Own Your Story

I never thought I’d consider writing a memoir.

Fiction is my genre. It always has been, ever since I was a little girl crafting “books” out of construction paper and crayons. When I declared myself a writer at some point in elementary school, I wanted to write stories. I wanted to make stuff up.

There’s a safety in fiction that doesn’t exist for memoir.

Maybe that’s why I kept myself firmly planted there for so long. I never had to be held accountable. I could always say, it’s just a story, if anyone bothered me about autobiographical details.

Of course every writer, no matter the genre, weaves in elements of themselves, their lives, in their work. If not things that happened to them directly, then things they observed, sensed, or felt. Creativity doesn’t happen in a vacuum. But fiction writers can hide behind a cloak of invisibility – or at least, pretend to do so – while memoirists are stark naked.

Over the last couple years, I’ve been taking some different kinds of chances. I wrote about witnessing my mother’s death and the birth of my first child, about postpartum depression and my daughter’s celiac diagnosis. Stories that belong to me, but also, in a way, to my family.

The part of me that values privacy – and secrets – wanted to muffle this new tendency. But something shifted inside me, a curiosity began to unfold.

Recently, a writer friend left a comment on my blog post that flung the door open wide open (thank you Julie Gardner).

“You have a memoir in there.”

Her words stopped me in my tracks. They sunk in and took root, even when I tried to brush them away.

They were part of what inspired my recent guest post on The Gift of Writing.

Own Your Story: Overcoming Fear About Writing Memoir is about my journey, which is still in progress, but also contains universal truths that I discovered in my research about common themes that hold people back from telling their stories.

Please take a look if you’re interested in the topic. Thank you as always for reading my words, here and beyond.

 

 

 

 

 

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Life After Loss: Writing Through Grief

Alhough it’s been eight years, my mother’s death remains one of the biggest turning points of my life.

mom and me

Almost immediately afterward, everything became filtered through a new distorted lens. I felt like a book that had been torn in half. There was part 1, all that had occurred before my mom’s death, and part 2, what came after.

I remember feeling so raw and exposed that summer. My heart felt like it had been scooped out of my chest. I dragged myself through the days in a strange kind of stupor. Nothing looked or sounded quite right. People were too loud, too happy, too eager to offer advice about my grief.

One well meaning friend kept insisting I see a blockbuster comedy that opened that summer. It’s so hilarious, she said, it will make you laugh. But what she didn’t understand was I didn’t want to laugh. I wanted to hunker down inside my grief. I wanted to feel every stab of pain and every searing ache. Funny movies and even most fiction felt frivolous and unimportant. I turned to poetry when I couldn’t bear prose. I made scrapbooks and photo albums. I cried, a lot.

Grief was my work, and I stepped into it willingly. Not because I thought it was the right thing to do, but because it was the only thing I could do.

Recently, my friend Claire over at The Gift of Writing asked me to write a post about grief. I focused on how journaling connected me to my mother and helped serve as a conduit for my pain, both before and after her death.

Writing was the one thing I could do anytime, anywhere. It was where I could be completely honest about how I felt, with no one pitying or judging my process.

Please stop by if the topic resonates. I’d love to know what you think.

gift of writing

 

 

 

Tapping into Your Creativity

“If you have a deep scar, that is a door, if you have an old, old story, that is a door… If you yearn for a deeper life, a full life, a sane life, that is a door.” 

– Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés

Photo Credit: hans pohl via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: hans pohl via Compfight cc

Part 3 of my Unpacking Your Creative Life series on The Gift of Writing is all about tapping into creativity. In the post, I detail 6 techniques that can help the stories flow. Here is an excerpt:

I’ve never bought into the myth that creativity is a gift bestowed on a lucky minority; nor do I feel it’s a mysterious force whose generosity we’re reliant upon. We all have stories, and I’m a firm believer in the tagline to this website, Your Story Matters. But how can we tap into our inherent creativity, especially after a break?

For me, the answer is simple:

We must feel, and feel deeply. Even those emotions that cause us pain. Especially those.

Writer Dawna Markova sums up this concept in her book, I Will Not Die An Unlived Life: “To be fully alive, we have no choice but to finally move closer toward what we usually veer away from.”

Emotion is like oxygen for the creative soul. It’s what breathes life into our stories, whether autobiographical or not.

Click here for the rest of the article and let me know what you think!

