Diary of a Memoir Writer: Falling off Routine

My week fell apart.  I don’t know how long it will take me to ensure I DO NOT LET ANYTHING INTERRUPT MY MORNING time to write.

Last weekend I suffered with a sore back that left me unable to focus to do anything.  I couldn’t stand, sit, lay down, walk, nothing.  So I did not do much writing on the weekend.  Only about a half hour each day.  Things didn’t change much during the week.  My back got better but not my writing.

My little girl was having issues wanting to go to school so I had to stress myself out about it for three days and two nights.  I only wrote for a half hour each of those days as well.  Each day was about 800 to !000 words per day.  Not my goal.  I feel bad because I put some of my enthusiasm at the back burner.  I wasn’t aware what I wrote from day to day.  I carried nothing.  I hope to be done this draft by the middle to end of December.  It will be interesting for me to see what I wrote during this past week.  I won’t re-read any of it until then.  Except for the blurbs I throw in posts.

Well my week sort of went in a different direction from last week.  Which is kind of a bummer cause last week I was on a high with my writing and remembering.  I was so complete.  Joyful.  Delight filled me every day.  This week I just ushered chaos in the door without even thinking.  Well that guest just took over!

One strange thing I noticed is my desire to drink.  I woke up last Saturday smelling red wine in the air.  Now it was eight o’clock in the morning.  No one was drinking and especially since I fell asleep in my little girl’s room there was no wine in there.  So this was just a bit of my imagination.

When I was on my writing high I did open a bottle of wine and drank a glass while I prepared supper.  I did not have a glass everynight but most nights.  This alone is strange behaviour for me.  Is writing This Old House causing me to want to drink?  I could understand it if I felt upset and had tough memories to recall but I was deleriously happy.  Why should I choose the bottle?

I only drink about a half-dozen times a year.  Never to get drunk.  A couple of glasses at my husband’s work function or maybe my husband and I will think some wine at supper would be nice and we will have a glass or two.  Not a big drinker.  Well now I smell wine all the time.  Even last night.  I am watching Eat, Pray, Love and all of a sudden I turn and look at my husband saying excitedly, “I smell red wine.  Do you want some?”  We didn’t have any but this behaviour of mine is most puzzling.  Is this memoir writing blog going to turn into a How Marlene Became An Alcoholic?

K, in summary I only wrote for a half hour each day this week.  Pulling in roughly 800 to 1000 words per day.  Not ideal but I am glad I still wrote.  I could have abandoned it all together which is typical of me when I don’t meet my expectations.  I still have some flow going.  And the five glasses of wine I had last night during supper left me still drunk (Metaphorically, I wasn’t actually drunk last night) with excitement this morning.

top photo courtesy of Sunstone Creations

bottom photo is mine

What is the Point?

“Seeing yourself as the protagonist of your life, you look for your responsibility in the story your life makes, rather than seeing it as having “happened to you.”  For women, especially, this can be a radical shift in perception.”

Your Life as Story by Tristine Rainer

I can’t lie.  After writing full steam last week I thought I would have a glimpse of what my memoir’s deeper meaning would be.  I was hopeful and looking for a clue or two.  Nothing.  So far it is just writing.  Rambling writing.  Or free-writing.  That sounds more positive doesn’t it.

I remember something Anne Lamott wrote in her book Bird by Bird, something about hoping you don’t die before you get to re-write the draft.  That is where I am at.  It is awful.  Although we are always our own worst critic but it is suppose to be awful.  I know I want the finish product to have more meaning.  Like Sunlight, this book, is just a bunch of random memories and thoughts.  I didn’t know what Sunlight would be until two months after I had written it.  I guess I need to get in a little deeper to find out what treasure is here.  I am standing on the shore hoping to see Atlantis deep underwater.

This lack of seeing the end picture stunts my writing.  I wonder where it is all going.  I lay in bed and think about my past to see what sort of memory comes up or maybe I reflect on a writing prompt I read the night before to get me going.  I lay there and as soon as a memory pops up I write it.  About a half hour in my brain starts to wake up and be aware of what I am doing.  It starts to get critical, wondering what the point is to me remembering about childhood toys in the big scheme of things.  Then my writing slows down until I am just done.  My writing-self has been silently discouraged by my brain that it has walked off the stage.

I feel lost and the fact that I don’t just trust the process of remembering bugs the shit out of me.  “Just relax,” I tell myself.  “Things will work out.  They always do.”  My brain does not listen.  It says nasty things to me. Then I can feel that writer leaving.  This voice must be tamed.

That is my task this week.  To take control of that voice that discourages the writer.  The one that closes the door on my memories with nasty comments.  …..

Actually I don’t  like what I just said about taking control of that voice.  Both voices have benefits.  There is just a time and place for each.  They need to learn to mind their manners.  Sometimes the writer voice comes up when I just can’t deal with all its chattering too.  I need my logical mind at the moment and then it decides to start talking to me when we had our special time that morning.

Now, I must get writing.  I must not let the brain discourage the writer.  I will keep writing and see where the stories lead.  Like bread crumbs.  Write and then see if I can see the picture when I am done.  Or maybe I will see it along the way.  I don’t know.  I need to trust the process.  The point of the story will come.  It is in there.  My message will reveal itself.

