Tag Archives: Writing Process

Own your story.

20 Apr

Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.-Brene Brown

When I came across this Brene Brown quote a few days ago, I couldn’t help but realize how much it applied to my certain circumstances. Not just the overall situation of living with Cerebral Palsy, but the more recent circumstances of realizing that I must now face the emotions which resulted from my recent return to physical therapy. Though it would be so much easier to resist thinking about the emotions and memories that returning to physical therapy brought up for me, I know that I must face them if I’m going to be able to move forward.

Throughout my life, I have heard people tell me how awesome it is that I don’t let my CP define me. According to my CP doctor, I “make it look easy.” Though I do understand that most people are trying to compliment me, it’s also hard for me to believe them in the full sense of the phrase. Though I don’t ever introduce myself as “the girl with CP,” I often wonder if that’s what others are thinking, specifically people I have just met. Overall, I try not to let myself focus too much on all of the difficulties it brings, because if I did that, how the heck would I still be able to find joy in the little things? However, at the same time, my CP affects me on a daily basis. Every day is hard, and every day I am reminded of how different I am from those around me. At the same time, I am reminded of how far I’ve come, and that’s where “owning my story” comes in.

Though I began writing my memoir in order to help myself come to terms with what I’ve faced and to help others in similar situations, I have also just wanted to shed a light on just how many of us are struggling in ways people may not truly understand. Putting all the benefits and support aside, “owning my story” through writing about it and essentially saying “Yes, this is who I am, and I am damn proud” has been the most frightening, scariest, most frustrating and overall hardest thing I’ve ever done. In all actuality, it sucks, but it’s helping me. Truthfully, it reminds me of the idea that you’ve got to hit rock bottom before you can truly understand your own strength. It’s cliché, but it’s also true. In many ways though, I feel as if trudging through this first draft of my memoir is similar to hitting rock bottom, over and over again.

Despite the frustrations of “owning my story,” it’s my way of being the voice of so many others who aren’t able to express what it’s like living with a disability. If writing my memoir means I can give a voice to a few of those people, then I will plunge into the darkness of it. Just because there are people who aren’t able to express the emotions connected with what they have experienced doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t have a chance to still be heard. If anything, all of those people deserve it a little bit more. After all, every one of us has so much to learn from each of the people we come into contact with, so why not start by owning the experiences we’ve faced, no matter how scary and painful?

Almost a year ago…before the writing began.

24 Dec

Since tonight is Christmas Eve and tomorrow is Christmas, I thought I’d share a picture I came across today from last Christmas.

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It’s crazy to think how much can happen in a year. This time last year, the idea of starting my memoir of living with Cerebral Palsy hadn’t come into existence quite yet, and in all actuality, that is hard for me to believe. I remember how, on a cold winter day in January, I made the quick and impulsive decision and said, “I’m going to write a book about my life!”

A few days later, after I had spent many hours just writing, writing, writing without even thinking of stopping, I emailed two very important people in my life: my writing mentor and my freshman English professor from my previous college, both of whom have always been incredibly supportive of my writing. Both of them have always been big supporters of me in general, and so I wasn’t surprised to receive positive reactions concerning my decision to write a book about my life. Though I did receive support from both of them, I sensed hesitation, and truthfully, I’m still unsure if that hesitation was just my own lack of self-confidence coming to the surface or whether it was something else entirely. Either way, at those very beginning days of my memoir, when only the first thoughts of it were being formulated in my mind, I never thought I’d reach the point where I could talk about my past with such ease. Granted, there are definitely memories that still cause me to pause simply because I haven’t quite gotten the guts to pull them out of the black box they have been hidden in for so long, but considering where I was this time last year, I’ve come very far.

