Tag Archives: Book Progress

When in Ireland, write through the uncertainty.

2 Jul

I have yet to sit down and write since I’ve been in Ireland (not counting this blog). I really do hate to admit that, even though I do have a pretty solid excuse of: I’m in Ireland. However, over the past few days, that hasn’t really felt like a reasonable excuse, partly because there have been snippets of days that I’ve just sat at my computer wondering what to say.

Attempting to work on my memoir while I’m here feels out of place and very foreign. And yet, at the same time, I hear that voice in the back of my head asking why it seems like such an impossibility. Truthfully, I can’t see why it is. Maybe it’s connected to the fact that I’m doing something huge right now and I want to enjoy every minute of it. Though I have no doubt that that may be part of it, I also know that my strong need to write has increased since coming to Ireland. I don’t know if it’s the beauty, being in a completely different country, or just being surrounded by so many different people. However, either way….I feel it. I feel the wheel’s turning in the way that only a writer’s mind can work, and I’m done ignoring it.

A few years ago, if someone would have told me that I’d be sitting outside of an Ireland university typing a blog post, I probably would have just smiled nervously and pushed it out of my mind. Come to think of it though, not much has changed…except for the fact that I am now in fact here, sitting outside of an Ireland university typing a blog post. The thing is, I’m still scared. I love it. It’s exciting and new and wonderful, but I don’t think I’ve ever been more scared. Not of anything in particular really. Just the uncertainty. The uncertainty of not really knowing what the next few weeks hold, all the while realizing that I’ve just got to grab it by the hand and run like hell with it. I don’t really have much of a choice at this point.

Uncertainty can be truly terrifying. Though I know I’m not to the point of “terrified,” this trip has tested my limits in ways I’ve never been tested before. Though I am with a group of students, I knew no one before coming over here…meaning that no one knew anything about me until they saw me on day one. There’s something wonderful as well as scary about that…having people around me who don’t know my history, my past, what I struggle with. Though I have only mentioned my CP to 2 people so far (my roommate and a guy in my group who asked last night), sometimes I have the urge to scream it from the rooftops while other times I’d rather just sit in silence. It’s hard to not say anything when I’m sure people are wondering why I’m lagging behind the group a bit or why I’m not staying in the same housing as the rest of the students in my group. Yes, a huge part of me is screaming, “It doesn’t matter!!!” but another part of me is wondering, “Would it put me at ease if I didn’t constantly have the worry about my group leaving me behind?”

My program directors know my situation, and they have been sure to include me in everything and make sure I’m an integral part of the group, which is good. However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t sit and worry about the group leaving me behind. Thankfully, it’s not a new worry, though at this point I don’t know if that would be considered good or bad. However, it is something that I’ve had to consider every time I’m put in a situation where a group of students is going somewhere, especially when it’s a kind of walking tour. Oh, walking tours, they are the bane of my existence. Okay, maybe not quite that extreme, but they still suck. So, that being said, the worry is not a new kind of worry, but I guess it’s at a new level, especially considering the fact that I’m in a new country with people who I don’t exactly know exceptionally well.

Realizing that this is something that no one else in my group is struggling with is hard, but it’s not a realization that is new to me. However, sometimes it would be nice if my worry was more “normal,” like worrying about cultural differences or staying in touch with people. Even though those worries have been on my mind, my mind is primarily reeling with the thoughts of trying to enjoy Ireland as much as I can without overexerting myself and trying to step out of my comfort zone to the point of where it gives me a thrill of excitement but not to the point of being utterly terrified.

So yes, the writing…the words…they were there. I guess I just need to sit down and sort through them, even if they don’t exactly flow. But you know, sometimes writers need disorder and chaos and confusion, and above all, uncertainty, to get back on track again…to feel somewhat in control again.

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The Different Faces Of Curiousity Regarding My CP.

13 May

Since starting my memoir this past January, the number one thing that I have realized is that no one knows exactly how I felt growing up and living with Cerebral Palsy except me. As a writer, that can often be a hard way to start off since I don’t have other sources to gather much information from. I just have my own memories and feelings of how my CP has impacted my life.