6 Lessons Learned: Week One

  1. Routine is key. Find a day and time that works for you and do your darndest to honour it. Experiment and don’t beat yourself up for being all over the map at first. Most people find waking up early or staying up late is the best time for them. Start there.
  2. Perhaps set a word count goal per day or per week? I tested out how long i could write before my brain felt empty. it was about an hour. On average i wrote about 12 words per line so i counted the lines,multiplied it by 12 and i have an approximate word count. now i know i can write roughly 1600 words per day. in my mind i like to keep things in multiples of 5 so i say 1500 words per day. Test out writing for a day or two and see how much time you need to write so many words. Then use that as your daily goal.
  3. You may have to write about a scene many times to get to the heart of it. I have written this scene of me leaving my father a few times. I am getting closer to the core of it. Experiment writing it in different points of view. In my case with my writing about us leaving my dad on the drive way, I could write from my dad’s perspective or from my mom’s. Yet the one that comes to my mind first is my brother David. Why did he just sit on the road waving?
  4. When you get the urge to write, do it. WRITE. No matter the time. If you don’t your heart will ache a smidge for the rest of your life. You will ignore it as best you can. You will try and rationalize it away saying it was so bloody early. I couldn’t have done that and taken care of my kids the next day or functioned at work. Let me tell you, if you write you will find you have unbounding energy that day. No matter how you talk yourself out of it the memory of you not writing, it will resurface so subtly, float into your thoughts, even if for a nanosecond, for the rest of your life. You will remember wanting to write but not having any memory of what it was that needed to get out of you.
  5. Mustering up that energy is tough. Damn tough sometimes. I have been known to lay in bed for an hour mulling over my thoughts and procrastinating on getting out of bed. I like to write while in bed. If I can get my act together before crawling under the covers I try and makes ure I have a notebook, pen and a reading light by my bed. So then I can write and stay warm and snuggly if I wake up in the night.
  6. Be aware of the thoughts in your mind. I have experienced every day this week the desire to not remember yet I have a pull to force myself too. Listen to that part of you that pulls you towards knowing. That is your heart. The other part of you is your ego. Maybe it doesn’t want you to do the work cause it feels you got better things to do. Maybe it doesn’t want you to do the work cause it will be too painful. Maybe it is just trying to control you. Don’t let it.

Self-Sacrifice Is Following Me Around

Pausing for a moment in my parka and boots to think if I have everything I look out the window and I see Chances looking up at me through the door window excited.  His whole body is wagging.  I am excited to see him so enthusiastic for our walk.  It is nothing new.  He has been this way since he joined our family not even a year ago.  His excitement to be with me never grows old.

I can’t think of anything else I need so I open the door and Chances immediately goes from upright wagging tail dog to sitting patiently but bouncing for glee inside.  He is waiting for his treat. I noticed this habit last week.  He was jumping for my hands, nipping and licking them looking for food.  In that moment I realized I had been packing a peanut butter sandwich with me lately for our walks and he got use to them more than I did.  Funny how habits form. Well today my hands are empty and since he is anticipating a peanut butter sandwich I want to get him one.  He is such a good puppy.

I open the door telling him I will be right back. He looks at me and cocks his head to the side wondering what is up.  He heard his name but I am not giving or doing anything exciting to his knowledge.  I make a peanut butter sandwich and begin to head out again. Handing him pieces of torn bread as we walk.  It occurs to me that I forgot a hanky.   I need a hanky on my walks.  Once again I tell him I will be right back and head back inside.  After grabbing that necessity I put my hand on the door handle.  He sees me through the window and is excited.  Almost jumping out of his skin.  He has a look in his eye, are we going now, huh, are we?   I realize I need to use the washroom.  I won’t go.  I look into his puppy dog eyes and he is so excited.  I don’t want to hold him back from his this moment any longer.  These morning walks are the highlight of his day and I’m taking forever to get out the door. I won’t make him wait.

SMACK!  Awareness hits me.  I have done this before. I have held off going to the bathroom for Craig – not wanting to be an inconvenience – and I’m even doing it for my dog!  The most devoted and forgiving being in my house!  

“We leave the office and I stand in the hall thinking I should go to the washroom but second guess that because I don’t want take up any more of Craig’s time away from work. I hop on the elevator not saying much to Craig.”  

Excerpt from Sunlight

When will this self-sacrificing end?!  When will I stop putting basic needs of mine in second place?  I wonder if I will battle self-sacrifice issue my entire life? Karma gives me this lesson to bare and I wonder what I did in a past life to require it.  Noticing these little moments is the beginning of change.  Flicking on my awareness switch two years ago has allowed more and more lights to come one.  Albeit they are slower than I would like but I guess that is part of the journey.

A Bit of Sunlight – A Road Trip

It is a gorgeous day. I feel like I am floating down the highway as I drive to Esterhazy. I love it. I am going to meet Frances, my mom’s first cousin. My mom said that there were no relatives left on her mother’s side. None of them had kids and all her mother’s siblings have passed on. But I couldn’t believe it. I see how families multiply and grow, there had to be someone who could tell me about my grandmother Nellie. I can’t believe this dream of mine is coming true. This is really happening. I have found a treasure box in my family tree.

I feel guilty about cancelling a counselling session and not showing up at yoga practice but I really feel that I have to do this. As I drive I kind of dissolve into the blue sky in front of me. I wonder if the houses I past, the abandoned farm yards of families long ago suffered as I suffer now.

Did the women accept their world and environment? Did they enjoy parenting and cleaning? Or did they long for something more? Did their longing kill them? Did they get to do what they wanted to do? Could they dream past their present situations? Did they find happiness in the small, everyday things? 

Looking at the houses and I wonder where the gardens were, where the kids played, did the mother have a special spot in the yard or a favourite window to look out of? Did she garden out of necessity or did she enjoy it?  I can almost imagine kids running around outside but only there was more trees around the yard back then.

When we live in one world, a world of pioneers, can we even imagine living in a world outside of that?  Can we imagine and have the opportunity to move towards our passions?

Photo was taken through my car window in 2007 along HWY 11 in Saskatchewan, Canada.