Truthfully, it’s because of the support I’ve received from my mentors, friends, family and all you lovely fellow bloggers that I have made it to this point concerning my memoir. Though the amount of pages I have written is incredibly, incredibly slim considering a full year has passed since I began, most of my writing took more mental preparations than I anticipated in the beginning. Though I wrote like crazy in the beginning month of beginning my memoir, that “early fire” started to fade when the emotions of what I was doing began to fully set in. Since then, I have continued battling those emotions, and those battles have taken up more time than I anticipated….time that could’ve been spent writing. However, I needed to give attention to those battles…to all of the emotions that were being brought to the surface after essentially burying huge chunks of my life in boxes in the back of my mind. Therefore, though I don’t have very many pages to show for all that I have trudged through over the past year, if anything….I know what I have finally faced…and what I have grown from.

Therefore, I wish to say thank you for every single one of you who have been a part of the supportive hug I’ve been receiving for the past year. To family, friends, mentors, and fellow bloggers…thank you for sticking with me through the really hard writing days, the really good writing days, and all those days in between when I was either talking about my memoir or talking about a certain memory from my past. Though there is still a very, very long way to go, I know from experience that the beginning of a project…or the simple act of even starting it…is the hardest. Though there were many days throughout the last year that I either debating stopping or could no longer remember why I was putting myself through the pain of writing and reliving the hard parts of my life, I kept at it. I kept at it for you, for me, and for all the families and kids dealing with a disability who just need someone to relate to or someone who understands or someone who they can look to and say, “She made it through. So can I.”

As well as my many thanks and lots of love, I’d also like to wish all of you a happy holiday season. 🙂

Invisible words.

12 Aug

Taken at the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland

“The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible.” – Vladimir Nabokov

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! 

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

True Writing Lies In Vulnerability.

29 Mar

“Your task is not to seek love, but to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”-Rumi

I came across this quote by Rumi this morning, and for a while, I just sat and stared at it. Do you ever come across those quotes that seem to say what’s in your heart better than you’re able to say it yourself? Well, this quote did that for me this morning. Through the process of writing my book, I’ve broken down a lot of barriers inside myself. Barriers that housed the pain, the fear, the details of the really hard memories. Now that the barriers are slowly being bulldozed to the ground, my true self is showing. I kept so much hidden for so long, and now that everything’s being exposed, I feel so vulnerable. It’s scary to think that through my writing everyone will be able to see so much more. They’ll see all the pieces, rather than just the parts that are relatively put together.

Though allowing others to see all that I went through is a big part of writing this book, it means that I’m pouring out every memory, every ounce of pain and fear, to put myself in an extremely vulnerable position. Last year in my Freshman English class, my professor (Dr. Cox), who is now one of my writing mentors, pointed out that reaching the point of vulnerability in our writing was the best place to connect with others, and ultimately, who we truly are. Dr. Cox also told me that writing isn’t “true” unless it costs the writer something. Though I understand what Dr. Cox means, it’s scary to know that by sharing so many details of my life, strangers are going to get a picture of who I truly am, inside and out. Though I have no doubt that putting myself in a vulnerable position will allow others to better connect with who I truly am, I feel like I’ll no longer have certain memories that are mine and mine alone.

However, through this book, I want to connect. I want to show other kids and families that have kids with Cerebral Palsy that they are not alone. I want to show them that I’ve been there and I understand. However, to do that I must break down all these walls in order to share the memories that will put me in the most vulnerable position possible. However, though vulnerability is scary, it’s also raw, true and the most honest portrayal of myself I can provide to my readers.

A Writing Day.

28 Mar

There is no greater tragedy than bearing an untold story inside you.-Maya Angelou

And with that, I’m off to work on my book. Happy Wednesday everyone!

Photo Friday: Blue Ridge Sunset.

23 Mar

“Be not the slave of your own past – plunge into the sublime seas, dive deep, and swim far, so you shall come back with new self-respect, with new power, and with an advanced experience that shall explain and overlook the old.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

As most of you know, I’m in the process of writing a book. However, I’ve been taking a break from my writing for a while. I feel like I need to catch my breath. It’s been a nice way to focus on the people in my life that I love, while also giving me time to reflect on myself as well as the beauty that’s around me. Recently though, my back has caused me a good bit of pain. There have been multiple times in the past few days that I’ve been walking and I’ve come to a complete stop due to the back spasms that come out of nowhere. It’s almost as if the breath is knocked out of me. Because of this recent back pain, though it has been extremely unpleasant, it has given me a jumping off point for some descriptions that I’ve been wanting to include in my book.

