A New Year in Writing—Finding your Courage

A New Year in Writing—Finding your Courage

Happy New Year—it’s 2017! I like to begin the year, not exactly with a list of resolutions, but with ways to feel inspired. For many, it was a tempestuous fall season with the election and a lot of emotions that were stirred up by national and international events. Many of my writing friends told me that they comforted themselves with their creative passions, that they threw themselves into their writing as a way to create something positive that made them feel good. Writing is a way to cope with the past and the present, a way to meditate on what has meaning to us, and it can help us find a perspective about where we stand, what we think and feel. Writing invites us to express ourselves with freedom and safety, especially if we are writing first for ourselves. When we decide to make our work public, we then move into another realm of exposure and intent—which can also be rewarding, even when it’s challenging emotionally to do so. I hope you feel satisfaction in your writing, whether it’s in your journal, a blog, or chapters of your book. Or perhaps you are submitting to online literary magazines, or to contests. There are so many ways to get your work in the world, and it’s always a brave decision to hit “send.”

If you are working on a memoir, you know that it’s an act of courage to get your story on the page. There is so much that we have to confront to find our way to a book. Sometimes we just need to start with a single moment, a single story and see how far we can get, to test how it feels to find the words to bring that moment to life. To write a book, we will be finding scene after scene that shows moments that are deeply meaningful to us, moments that shaped and changed our lives.

To write, and publish, a memoir, we need to wrestle with a bunch of demons too—worry about family and friends’ reaction to our story, whether or not we can find the words to adequately express what is in our hearts. I know from writing two memoirs—the new one Song of the Plains will be released in June of this year—how tough it is to dig through the past and to find the images that resonate—as a memoir is not a collection of facts but a work that explores meaning and helps us make sense of our experiences. When we do that well, the reader’s experience will parallel our own—they will take their own journey with us and reflect on challenges they’ve had and problems they’ve tried to understand and solve. When you can write a book that puts you in synch with your reader, you’re offering a profound gift to them. But of course, you have to be willing and able to take that journey yourself.

We’re kicking off the year in our first Roundtable discussion at NAMW with Dorit Sasson whose work is all about courage—the willingness to dig into her painful past and unearth her story. Join us to learn about the journey that inspired her memoir and what she’s learned from deciding to become a writer and author. The great thing about having authors that are not famous or well known-yet—is that their story can inspire you to fulfill your own dreams of authorship. You learn that it’s possible to start at the very beginning with hope and courage and create a writing life.

Being Authentic in Memoir Writing

Princess Zoe

I’ve been thinking about what Billy Coffey is going to talk about at the National Association of Memoir Writers Free Telesummit coming up on Friday. His topic is Being For Real: Building a Personable and Approachable Image in a Digital World.

Being authentic is actually a subject that I spend time thinking about—because memoirists are supposed to be “real” on the page, to tell the truth, to expose the inner worlds of their lives, families, and hearts–right?. All that exposure: isn’t that “being real?”
Well, it depends. We use words to shape perception. Words convey inner truths very deeply, or words can cover up what we really feel.

Authenticity? The question is—how much of our real selves do we feel comfortable revealing anyway? Nowdays, it seems that everyone is confessing and revealing everything on Facebook, Twitter, and blogs–all over the web. Some people wonder if there will ever be such a thing as privacy again.

Yet, if you are author who wants to connect with real people—after all those are real people out there behind the pictures on Facebook—then what do you need to do? What blockages do you have in your willingness to share your personality, to find the words to express the uniqueness of who you are?

I do feel that Billy Coffey expresses his unique personality on his blog. He has photos taken by his wife, he talks about real issues in his life, his thoughts, feelings, and philosophy. Even if I don’t agree with everything he might share, I feel that I’ve had contact with a whole human being when I read his blog. He seems authentic—there’s that word again.

I feel that I can do more to show my personality, yet want to find privacy too in how much I put on the web. What is the balance, I wonder? So I’m really going to enjoy my discussion with Billy on Friday.

He’s the first guest at the NAMW FREE Telesummit, and it’s a great way to kick off the day. Go here to sign up for the telesummit, and even if you can’t come, you will get an audio of all the presentations to download or burn on a CD.

Now, back to the paragraph in my new memoir piece After the Memoir. I was writing about my perky 4 year old granddaughter, Zoe! She’s my guru about being real. She always says what she’s thinking. “Nana, I love your hair. What are those lines around your lips?”

Well, at least she’s being real. I hug her, and we talk about her pink princess dress, and how she wants to be a princess when she grows up. I sink into her fictional world of princesses and pretty dresses. After all, isn’t that what writing is all about–creating another world? I’m authentically joining Zoe in the imaginative world she’s painting around me, grateful for the respite from all that “reality.”

My new memoir posts will be about the new world you will find yourself in after you write your memoir, after you have completed your story and publish. Then more stories begin, and life goes on.

Keep writing, and find your authentic voice!