How I Resuscitated My Memoir

In the midst of the end-of-the-school-year chaos, I realized it was time to resuscitate my current memoir. How did I know? My book kept popping into my consciousness, giving me little nudges that it wanted my attention.

For a long time, this memoir’s been on life support. It’s been a big year for me with joining the Lighthouse Writers faculty and growing my business, so the book needed to take back seat for a while. I continued taking notes about the book and chipping away at it here and there, but that’s about it.

That changed over the past couple of weeks. One morning, I woke up with the realization that it was time to redo my wall chart (a.k.a. my road map/organizational system). So I penciled in some time to get started.

For me, getting back into a project after having been out of it for a long time can be excruciating. It’s gotten easier over the years, and the level of ease, I’ve found, correlates directly to the kindness and compassion I extend to myself in the process. The more I let my inner critic run the show, the faster and yuckier I spin out.

So I took some baby steps. I eased back in with 20 minutes 2-3x/week. That felt doable. I also had to check my expectations. Since I’m an impatient Aries, I wanted to immediately jump into the deep end, pick up a thread of something profound, and take off with the wind at my back.

Um, nope. It was a blind wading in at first, a trusting. But I’ve been through this dance so many times over the past 20 years that I trust it now. I trust myself to find my way back to the story. I know that I’ll get there, as long as I keep moving forward, one baby step at a time.

Takeaway: if you’re not feeling the flow right now, stay connected to your book in whatever way makes sense for you. Take notes. Keep a placeholder in your mind. Think about your book while you’re on a run or taking a bath. Daydream about it. Trust the process.

For me, my psychological placeholder was this wall chart and a billion discombobulated files on my computer (ok not a billion, but probably something like 20-40 files in various states of disarray).

This is what my book looked like when I started it nearly two years ago. This is not what it will look like soon.

Now that so much time has passed, the story has shifted significantly. At some point, I’m going to have to go through my old notes and decide what to keep and what to toss (which will be a lot). But that’s a bridge for another day.

For now, here’s how I eased back in gently:

  • I did a bit of free writing to explore how the story had shifted, exploring what it was I really wanted to write right now.
  • I started a new organizational document to help me contain the new story. I also started to hone in on my updated theme.
  • I started a new shitty first draft of my mission statement.
  • I started a new list of my big rocks.
  • I scheduled in my next 20-min writing session and wrote down the specific story I was going to work on.

And then I stopped. I didn’t want to stop, mind you—I wanted to figure out my inciting incident, get more clarity about the big picture. In essence, I wanted to walk away and feel like I’d done something big. Worthy. But I also didn’t want to crash and burn. So I did my short celebration (to start building that completion muscle) and put the book to rest.

When I went to sleep, I set an intention asking for what I needed to know next. The inciting incident came to me in the middle of the night.

Of course—it was so obvious! But it wasn’t anything I could have gotten if I’d stayed at my desk and forced it. And with that one small–but important–piece of information, the pieces of the new story started to come together.

I still don’t know the entire trajectory of the story, but at least I’m back on the path. And that feels good. Really good.

Like: I’m infatuated-with-a-new-love good. We’ll have our first fight soon, I’m sure. But for now, I’m trying to keep my wits about me and make this new relationship work with the rest of my life.

For me, this means moderation. Not throwing everything else overboard so that I can give it my everything and burn out in the process. Not jumping into the deep end and coming out in flames.

Nope. Not at this stage in my life, anyway. Cause I’m looking for a much more sane way to get to the finish line.

In other news:

The other day, I realized that I took my first writing workshop 30 years ago. Thirty. That realization inspired me to start a new series exploring what I wish I’d know when I was starting out. Look for the first installment of that new series next week.

As of today, my kids have 5 days left of school—equal measures Yikes and Thank God. With the most recent school shooting on the other side of Denver, I’m looking forward to having them home more than ever. That also means that my summer work schedule moves into a more fluid/creative one, so if you’d like to work with me over the summer, please contact me in advance. In the meantime, wishing you a kind and compassionate writing session!

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