Monday, March 20, 2017

Confidence and the Memoir Writer's Journey

The craft of writing requires contentment with solitude. In solitude, the writer begins to touch base with her spirit, her story.

She nurtures herself with the love and care required to find and trust in her voice. She explores her life and those around her with the interest and detachment required of all great writers. The corollary of solitude: confidence in herself, her craft, her reason and motivation to write her memoir.

I've met women who say they see no point to writing a memoir about that certain time, place or person, even though it all still haunts them. "I've moved on. That part of my life is over," they say.

But is it? I've been involved with enough memoir writers to know some stories can't permanently be shelved no matter how hard we try. It's why I wrote Again in a Heartbeat.  Let's be honest. We write memoir for ourselves, as much as our readers. If it helps those who read our books to sort through their own lives and life stories and traumas, so much the better. While writing Again in a Heartbeat was therapeutic, I never forgot my audience.

A couple of women contacted me this past week, asking about the Women's Writing Circle. They wanted to know more about our group. They didn't want to blunder into a therapy group, they said. Should they attend? One worried that reading in the Circle would be "intimidating." Newly retired, she had just started journaling, dribs and drabs here and there about gardening and such. I wrote back that was a fantastic start and recommended she read Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones, as well as The Artist's Way. Another woman expressed concerns about being "ready" to read her writing in the Circle.

In her book, The Artist's Way, Julia Cameron talks about the shadow artist. She feels she has little of worth to say, received criticism early on about her desire to write, even thinks it is selfish to devote time to her creative life and is shadowed by doubts and insecurities.

I always remind people there are "no rules" and that a story that resonates with one, may not resonate with others and vice versa. Your voice, your style is unique and your own. Here's a blog post I wrote on the "rules" of writing after reading Francine Prose's book, Reading Like a Writer.

Spring signifies rebirth and renewal. Now that the days are longer and lighter, it helps develop my next memoir about a woman's journey ... alone, but not alone, as she watches the seasons change and finds solace in her companion, a yellow lab named Lily. Instead of worrying that no one will want to read this book, or I'm simply writing another Marley and Me, I'm intent on believing in my own story, my worth as a writer. Will everyone want to read this book? Of course not. Do I have something to say, those "lessons learned"  as we age and find ourselves alone? I hope so.

In the end, I want to tell my story as much for me, as my readers. I'm living this story now so in many ways it is easier than writing about the past. Like all writing, however, it evokes a journey of self-discovery which can only be fueled by confidence.

July, 2016
I have Lily and so I am never alone. She and I walked through the townhouse community today as we do every morning and afternoon. She finds interest and pleasure in the smallest blade of grass, which she smells intently, her tail arched, one pale yellow paw poised like a ballerina’s above the ground. A dog teaches you the value of living in the moment, of patience, of the simplest pleasure. 
Afterwards, she and I return to the house, I give her a biscuit and she falls into a contented sleep next to my writing chair in the living room, especially after I turn on the air conditioning. It is another hot day and the weekend portends a return of the exhausting humidity.

It was wonderful to get away last week with Daniel to Bar Harbor, especially since Alex took care of Lily.

Maine was so much cooler and the endless vistas of sunlight sparkling on the ocean made me feel more alive, as if each day might offer an unexpected gift; a new reader, a new person inquiring about my writing group, a good conversation. I do love seeing new places and Maine offers the most amazing scenery, solitude and utter stillness in the woodsy trails high above the Atlantic. And, of course, traveling with my grown son makes me the envy of many mothers. I know I am fortunate.

They wonder ... how it is that my sons and I travel the world together? I have a secret. I enjoy being with them, they encourage me to express myself and I them. We’re good companions ―Alex, Daniel and I. In a world where the three of us often find it hard to bond with others or make sense of it all, a special alchemy of trust and love brightens our days, made even more precious with Lily at our side. 
We sip cocktails, Daniel and I, in Kennebunkport, sitting on a cushioned wicker couch overlooking the harbor and talk about life, loves, his career aspirations.
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