Even though I may have friends and family who want to understand, no one can say they know exactly what I faced. Growing up, not having anyone who understood was hard. I attended a private school in my hometown from 1st grade until 10th grade, and even though the kids that I went to school with were some of the same kids that could be found on my street on the weekends playing in front yards and riding their bikes up and down the sidewalk, they didn’t really know me. They wondered about me, that I could tell. The way they stared but never said anything told me how they felt. Growing up, I hated the staring, and I still do. However, when I was at school and didn’t have much of anything to “hide behind,” there was no way to escape the staring. The kids I went to private school with hardly ever asked what was wrong with me. Either their parents had told them, or they just weren’t sure. As I was growing up, I quickly learned that I was the one that was going to have to initiate friendships. People weren’t going to walk up to me begging to hang out with me or sit with me at lunch, and that was something I had to deal with early on.

Therefore, I initiated things. I had to let other kids know that I was comfortable with myself so that they could be comfortable with me. When the other kids asked what was wrong with me, I’d say, “I have Cerebral Palsy. I was born with it.” That seemed to satisfy most of the kids. Though I knew they still didn’t fully understand, they were curious. All kids are curious. Therefore, I just had to find a way to answer their question without having to go into so much detail (since I didn’t fully understand things when I was that young either). Heck, I didn’t understand why I was different from all the other kids my age, so how could I explain that to the kids I went to school with. I couldn’t. It’s that simple.

These days, I’ve been hesitant to explain to friends about my CP just because I’ve realized that for most of them, it doesn’t matter. They are my friends, and they could care less about what’s wrong with me because to them it’s not a big deal. To them, it doesn’t define me. Even though it took me a long time to be able to vocally say that my Cerebral Palsy doesn’t define who I am, I have reached a point where I can talk about my CP with my friends (which I think is because I have started writing my memoir and am no longer afraid to be my true self). No, my CP doesn’t define me. However, it still affects me on a day-to-day basis. That’s not something that can be denied. Therefore, when I’ve told my friends about my CP, it hasn’t been hard for me. It’s been easier to talk about, and after I’ve opened up about it, I’ve gotten so much support from my friends about my strength and courage. And in my mind, getting that kind of response is worth facing the fear of talking about the disability that, though it may not define me, has impacted me on a physical and emotional level that most people can’t even fathom.

For me, every single day is a struggle, which is not something that most people know. Most people don’t realize that I still feel a large amount of physical pain, especially in my back, which often causes me to stop, place my hand on my lower back, and breathe through the pain. Even on the days when the pain gets bad though, I choose to be a fighter. I choose to be a fighter because honestly, what other choice do I have? Giving up has never been an option for me, and so rather than simply allowing myself to wallow in self-pity, I’ve learned to thrive.

How Do You Deal With Criticism, Writer’s Block And Burnout?

2 May

This past Friday, I met up with one of my writing mentors, Mike, that I hadn’t seen in over 2 years. It was great to see him, and we had a great hour and a half conversation about writing, life, struggles, etc. Since Mike is one of those people who is a writer himself and will tell me the honest truth, sometimes I’m a bit hesitant to share what I’ve written with him.

I have yet to share any part of my book with him because I feel like I’m still in the early stage of writing my memoir. I only started writing at the end of January, and I’ve only written about 12 pages (which I’m not exactly proud of. However, I was dealing with schoolwork up until a little less than a week ago, so what can you do?). Though I’ve only written 12 pages, at this point, I’m still very close to those 12 pages of my life, my heart, and ultimately, my soul. Those 12 pages are memories that I’ve pulled directly from my heart and written down. They aren’t changed in any way. They are as close to the actual truth that I have been able to get (since I’ve realized that I’ve blocked out a good chunk of memories due to their degree of pain). Deep down, I’m not ready to share anything yet. I still feel so emotionally close to what I’ve written so far. I mean, it’s my life. It’s what I felt, not just physically, but emotionally too. How can I turn it over to someone to critique just yet? I understand that dealing with criticism is a huge part of being a writer. I also understand that I’m going to get good and bad criticism, and it’s important to focus on the good criticism since that is the advice that will propel me forward. However, I just feel like it’s too soon. Does that make sense?

