Tag Archives: The Writing Process

I’m back!

7 Jan

No, the break wasn’t long. However, yes, it was needed. Though I’m still in the stage of adjusting some things about my current life that had previously been on the back burner, I realized that I didn’t want this blog to be kicked to the back of my mind like so many other things. This blog has helped me too much to be at any place other than the forefront of my thoughts (right alongside academics, friends, and family).

One of my goals (not resolutions, but goals, or something I expect to stick around and even grow) for this year is to complete a rough draft of my memoir by the end of 2013. That being said, I am planning to spend as much time as I can to writing my memoir, which means my blog posts will no longer appear daily. I’m thinking of going bi-weekly or even weekly so that I actually might have something to say rather than feeling like I’m constantly rambling on about nothing. Though in the past I have shared certain memories related to my Cerebral Palsy on this blog (and have worked them into my memoir), I primarily began doing that because I was in need of support and feedback. Thanks to all of my lovely followers who have provided just that. However, now that I am beginning to not exactly need the encouraging feedback quite as often, I think it would be best to restrict my written memories to the Word document of my memoir. It seems safer that way. Plus, then my number of pages of my memoir might actually increase (hey, imagine that!). However, that doesn’t mean I won’t still be talking about my writing or what I’m facing on a daily basis in regards to my CP. I’ll still be sharing those snippets, and on those hard days when life just seems to knock me to the ground, every ounce of encouragement from all of you will be just what I need.

As the New Year came and went, I realized how often I was telling so many people: “I’m writing my memoir!” without actually doing much about it. Though I am not necessarily planning to give myself a deadline (good writing comes in time), I do want to move forward with my memoir. I’ve been in a pretty huge rut for quite a while, and even though I have never been a fan of outlines (normally, I’d prefer to just write, write, write and not care where it was doing), I think using an outline could provide me with a greater sense of direction in regards to my memoir, which is exactly what I need at this point. I don’t know how much it will help, but I’ll just have to see I guess.

Along with writing comes reading, and I have written numerous book reviews on this blog in the past. Today I signed up for GoodReads (and have decided to enter a Book Reading Challenge). My goal is to read 100 books in one year. Though that seems like a bit much right now, I know how much I read. And if I don’t complete the challenge, oh well. I just know that I will need a way to balance out all the writing I’m planning to do (plus college classes and friendships). Also, I think all the reading will be a nice break from focusing so heavily on my own life through writing my memoir. I think it was Stephen King who said: If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

It will be one heck of a year filled with tons of writing, tons of reading, academics, and as much fun as I can squeeze in! Thank you to all of you who have continued with me on this journey, despite the fact that this blog has changed its focus so many times. I appreciate each and every one of you so much!

“Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul. When writers make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and their truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our buoyancy is restored. We are given a shot at dancing with, or at least clapping along with, the absurdity of life, instead of being squashed by it over and over again. It’s like singing on a boat during a terrible storm at sea. You can’t stop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits of the people who are together on that ship.” – from Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

Advertisements

Reflecting on words.

29 Nov

Have you ever come across one of your previous pieces of writing and thought: Did I seriously write that? It’s SO good! That happened to me last night when I came across a blog post I wrote on October the 20th, titled The finding place of my words. As I read my own words, I was amazed. There were certain connections I made on that brisk fall day back in October that still apply to how I feel right now. I don’t know what it is with writers wanting to write about words or the creative process. However, in my case, it provides me with perspective, which is discussed in more detail in my blog post titled, The magic of first lines in literature.