Certain pain that not everyone has felt is really hard to explain. I don’t doubt that at some point everyone has had some sort of spasm, but it’s nothing like the intense spasms I had in my legs after surgeries though. But the thing is, I want people to be able to understand. I want people to be able to try to envision the degree of pain that I felt. It’s just such a hard thing to describe. Pain. We’ve all felt it. It can be dull pain, sharp pain or any one of the grey areas in between those extremes. But my spasms were neither dull nor sharp. They’re quick, fast, alarming. It’s like if you tried to keep your arm straight for as long as possible and then all of a sudden you bent it really fast. Multiply that by a really huge number, and you’ve got the spasms that I’ve felt in my legs. Even with that, I don’t know how to describe them in a way that relates to everyone. I just know what I felt.

The unfortunate part about writing about all this pain is that it happened so long ago. And since it was a very painful time for me, I have no doubt that I blocked out some of the really small details of the degree of the pain. I wish I knew the exact words to describe the pain, but I just don’t. The words aren’t coming. All I remember during all those spasms are the screams that I let out. I screamed so loud. It was my release. Growing up, doctors and physical therapists told me that I had quite a voice for how loud and often that I screamed. I also have an incredibly strong grip in terms of my hands. I feel like the screams and the hand strength combined makes a lot of sense. When the spasms took over, I needed any sort of way to feel in control. Though I hardly ever did, I screamed out the pain. I held the pain in my hands as my knuckles would go white due to grabbing onto a mat or the arms of a wheelchair.

Though my CP has made me into a much stronger person, the pain and fear that I faced was overwhelming. I’d never wish it on anyone, no matter how much I dislike them.

Tuesday’s Tunes: Dulling The Pain With Alan Jackson.

20 Mar

On the drive up to Shriner’s Hospital for my second surgery in 2003, my mom and I stopped at Best Buy so that I could get a new cd as a present. I picked Alan Jackson’s Greatest Hits Volume Two. From the time until I bought that cd until I went into the operating room for my second surgery (and afterwards), that cd played in my Walkman. Now, when I hear a song from that album, I think of how I replayed that cd in order to drown out fear. I remember my roommate at Shriner’s, Jocelyn, and her bouncy blonde curls and heavy southern accent. I remember how Jocelyn and I would go to the computer room down from our room and play Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, laughing at how much money we “won” or “lost.”

In previous posts, I’ve mentioned how specific songs have brought me back to a specific moment, a specific time in my life. But in terms of the Alan Jackson album, I’m not only reminded of specific memories, I’m reminded that music could also make me happy. Though my parents most likely got sick of the fact that I listened to that cd on repeat for months, it dulled the pain in a way. Or rather, it brought a small smile to my face in between the grimaces of pain. When I think of the Alan Jackson cd though, I remember how it didn’t take me long at all to memorize the words. I remember listening to it as Jocelyn wished me luck in surgery, and then later learned that she had been discharged while I was in surgery, but chose to not go home until after my surgery to make sure that I was okay. Or as okay as could be expected. I remember the good things. The things mixed in with the bad that reminded me to keep trying even though all I wanted to do was cry.

I’m beginning to see that not all the memories in my book will be sad. As I push through the really bad ones, I’m reminded of the good ones (from the hospital)….like dulling the pain with Alan Jackson, my first hospital roommate (Ginny), the benefits of craft night, the weekly visit of the therapy dogs, the ICU nurses….and more that I can’t think of right now. When I visited my best friend Skidmore this past weekend and she read what I’ve written so far in regards to my book, she suggested that I alternate chapters between good and bad memories. She pointed out that a “happy” chapter may be a nice breather in between the really sad, painful tear-jerker type chapters, which is a good point.