Now that I’m done with academics until the fall semester (or until I study abroad in Ireland in June), I have the time to sit down with my memoir and try to sort through as many memories as I can that I have yet to write down. However, at this point, I’m just not sure where to go. I sit down to write, and nothing comes out. I think it’s primarily because I’m not in the right mindset for the memories to surface. The things that I want to share aren’t particularly happy, so sitting down to write when I’m in a relatively cheerful mood doesn’t get me anywhere. Though I understand that the writing process isn’t something that occurs overnight, it’s hard to wait when I just want to finally get all the painful memories out. They’ve been buried inside for so long. We all have to face our demons eventually. I may as well start now.

When I talked with Mike on Friday, he made the comment that my memoir is something that I shouldn’t force, and since it is such a delicate topic for me, it’s something that I should try to not get too frustrated over. However, since the process of writing is frustrating anyway, some frustration is normal. I think the best advice Mike gave me was to start another writing project (as well as working on my memoir). He pointed out that since my memoir is such an emotionally heavy project, it’d be good to work on something light on the side. Whether it’s poetry or a short story, working on another project is good when I’m stuck on my memoir. Mike said “Even if you write a short story about bunnies, you’re writing. That’s all that matters.” Mike has made a point to tell me that writing every day is an important part of writing. Even though I’ve seen the benefits of that (through this blog, mainly), I guess I didn’t consider starting another writing project.

I didn’t consider starting to write something other than my memoir because my memoir was taking up so much of my emotional energy. However, now that I take a second look at it, I guess that’s why people take on multiple writing projects….to give their mind a break from focusing on the same writing project day in and day out. I know that since I’ve started my memoir, there have been days that I just don’t feel like working on it. However, in the back of my mind, I know that I’ve got to work on something if I want my writing spark to stay alive. There have been previous times in my life when I’ve taken breaks from writing, but not just a break from a particular writing project, but a break from writing altogether. Even though in those instances I’ve eventually returned to writing, the breaks from writing have made it even harder to get back into the swing of things.

So, moral of the story: Write every day (no matter what), don’t let a certain writing project burn you out (start something else to keep your writing juices flowing, while also allowing yourself to have a break from the first writing project), and don’t give up (I know writing is frustrating, but for the few of us who love it, writing is our passion, our love, and the only way we can accurately portray ourselves).

Are you ever hesitant to share something you’ve written because you’re too emotionally close to it? How do you deal with criticism? Would you rather focus on one writing project at a time or split your time between two different writing projects and why? I’d love feedback from you fellow writers! 

Monday’s Musings.

23 Apr

It’s Monday aka the beginning of finals week. I realized that I haven’t made a motivation list in a while, so here are the things that are helping me get through finals week.

  • Summer!–I’m done on Thursday, and then it’s me and pleasure reading for weeks on end. Ah, it sounds so amazing. I can’t wait!
  • Alison Krauss and Union Station concert with my mom on Saturday!–We both love Alison Krauss. Her voice is simply beautiful, and I can’t wait to hear her perform live.
  • Sleep!–Which is always something college kids look forward to since not much sleep occurs during finals. I can’t wait to just cuddle up in my comfy bed with a book, reading late into the night.
  • IRELAND!–Yes, this probably should have been first on the list, but I won’t be leaving for Ireland until around June 18th, so I’ve got a while to wait. However, it’ll be exciting to put together packing lists and figure out all the cool places my mom and I are going to see when we travel around for a week before my program in Galway begins. I’m really happy that we will be able to experience Ireland together!
  • Spending quality time working on my memoir!–I haven’t be able to dedicate long spans of time to working on my memoir in a while since I’ve been busy with finals and work, etc, but I’m glad that I will be able to spend more time with it this summer. I’ve been in somewhat of a writing rut recently, but I think that’s partly because I’ve reached the point where I finally have to confront some of the really delicate memories that I’ve put off dealing with. However, this summer will be a good time to do that since I won’t have much else to focus on that’s important.

