing week – which will fall on a Monday. Memoir Monday. I hope you can stop by and cheer us on. We need all the help we can get!