Last Spring, as I was walking across the quad of my college campus to get to class, I had to stop and take in the scene that was unfolding before me. As I looked around, I saw tons of college students sitting on the quad reading. However, as is customary for Asheville, they were all different. Each student’s reading experience was unique. One guy was lying in a hammock he had strung up between two nearby trees, and his book rested lightly against his bent knees. I also saw a girl who was lying on her stomach on a flowery blanket with her bare feet casually in the air. She was holding a book out in front of her, careful to block the sun from her eyes. The third student I spotted was my personal favorite though. She was sitting in the grass with her back up against the trunk of a tree. Her long, dark hair covered the sides of her face, making it possible to only focus on her eyes, which were moving so fast across the pages of her book that I could tell she was a very focused reader. I think the image of the third student stuck with me the most because I could see so much of myself in her. As a reader, especially when it involves a book I am reading for pleasure, it takes a lot to break my focus. Often times, I get so absorbed in the words that I lose the ability to fully comprehend what is going on around me, outside of the world of words that I so often call home.

Though I don’t know whether the students that I observed were reading for their own pleasure or for a class assignment, I like to believe either they were reading something for pleasure or were at least reading something they were interested in. I enjoy sticking to this belief simply because it is very closely related to how I imagine myself when I am reading. In so many ways, words have always been my refuge, but they have also been the place I have returned to again and again if I need to re-evaluate something or find my sense of balance.

“All my life I’ve looked at words as though I were seeing them for the first time.” – Ernest Hemingway

Not all words provide us with the strength to change or the reassurance that we are moving in the right direction in our lives. However, if a series of words can come together into a sentence that causes us to stop and read the sentence again and again, it’s almost like magic. Whether they fill us with a sense of happiness, loss, sadness, anger, loneliness, or hope…words matter. They have the ability to reach a place inside us that not many people can even describe. It’s almost as if the most precious of sentences we have ever read reside in a place so deep within us and so personal that it takes a certain kind of experience for the words to resurface.

“To me, the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it’s about, but the inner music the words make.” – Truman Capote

“One must be drenched in words, literally soaked in them, to have the right ones form themselves into the proper pattern at the right moment.” – Hart Crane

Words matter. They are precious stones that have been washed by the countless waves of the sea, and they lie in the sand, waiting for us to uncover them. But the most precious words, the ones that are the rare deep blue stones, they are not so easy to find. They reside in the crevices of rocks, thrown to those places by the most violent of waves. But they have triumphed. They have overcome the turbulent waves of the sea, taking refuge until we are able to bring them out into the light. So don’t wait. Start searching.

Monday’s Musings: October 1st!

1 Oct

Despite it being Monday, there are numerous things that have made me happy today:

  • Completing my annotated bibliography for my Community Psychology project on the social stigma of physical disabilities. If you’ve ever had to do an annotated bibliography, I’m sure you’re squirming at the thought of it. If you haven’t, count yourself lucky. I wish I could still be uninformed about all the effort and time that goes into making an annotated bibliography. I would explain it, but I’m relieved to be done with it, so that’s that. If you’re really curious, there is always Google.
  • The fact that it finally feels like Fall: complete with cool weather and changing leaves. Despite the rain and relative cloudiness today, it’s felt like the perfect Fall day. A pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks would seal the deal, but when is there time to go to Starbucks when I have so many other things that require my attention? Thankfully, I love college, and I’ve always loved learning.
  • A quick trip to Mr. K’s, my favorite used bookstore. Since I finished my annotated bibliography today (despite it not being due until Wednesday), I decided to treat myself to a quick trip to Mr. K’s. Since I have been wanting to read another book about writing after reading The Spirit of Writing: Classic and Contemporary Essays Celebrating the Writing Life, I settled for Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott. After reading the first sentence of the Introduction, I couldn’t help but realize how much I’m going to love this book:

I grew up around a father and a mother who read every chance they got, who took us to the library every Thursday night to load up on books for the coming week.-Anne Lamott

  • It’s the beginning of a new month. Though this may seem like something small that made my Monday enjoyable, I’m always excited to welcome a new month. A new month means new experiences, new memories to be made, and yet another month that I get to live and breathe among the Blue Ridge Mountains that I love so much. And as the leaves begin to change, I feel even more lucky that I get to call this place home.

