I have been participating in two online writing groups that are both helping me get into a groove with my writing. And a few days ago I had a Eureka moment and came to some great conclusions for my memoir. I share what this 💡 moment was.
The common writing advice is if you want to be a writer to keep writing. The idea being that you learn a lot by doing. This was advice I heard but let go in one ear and out the other (back when my ears were more functioning)! I was a busy advertising professional, graduate student and then I got struck down by daily chronic migraines and Fibromyalgia. I was hardly writing enough creatively to teach myself anything. And then when I was in the car accident that almost took my life and gave me a Traumatic Brain Injury suddenly I realized the importance of writing. And now over 5 years post injury I can say that I am finally writing enough to learn something from all that writing. Blogging and plodding away on my memoir are really helping me come into my own as a writer and FINALLY learn by doing because I’m finally DOING!
Recently I had a lightbulb moment that will help me shape what I write in my memoir. Until this moment I had been putting off chipping away at my outline. In one fell swoop of inspiration that hit me while I was finishing my morning cup of coffee I had a new title, subhead, mini-prologue/log line and I had mapped out an outline. I haven’t abandoned the basic structure of my previous outline but I’ve filled it with topics that answer those outline questions. I plan to repurpose sections of my previous attempt that fit within the outline and new perimeters. Editing it and providing transitions will certainly take as long as I have allotted because I am also writing plenty of new content.
The kicker is I’m not scared or daunted by this new scope and new amount of work. In fact I am energized by it! I think that’s key. If I was daunted then my memoir would almost certainly never be completed. However, I’m the girl that wrote 20-page research papers on her lunch hour for graduate school (I shudder at this thought now and I certainly don’t want to go back and read those papers… I apologize to my poor professors who did have to read them). (Pleases note: I did get good grades on those papers but I don’t condone my horrible tactics!) But also I’m not that same writer (or typist even) after my accident. My brain and fingers don’t move that fast. Thankfully creativity and inspiration still seem to be working the same way but the actual speediness of thought (and typing fingers) is much, much slower.
I have a memory of learning to walk again in transitional care after the hospital and saying to my physical therapist “I walk like a zombie!” He laughed and nodded and said “Yup!” with such a bright smile that I knew to be thankful for my zombie-walk. Later on as I continued to heal and add more movements to my abilities again I couldn’t help but compare myself again. This time I wasn’t comparing myself to a slow-footed, methodically paced zombie, I instead compared myself to a sloth (nature’s slow animal). I recalled seeing the cute animated movie “Zootopia” before the accident and there was a scene where sloths worked at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) (check out this clip on YouTube, it will make you slow laugh!). Anyone who has stood in the long, soul-sucking lines at the DMV understands why it’s pretty funny to have slow sloths work at the DMV. (I apologize if you work at the DMV, but I think you know the reputation your workplace has!) Well, back to comparing myself to the sloth (sorry for the DMV tangent). One thing I have learned post TBI is that brain injury SLOWS YOU WAAAAAAAAY DOWN (I said that last phrase very slowly). So a slow sloth is really not that much of a leap of comparison for a TBI survivor.
I have also started a new writing habit of sitting down in the morning and writing in a notebook. I don’t write on my laptop, phone or iPad because of the endless distractions. I love this new habit. It’s produced some great stuff that I am adding to my memoir. My psychologist was also very supportive of this new habit because he said he could already see the effects of it in our sessions (I think we uncovered and talked about more things than usual). So I’m trudging on in my slow sloth TBI way but I am getting good results, getting good ideas and making slow and steady progress. Sloths for the win!!!!!!
Monthly Feature of the Week: An Essay
If you have wandered around writing, editing or reading communities you might have heard the quote “Kill Your Darlings.” What it means is that in the editing process of any creative work you will often have to edit out things that you love (characters, plot points, scenes, etc.) to serve the greater good of the story. It has been credited to many writers, however most commonly credited to William Faulkner (however, this Slate article asserts someone else originated the famous quote, Arthur Quiller-Couch). This phrase came up recently in something I was reading and I couldn’t help but think: well, I will most certainly NOT be killing or murdering any of the darlings of my memoir. Not to say I won’t edit, I just mean to say my darlings will not be murdered or killed. Set aside, maybe. But not killed. I am writing a memoir filled with people I know and love who I don’t want to murder. Also, I’m writing about surviving death… I don’t want to commit an act of death even in the name of editing!!
Monthly Focus: Discussion of the Week- Write First Half of Memoir
The good thing about my lightbulb moment was that I feel really confident in the direction I am going in. The bad thing about that lightbulb moment is that even the sections I felt confident about need to be edited (hence my focus on the “kill your darlings” quote). Like I mentioned before, I really don’t mind the extra work since I know everything will flow much easier with this new focus.
New Title: “Notes on Survival: When a chronic pain patient suffers a Traumatic Brain Injury the only person who can teach her how to survive is herself.” By Laura Hagemann.
I think I will still include some illustrations/visuals but not in every chapter. I will just let the text decide if it calls for a visual. This is already a change from a few weeks ago where I talked about doing a more visual memoir with illustrations at the beginning of each chapter. Hopefully no more structure changes!