That’s about it for what’s getting me through this week, but I can do it. One day at a time, right?

Life has no smooth road for any of us; and in the bracing atmosphere of a high aim the very roughness stimulates the climber to steadier steps, till the legend, over steep ways to the stars, fulfills itself. -W.C. Doane

What are some things helping you get through this week? What do you use as motivation when you know a busy week is coming up?

Middle Of The Night Writing.

19 Apr

Sometimes I feel stuck in my writing. There are so many aspects of my past that I want to let out, but then I sit down to type, and nothing comes out…which just seems ridiculous when I know of so many things inside me that need to be released.

I’ve been told for as long as I’ve been writing that I have a way with words. I take pride in that compliment. I take pride in it because writing is the one thing that I never, ever feel limited by…and that is a truly awesome feeling. However, the fact that I have a way with words can be damaging at times because it leads to me wanting to have things sound just right, and when they don’t, I’m not satisfied. However, I’ve learned to write through the dissatisfaction. That writing usually isn’t my best, but it gets me out of my writing slumps. But you know, sometimes a slump is a slump, and there’s not really much you can do but wait for a new day.

There’s a quote I read somewhere that goes something like this: “Writers never have to change the things they got up in the middle of the night to write.” I used to not really understand this phrase, but as I’ve delved deeper into writing my book, I see the connection. Before writing my memoir, I didn’t understand the concept of literally being woken up by something that’s so vivid in your mind that you’ve just got to write it. However, over the past few months, I’ve had many nights where I’ve gotten in bed to go to sleep, and about 15 minutes later, memories pop into my head. But not just random, vague memories. Strong, vivid emotional memories that have on more than one occasion caused me to sit up in bed to take a breath in order to let some of the emotional shock wear off. However, not once have I gotten up to write those thoughts and memories. Not because I haven’t wanted to, but because I knew that if I did I probably wouldn’t be up the next morning in time to go to class.

That’s what’s hard about choosing to start this book when I have. Not only do I have my book on my mind, but I’m 19, I’m a sophomore in college, and I’m still trying to piece together who I truly am. Granted, I’ve discovered a few key pieces over the last year: like my love of writing and photography (and psychology…definitely can’t forget that one!), the realization that I am and will always be the biggest book nerd that I know (HA. No…really), and the understanding that every person I have met in my life thus far is here to teach me something about myself, whether it be good or bad. The last part is an understanding that I haven’t come to lightly. I like to think that I can hypothetically have a genuinely good relationship/friendship with the majority of people who I come into contact with. However, we all know from life experiences that that is not always the case….which is sad, but it also can be a learning experience (especially in connection with those people who we may not see eye to eye with). Then again, there are some people that we’ll just never be able to win against, but that’s okay. We can just keep walking…because there will always be other people further on down the road that we’ll feel glad we crossed paths with.

Once I’m done with this semester, I’ll be happy to have a little bit more time for the middle of the night writing. The writing that wakes you up…and forces you to get out of bed and start typing. I haven’t fully experienced it yet, but I can’t wait to see what it’s like. Even now, when I’m woken up by things that I know I want to write down, I tell myself that I’ll remember in the morning. I talk myself into staying under the covers…and eventually I do drift back to sleep. However, all of you writers know as well as I do that things that wake you up in the middle of the night are never as vivid the next morning. Even if the memories are vaguely still there, you rack your brain wondering what it was that had you itching to write it all down at such a precise moment. I find it fascinating that something can seem so vivid and clear in your head one moment, and then the next moment it can be covered in haze and doubt….reaching the point where you are unsure whether you should try to write it down or not. My theory, though I haven’t tried it yet, is that if something you want to write wakes you up in the middle of the night, it’s got to be good. After all, despite what we say about living and breathing words every day, even writers need sleep.