World CP Day: Leaving My Mark.

5 Sep

I hate that I didn’t realize until late yesterday evening that yesterday was the very first “World Cerebral Palsy Day” in the United States. According to http://www.worldcpday.org, “World Cerebral Palsy Day is an innovative way for 17 million people with CP to tell the world how they want to make their life better. World Cerebral Palsy Day is also the way people with CP can make it a reality.” Upon reading the website’s explanation of World CP Day, I thought of one thing: I thought of the way I’m already working on telling the world how I’m making my life better. I’m writing my memoir of what it’s been like to live with Cerebral Palsy, and even though I’m doing it for me, I’m also doing it for the other 16,999,999 people who may be struggling to find someone who they can relate to, or simply someone who can say, “I know exactly how you feel.”

Through writing my memoir, I want to be that person for those other 16,999,999 people who may not have someone to listen. The funny thing is…I never thought I would be an advocate for Cerebral Palsy. My disability was something that I tried so hard to get away from. However, I should know that you can’t run from something that will be forever a part of you. For much of my childhood, having CP wasn’t something I was proud of. I wanted to get as far away from it as possible. I wanted to be treated as if I was just like any other kid that lived on my block. However, ever since starting to write my memoir, I’ve become someone I never thought I’d be: I’ve become the girl with Cerebral Palsy who wants to share her story of overcoming obstacles with the world. Before it dawned on me that I had the power to impact others with my words, the idea of writing my memoir hadn’t surfaced. But truthfully, my idea to start writing about my life came in a single moment one night in January. All I was doing was thinking about what I faced and how for my entire life I had been looking for someone who could understand me. However, on that cold night in January, even though I hadn’t found someone who could understand me, I realized how bad I wanted to be that person for other kids with Cerebral Palsy.

Writing my memoir of what I’ve been through has been an incredibly slow process. Since January, I’ve only written 14 pages. Even though that small number makes me cringe, I also know that writing my memoir is the only thing that will finally allow me to accept myself as well as help other kids who are currently faced with what I have been through, and continue to go through on a daily basis. So yes, it’s probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but when I think of the look of love and comfort I might receive from just one kid with CP, that’s worth so much more. It may even be worth everything.

My phase of writing fiction.

2 Sep

Last night while reading The Spirit of Writing: Classic and Contemporary Essays Celebrating The Writing Life, I came across this great quote that seemed to say it all:

Words, like eyes, are windows into a person’s soul, and thus each writer, in some small way, helps to enrich the world. But it takes courage to share one’s life with another, for we live in a world where every sentence penned can be criticized or praised. But it is a risk worth taking, for a greater vision remains: that through our words, be they fiction or fact, we might touch another soul as we share our stories and song. In that moment, however brief, we suspend the walls of separateness that so often cause suffering and pain.

Seven years ago when I was still in my phase of writing fiction, I started writing Silver Drops, the story of a girl who finds an entire new world behind a waterfall. I wrote for days and weeks on end, eventually reaching about 75 handwritten pages before I had to stop. I stopped this particular writing project because I just wasn’t sure where to go with the story anymore. I needed to include something that could push the story forward. However, at the time I didn’t know what that something was.

Since I was stuck regarding the story but I knew that I didn’t want to lose it, I kept the handwritten pages, but I also typed it up and saved it on a cd. I still have all 3 versions somewhere. I remember coming across them when I had to clean out my room before my parents moved up to North Carolina. I smiled when I came across the story, and as I sat on the floor of my childhood bedroom reading what I had written seven years ago, I was amazed at what my 13-year-old mind could come up with. I can only imagine how the story could progress if I added some 20-year-old wisdom to it.

I’ve gotten into the groove of memoir writing lately. Therefore, I don’t know if switching gears would benefit me or not. I loved writing fiction when I was younger. I loved the process of making up stories and creating characters. I loved being able to “spend my time” with people who I only wished could be real. I loved being able to pretend, if only for a minute, that I was a different person who had a completely different life. I wrote fictional stories the way some girls play dress up. I tried to fit all kids of characters into my stories, and I wasn’t satisfied until I had written a character so vividly that he or she was practically sitting in my room across from me saying, “You want to go play?”

