Earlier this winter, I had the good fortune to read a post from Sarah Potter’s blog featuring a concept called Novel Writing Winter. She explained her kinder and gentler approach to working on her book using the entire winter season to snuggle up and write. I thought it was so creative, especially for those of us who are hunkered down anyway, facing those bleary grey winter days. I’d already flunked out of NaNoWriMo and the prospect of having a writing buddy, a pal across the pond in the UK (in her case) sounded delightful. I pictured many afternoons with an imaginary tea party with Sarah and friends chatting about our projects and realized it was exactly the support that I needed.
To that point, I had been writing. I had been discovering memories, painstakingly putting them into form on a blog, mostly short and random stories. It was fulfilling to a point but knew I had a larger purpose for the experience that I had gone through of abuse, childhood violence and recovery. I wanted this story to be a book but hadn’t a clue of where to go from there.
I quickly joined up with Sarah and friends, put her badge on my blog and sat down with my stories. Since I was already feeling encouraged by this support, I thought, why not take it to the next level? The National Association of Memoir Writers, a group that I had belonged to for a year or so, was offering a class on memoir writing given by two women who I have come to love and respect. Linda Joy Myers, who started NAMW, and Brooke Warner of Warner Coaching, were giving a 4-week introductory class through their Write Your Memoir in Six Months site. It seemed like a perfect place to start in my quest to find out more and provide my story with some structure.
Yes, I said structure. The one aspect of this process that was sorely lacking attention. You see, I love the creative flow, the zone where I’m lost in my mind and pouring out words on the keyboard. The romantic aspect of writing appeals so greatly to me. Sitting in the library, books all around me, dog curled up by my side complete with a steaming cup of tea. I have a good laugh at myself when I realize I’ve cultivated this quirky, dressed in black, elusive artist persona. Oh, you should see me poised at the window wistfully looking out at the bleary winter sky with the tormented gaze of Virginia Wolff. I seriously have this part down. I enjoy it so much that to date, it was the only part that was well developed. But there is a practical, methodical aspect to writing that I hadn’t embraced yet and it seemed its time had come. These stories needed structure, a place to belong, a linear home.
What I learned, during the 4 week course, was invaluable. I was able to shift my brain over to the left a bit and look at the “bones” of my book, how I wanted it be outlined, what I wanted it to say. Both Brooke and Linda are crackerjack at gently and persistently nudging us as writers, to look at the big picture and to work effectively and efficiently toward that goal. I’m thinking I’ve probably shaved off years of aimless window gazing by finally choosing Brooke from Warner Coaching to be my writing coach.
Now, here’s my disclaimer. I didn’t feel confident or even competent enough in the beginning to justify the money to hire a writing coach. In fact, I was a real Nervous Nelly about it. I had a few days of the inner critic snickering, “You think you’re good enough for this?” “She works with professionals in the publishing industry, not wannabe window-gazing writers!” “Just keep this dark, miserable writing to yourself, no one will want to read it!”
So, my critic and I had a long chat and I won. Ha. Through this conversation, I pinpointed exactly what I wanted. In my heart, the reason I started this memoir in the first place, was to give the small child I once was a voice. She had endured so much pain yet remained stoic and strong for a lifetime, that it was her time to speak. I wanted more than anything to tell her story and mine and have it help someone along the way. I just know that there are women, children, men and boys living everyday lives, struggling with secrets and the trauma of abuse. I want to set them free.
I hired Brooke and what I’ve learned so far is just perfect. She keeps me focused on the outline, the structure, the message, my voice. These are not easy tasks for someone like me. Traumatized children grow up into traumatized adults who don’t come by linear thinking easily. We gravitate toward chaos. And because of this special challenge, I needed a coach who would get this.
Why I chose to work with a writing coach, specifically Brooke….
- I needed accountability. When we have deadlines, we work toward them. I enjoy having assignments with specific due dates, it keeps me motivated and focused.
- Early on, I realized that I needed to work with a woman. Trust is such a big issue with me and I work better with women, I trust them more. That’s a usual conclusion for abused women and one that I honored with this decision.
- Brooke has so much professional experience and is wildly qualified to coach writing. As the former editor of Seal Press, Brooke has worked with hundreds of authors taking their writing to published works.
- Besides her professional experience, I liked the titles that Seal Press published. I gravitate toward that genre, it really spoke to me.
- She’s really nice. Each suggestion is made with a professional grace combined with warmth and concern for my project. I feel she respects me, my work and my goals.
After 4 sessions, I can feel a relationship forming and my trust in myself as a person and a writer is growing. This is a monumentally huge accomplishment for a child of trauma, trust is usually very elusive. So, I must take a moment to thank all the wonderful women who so serendipitously have graced my life. I consider myself so fortunate to have them placed in my path for me to stumble across, sometimes even tripping. It’s just a great time to be Little L.