Writing your memoir can be exhausting, lonely, and confusing. Here are some things I found helpful when writing my debut book ‘The Grace of a Nightingale – A Memoir of Vulnerability, Hope and Love, April 2019.
Mary Anne Willow, the author of the acclaimed memoir, ‘The Grace of a Nightingale,’ wrote about navigating through the lonely days of writing her book. She hopes to connect with more writers embarking on the same journey. It’s worth reading for any aspiring writer.
- Keep believing in Your Story and your ability to write whether it’s fiction or non-fiction.
Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
Despite how saturated literary sales may seem, we all love fresh stories. Don’t give up! For centuries, stories have helped people to feel accepted, connected and less alone. Stories can inspire, empower, comfort, teach, motivate and create transformational change. Deep soulful longings within the reader connect with the author and create a synergy that allows both to realise their true selves. Both can achieve their dreams.
- Invest in a word-processing program and outliner designed for authors such as Scrivener or Evernote https://scrivenerville.com/scrivener-alternative/scrivener-vs-evernote/.
I use Scrivener which provides a management system for documents, notes and metadata. I could organise notes, concepts, research and whole documents for easy access and reference. It is worth every penny! Or like me…my husband bought it as a Christmas gift. He realised I needed a system when he saw me scribbling endless notes which littered the house, coat pockets, my phone, computer, and iPad.
- Find the right editor.
But how do you choose the right editor for your work when there are hundreds of highly skilled ones to choose from https://www.sfep.org.uk? How do you know who will genuinely edit your work with integrity and not regard it as yet another mundane work task? And who can you work with confidentially with ease and mutual trust without fear of criticism and judgment?
I was in a predicament as these questions evolved part way through writing my book. Despite having never worked with an editor before, something was telling me I needed one. Here is my story http://www.maryannewillow.uk/finding-the-right-editor/.
Just as every talented musician needs a producer, every writer needs an editor. You cannot be the creative crafter and editor. Inevitably you become attached and deeply protective of your work. You are the parent nurturing the child. Trying to edit will block the creative process. Invest in researching the right editor for you.
This relationship for me is profoundly important. My editor coached and befriended me in ways that enabled me to share some of my most intimate personal details. There was never a moment I doubted the goodness and love of her intentions. The relationship is sacred, precious and unique. Thank you, dear Helen!
Where and when do you begin? What’s the first chapter, sentence or scenario? Who are the main characters? What period is your book set in?
Just Write…Just Write… was the advice given by a trusted and loyal friend, Fr Daniel. Don’t submit to anxiety-based procrastination…. this will steal your time, creativity and energy…..it will eventually lengthen the distance from the place of beginning making it increasingly more difficult to return and carry on. When the gravity of procrastination pulls you away from your writing, you become paralysed with feelings of melancholic worthlessness and dread. It can deny you fulfilling your destiny. You begin to feel overwhelmed by delay and avoidance…..your very essence of worthiness, significance and talent become repressed. Don’t despair, don’t give up and don’t give in. Cling to that which will strengthen your enthusiasm and willpower.
Thank you, Fr Daniel, I will always be grateful for the simplicity of your wise advice. I kept writing and resisted interfering negative thoughts which had the potential to thwart my endeavours. Thoughts such as … “no one will read this….my writing is messy, miserable and a disgrace and I am a failure were wilfully ignored”.
These disparaging comments made by my school teachers haunted me. Competition and destructive criticism tormented me. There are so many talented writers out there. Even a visit to my local supermarket reminded me of this. Endless shelves of books for sale with bright, creative illustrative covers or glamorous pictures of acclaimed authors became a visible message “I’m not worthy of writing and publishing….I failed my English exams which is proof of my inability… I have nothing worth saying compared to all these clever authors”.
Instead, I became defiant. I valiantly silenced my inner saboteur and chose the power of positive, affirming self-talk (also known as internal dialogue, or personal commentary which frames our reactions to life and its circumstances). Compassionate statements such as….’I am blessed with a beautiful day, intelligence, love and peace’….’I will be given all that I need not necessarily want’…. ‘I can and I will do this… These simple statements evoked optimistic hope, self-confidence and energy, which engendered restorative healing. I was able to write with fresh vitality. I found freedom from vulnerability, anxiety, fear and self-doubt.
“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand”
To be continued.