Who knows, maybe one of these days I’ll pick back up Silver Drops with the same amount of gusto that started it all. Or maybe I won’t. However, if I know one thing for certain, it’s that I will never ever stop writing. It’s brought me so far already, and therefore, I feel like I need to give something back. So, yes, I need to share my story. I need to allow other people to realize that despite obstacles, setbacks and a world of pain, you can learn to enjoy your life.

Writing advice from Maya Angelou.

28 Jul

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” 

This quote has hit home for me recently, and yet I know that I’m doing something that not many people can do: I’m attempting to get my life on paper. At this point, that’s all that matters to me, the fact that I’m trying. Even though I was worried for a while that I haven’t even touched my memoir in what seems like ages, I’m okay with where I stand. As many people have told me over the past few months: the words will come when they are ready. I’m sticking to that thought. At least for now.

Writing A Memoir In Letter Format?

12 Jul

After Tuesday’s post of my third letter to Grace, I’ve been debating making a change with my memoir. I think I might focus on having it the book be my autobiography through letters to Grace (Grace is a 12-year-old girl that I know who has Cerebral Palsy as well). Having my memoir be mainly the letters would be easier than what I’ve been trying to do. Before thinking of this change, my memoir has been fine….but it’s been very much of a chore. I haven’t wanted to write it.

But the letters to Grace….they come easily. Even when referring to really hard memories, aiming the memories in a letter format to Grace feels much more natural….or it flows better. They’re easier to get out. And I feel like my readers would enjoy it more. Though I know that I shouldn’t focus on that, it still does come to mind. Granted, I wouldn’t just be starting the memoir with the 3 letters that I’ve written. I’d have to go back through what I’ve written regarding my memoir so far and pick out which memories I want to include in the letters.

I think using the letters as the basis of my memoir fits more with what I’m aiming to do by writing my memoir. I want people to be able to understand what I’ve faced but I also want other kids with CP and families with kids who have CP to realize that they are not alone in the pain that they’re feeling. The latter reason would definitely fit with using the letters as the focus since the letters are aimed at someone who has CP. That being said, I’d have to include a few chapters on CP in itself of course because I know that not everyone who will end up reading my memoir will have knowledge or experience with CP.

Since I have chosen to rework my memoir, it’s almost as if I’m back at the beginning. However, at the same time, I’m not. I’ve already made progress. As well as already having written 3 letters, I’ve already dug up a lot of the really hard memories. Granted, there are still some really hard memories to uncover, but since I’ve already written about some of the hard ones then this reworking cycle a little bit easier. The concept of the reworking feels very normal though. There are no writers who like the very first thing that they write. There is a reason that English professors and some of my writing mentors have told me that first drafts are complete shit. That’s because it’s true. They are.

As a writer, I’ve got to be willing to change things and rework what I’ve written since I want to make what I write as best as I possibly can. Plus, I think having my memoir be letters to Grace makes it more unique. Plus, with focusing my memoir on the letters, it also means that I’ll have the letters to give myself strength even if I don’t end up publishing them. Either way, writing them will be beneficial to me. And that’s all that matters. Well that and helping others with CP realize that they’re not alone. Plus, even though I’m writing my memoir, having the letters be the focus of what I’m writing takes me out of the center of the book. Yes, it’s an autobiography…so it’s my life…but who wants to read a memoir that reads something like this: “I went through (blah blah blah) and now I’m a stronger person…..I went through all this other shit…..I felt all this pain that you can’t understand…Me me me me.” Ick. Who wants to read that?

So…thoughts? What’s your opinion on focusing my memoir on letters to Grace? Better idea? Let me know what you think. I love having your feedback!