Unpacking Your Creative Life Series

I’m so excited that my month long series on creativity has begun on The Gift of Writing! It’s called, Unpacking Your Creative Life, and part 1 is all about reconnecting to your love of writing and starting again after a long (or short!) hiatus.

When Claire asked me to write a series, I was flattered, grateful, and nervous. I’ve written guest posts before, but never anything that had to sustain interest over a period of time. But what I discovered is that creating a series is similar to writing a story. There’s an introduction, an arc, a climax, and a conclusion. Once I chose a theme, one I’m quite familiar with, I’ve had a lot of fun working on it.

I was inspired by my own writing hiatus (ahem, new motherhood) and some of my favorite craft books, including Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés and Still Writing by Dani Shapiro.

My goal is that this four-part series will offer help and solace to writers who feel stuck or frozen, as I did after the birth of my first child, though new motherhood is just one of many reasons why writers stray from the page.

I remember questioning my life-long dream of being a writer. I seriously considered giving up. This crisis shook my core, and it took a lot of soul searching, some sessions with a wonderfully intuitive life coach, and of course writing, to find my way back.

I’d love to hear what you think, so if the topic interests you, pop over to Claire’s site and leave me a comment.

In the meantime, I’ll be a little quieter over here while I dig into the revision process of my novel. Spending two magical days at Highlights helped me finish my draft, but that was only the first step.

My goal is to complete this first content heavy revision by summer’s end. A lofty goal, perhaps, but I did some math (I know, crazy) and if I can edit about 45 pages a week, I’ll make it happen.

My daughter is helping me keep track with revisions. Who needs an app when you have an artist?

My daughter is helping me track my revisions. Who needs an app when you have an artist?

Then comes round 2 and 3, but each one brings me closer to the moment when I can pass this albatross, I mean novel, over to my beta readers.

Being a writer means never giving up, even when you’re at your lowest point, but I honestly couldn’t do that without your help. Readers of this blog and all the wonderful friends and fellow writers I’ve met along the way. Thank you for keeping me company on this journey! I’m rooting for you, too, because we’re in this together.

Enjoy your summer!

summer kids

Steering Clear: Guest Post on The Gift of Writing

This month over at The Gift of Writing I’m advising writers how to avoid pot holes – and I’m not talking about the ones on the road.

You know the kind I mean. You hit a pot hole every time you think you have nothing original to say, when you feel blocked, too busy to write, or bogged down in research. The thing about pot holes is once you know what they are, you can avoid them.

In my article I discuss the four most dangerous ones, including my biggest pot hole as of late, Distraction (I’m talking to you Facebook), and how best to steer clear.

Click on over and let me know what you think!

Fighting and Writing

Today I’m really excited to share my guest post on The Gift of Writing with you.

gift of writing

As some of you may know, BK (before kids) I was a self-defense instructor in Manhattan for six years at a company called Prepare Inc.

I loved my job. I loved watching my students, women and children, learn how to save their own lives, physically and psychologically. Those years were formative for me. I learned so much about strength, power, and resilience – my students’ and my own.

Find out how writing is like self-defense here, “Fighting, and Writing, for Your Life.” I am so curious to hear what you think!

And for those of you who might want to take an actual self-defense class, the studio where I taught is still going strong. Check out their website if you’re in the tri-state area (of the US), or the national one, to see if there is a class near you. There’s one in the UK and Israel, too. I’m also always up to chat about it, if you want to know more.

Finally, this post wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t include some actual footage of me kicking butt. (Skip to minute 2:35 to check out 10 seconds of my five minutes of fame. I’m still waiting for the rest.)

The clip is from the deleted scenes of the Jodie Foster movie (that you probably don’t remember or even heard of) called, The Brave One. I had the chance to film this during my last year of teaching. Fun and surreal. Directors actually yell, “Action!” and you really do sit around for hours

Hope to see you at The Gift of Writing!

P.S. As I’ve recently learned, Canadians spell self-defense with a “c,” so that is how it’s spelled on the site.

What Keeps Your Door Closed?

Today I’m over at The Gift of Writing with a guest post about the challenges of excavating our past, of choosing to sift through painful memories and then writing them down for all to see.

gift of writing

I’ve been a fan of Claire De Boer and her site ever since I first came across a guest post she wrote about the importance of writing your personal story. At the time, I was primarily writing fiction, but it reminded me that the more intimately we know ourselves, the more authentically we can write about others.

I’m honored to be one of Claire’s regular contributors and I hope you will visit The Gift of Writing to read my post, “What Keeps Your Door Closed?”