To Grace.

15 Apr

Grace,

I’ve been thinking about you a lot today. Even though I won’t be able to spend time writing my book until this semester is over in 2 weeks, I’ve been thinking about all the things that I want to tell you…all the things I want you (and other kids with CP) to realize. But at 19, I don’t know what they all are. I’m still learning a good many of them myself.

The truth is, I’m scared. I’m scared of how my CP is going to affect me as I get older. It’s limiting now, but I’m afraid of how it’ll limit me further on down the road. At 19, my back pain is what bothers me the most. Sometimes I have to completely stop in my tracks when my back spasms. It’s different from the spasms that I had in my legs after all of my surgeries. It’s not as jerky as the spasms were in my legs, but it still hurts enough to cause to me stop, place my hand on my lower back, and try to breathe through the pain. I’m afraid this pain will only get worse, and that scares me. There is so much I want to do in my lifetime. I want to travel, be a counselor, write more books, have a family….all of it. Granted, most of that is a ways away, but at this point I can’t tell myself that it’s not a possibility. I just can’t.

Even though I know I will cross the hurdles when I come to them, it’s no less scary. I know that you know this. However, ever since I’ve known you, I’ve never seen fear in your eyes. I don’t know if, like me, you’ve placed that fear in a box in the back of your mind, but either way, I sit and wonder what you’re thinking, what you’re feeling. Even though you’re 11, I’ve wanted to sit with you and talk to you about how you feel about having CP. But honestly, I don’t know how I would phrase the question, and I don’t know if I could bear to hear the answer. I don’t even know if I’d be able to get the question out fully before I started crying. If you sat and told me that you’re scared and it hurts and you don’t understand why you’re different and how you wish you could be like everyone else, I’d cry. Not because I’d feel sorry for you, but because I’d be able to say that I know exactly how you feel. I still feel some of those emotions. Not always, but they creep up every now and then.

I don’t doubt that you’d say something about how you’ve stayed strong through your faith and through God. Though I am happy that you have your belief in God to turn to, I don’t have that. Not because I can’t have it, but because I don’t want it. It took me a long time to figure out why. I knew there was a reason that I didn’t believe in God, but I just couldn’t place my finger on it. After some insight from my best friend Skidmore, I realized that it’s because I don’t see how someone (God) could allow me to face so much emotional and physical pain at such a young age. I’ve been enduring struggles ever since I was born, and I can’t “praise” someone who is okay causing me so much physical and emotional pain. I went through phases where I went to church, but then I just realized that I wasn’t getting anything out of it. However, I know that you get so much out of your faith, and I’m glad. Hang on to that. I get that kind of strength through my own writing, and it’s a strength I have rediscovered over the past five months. And honestly, it has brought me so far. I have never been able to talk as openly about my CP as I have in the last five months.

Last month, during a discussion I had with my uncle and his girlfriend, I described myself as a firecracker. At the time, I didn’t really understand why I made the connection between myself and a firecracker, but now it makes perfect sense. When you light a firecracker, it has to build up lots of pressure before the beauty can be released. I feel like this describes our situation so well, Grace. We have to endure all these struggles (pressure) before we can reach the point of recognizing our inner strength and true passion in life. I want you to know that I love you, and I love the gorgeous smile that you give me whenever you see me. Even though my heart aches when I see you struggle or when I realize all the hardships that you have yet to face, I also know that it’s something you have to face on your own. However, I only hope that one day my words can help you as you have helped me.

