No, I did not fall off the planet, nor was I swept away by floodwaters. I have, however, been somewhat overwhelmed by my circumstances, work and the usual worry about things over which I have no control.
I have been reassessing, how much do I want to work, getting back to my writing and what space and time will I carve out for that. I have found that if I step away from writing for too long, as I did after the flood, that internal critic whom I felt I had finally at least temporarily banned from my head came barging in once more.
The impetus for the return of the beast was the She Writes 1 year birthday celebration. Although She Writes was founded in New York City, it now boasts an online community of nearly 10,000 women writers from all over the United States and 30 countries. That is close to 1,000 new members a month, which is incredible. I am the administrator of the bloggers group, which now has over 1200 bloggers, that is a whole bunch of blogs. On June 29, She Writes turned one.
Anyway, to celebrate the birthday Kamy Wicoff and Deborah Siegel, the co-founders of She Writes asked members to hold celebrations in cities around the world. There were at least 17 separate birthday celebrations including one here in Nashville. Amazingly, we had almost 45 women join us at Davis Kidd Booksellers. Most of these women were not She Writes members, well at least not when they decided to join us, many have since become members.
As part of the celebration, Sally Schloss who is my mentor and editor and who organized the event asked several writers to read a short selection from their work. She read a portion of a short story herself. She had nine different readers and all, but one, were already published. The one unpublished reader? Me. Sally asked me to read from my memoir, even though it is still just a polished first draft.
Sally and I met about a week before the event to discuss the agenda etc., and to discuss what portion of the memoir I would read. She suggested a portion and I decided to go home, look at it and then possibly look at other sections as well then decide what to read.
And therein was that small opening which my internal critic busted through. I literally read the memoir and decided that maybe I hated it, that it wasn’t worthy of being read, that I was setting myself up to be embarrassed and ridiculed. Yes, I know, really rather dramatic but that critic does that to me.
Unwilling, however to fail at this assignment, I just finally gave up trying to find the perfect passage, or re-write the perfect passage and went with the section that Sally had first suggested. It was my first public appearance as “an author”. I did not mumble, I did not stutter, I did not speak in foreign tongues. In fact, I read eight pages clearly and with conviction. I was scared to death but tried not to let others see my fear.
See ... look at me, I'm reading!
Moreover, when I was done I was still whole, I had not died, and I had not heard any loud sighs of impatience or snickering at the writing. In fact, I received several really wonderful compliments on my work, from published authors, wonderful writers who know this stuff. I received comments from several people who said they couldn’t wait to read the entire memoir.
Take that damn critic!
I also had started, in the past several months, two short stories. I have only a beginning and not really a clue where they are going. I wrote them and put them away as I worked on the memoir. I pulled them out again recently as I contemplated attending another writer’s workshop. Much to my surprise, I loved what I had written; I was actually kind of proud of myself. I had, before then, doubted myself thinking I would re-read them and realize they would be awful. But no, they weren’t awful, at least not to me.
I sent them both to Sally to get a professional opinion of the story starts and to see if she thought I should work on them in workshop or let them be. She told me she worried that if I concentrated on short stories I would somehow not get the memoir done and she may be right. I may have used working on something else as a convenient excuse not to finish the memoir. I mean, if it isn’t finished I can’t fail at getting it published can I? – Don’t answer that.
But, I heard from Sally after she read the beginnings and she gave me the loveliest compliment I could ever get. Her words were, “you need to finish the memoir so you can write fiction”.
I am now even more certain that I need and want to be careful how much time I work. I need to reprioritize and probably simplify my life somewhat so that I work less and write more. I still plan to help Cait with her photography business but I know there are ways to be more frugal to cut back here and there so that I don’t feel I have to work so much and I get back to doing what I love, writing.
So as I settle into my new apartment and sit at my desk that sits in my bay window of my room I feel content that I am back on the right track. She Writes is holding a contest for non-fiction writers that I plan to enter with my memoir. It is time to get those revisions done and see if I can get it out into the world. Then to move on to some fiction writing, I’m excited.
No, this isn't actually my desk or my bay window, someday maybe but you get the idea ...