I remember one day when I came over to watch you while your Mom took David to Columbia, and you wanted to go upstairs to play on the computer. While I had been there, I was silently hoping that you would want to stay downstairs, because I had no idea how I was going to help you if you wanted to go upstairs. Like me, you have trouble with stairs. However, I normally use my upper body strength as my main support, but since you don’t have that, you’ve got to use your legs as much as you can (which leads to needing help with balance). You told me that I needed to get behind you to make sure you didn’t fall, but as you said this, I laughed because I could picture me trying to keep you from falling and then hitting the ground myself. I knew I wouldn’t be able to fully support you because I needed one hand in order to get up the stairs myself. Eventually, due to you practically crawling up the steps, we both made it without falling. I was so relieved. I had been so worried about falling myself, and the thought of you falling with me was just too much to handle.

Through that experience though, you looked up to me. Since I was older, even though we both were limited, I had to be the one to help you. However, realizing that I couldn’t do much due to my own limitations hurt. I wanted to help you so much, but I just couldn’t. I think writing this book is my way of helping you in the only way that I know how. I’ve gained so much insight and strength since starting this book, and I want you to know one day that you have that same strength within you. We’ve both faced so much, Grace…way more than people our own age have faced yet. And even though that really sucks, it’s also kind of cool because it means that when people we know get to the point where they are scared or in pain, we can say that we understand. We can say that even though things hurt a lot now, in time they will be released, just like a firecracker on the Fourth of July.

Keep on smiling.

Love,

Amelia

Writing Quotes.

9 Apr

Over the past few days, I’ve been looking for quotes that explain what I’ve been feeling as I’ve been writing my book. Through the quotes I’ve come across, I’ve realized that all writers struggle with loneliness, dark days, insecurity and days when it feels as if those that aren’t also writers can’t understand what they are feeling. I’ve compiled a list of quotes that either resonated with me or helped encourage me to keep on digging up memories of my past to ultimately share my story with the world.

  • “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” -Anton Chekhov
  • “Tears are words that need to be written.” -Paulo Coelho
  • “Write what disturbs you, what you fear, what you have not been willing to speak about. Be willing to be split open.” -Natalie Goldberg
  • “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” -Stephen King
  • “With writing, we have second chances.” -Johnathon Safran Foer
  • “When you’re missing a piece of yourself, aching, gut wrenching emptiness begins to take over. Until you find the link that completes your very soul, the feeling will never go away. Most people find a way to fill this void, material possessions, a string of relationships, affairs, food…I bear my soul, with words, for all to see.” -Jennifer Salaiz
  • “You cannot hope to sweep someone else away by the force of your writing until it has been done to you.” -Stephen King
  • “I am simply of the opinion that you cannot be taught to write. You have to spend a lifetime in love with words.” -Craig Claiborne
  • “If a story is in you, it has to come out.” -William Faulkner
  • “A story isn’t a charcoal sketch, where every stroke lies on the surface to be seen. It’s an oil painting, filled with layers that the author must uncover so carefully to show its beauty.” -Amelia Atwater-Rhodes
  • “To me, the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it’s about, but the music the words make.” -Truman Capote
  • “Becoming a writer is about becoming conscious. When you’re conscious and writing from a place of insight and simplicity and real caring about the truth, you have the ability to throw the lights on for your reader. He or she will recognize his or her life and truth in what you say, in the pictures you have painted, and this decreases the terrible sense of isolation that we have all had too much of.” -Anne Lamott
  • “Sometimes a book isn’t a heartbreaking work of staggering genius. Sometimes it’s the only story you knew how to tell.” -Tahereh Mafi
  • “When I am writing, I am trying to find out who I am, who we are, what we’re capable of, how we feel, how we lose and stand up, and go on from darkness into darkness. I’m trying for that.” -Maya Angelou
  • “You are lucky to be one of those people who wishes to build sand castles with words, who is willing to create a place where your imagination can wander. We build this place with the sand of memories; these castles are our memories and inventiveness made tangible. So part of us believes that when the tide starts coming in, we won’t really have lost anything, because actually only a symbol of it was there in the sand. Another part of us thinks we’ll figure out a way to divert the ocean. This is what separates artists from ordinary people: the belief, deep in our hearts, that if we build our castles well enough, somehow the ocean won’t wash them away.” -Anne Lamott