A Path to Publication, pt 13: How self-absorbed are you?!

To bring about a paradigm shift in the culture that will change assumptions and attitudes, a critical number of us have to tell the stories of our personal revelations and transformations.

Jean Shinoda Bolen, Crossing to Avalon

I haven’t posted about my path to publication in a while because, well, last fall the path suddenly became a rut. I didn’t have the time or emotional ability to navigate that bumpy road at that time. But, as these things do, it hasn’t stopped nagging at me. Lately that voice has once again become too loud to ignore.

The question for me right now is: Do I stop everything else I’m doing, including pursuing other work, to dedicate my time to this memoir? It is so close to being finished (pre-revision finished, that is) it probably wouldn’t take too much concentrated time to complete it. But, as always, money and time are in limited quantities and I wonder if even the consideration of taking precious resources to work on a book is foolish.

Yes, the old fearful, imposter-syndrome, “who am I?” question has come into play. Why on earth do I think my story is so special that I have a right to spend anything on it?? Isn’t that kind of self-absorbed? Isn’t it just navel-gazing?

Well, here’s what my journal had to say about that last night:

If you are a good singer, you share your voice with others. If you are a talented cook, you feed others. You are a gifted teacher, you inspire others to learn. You have a story, you tell it.

I am a writer. A good writer, with a story to tell.

People respond to my writing. I have been given a gift. It is my gift back to share it.

I need my words to be read. I need to be heard.

And I have something to say. If it only resonated with one person, that’s reason enough to say it. Writing my story helped me to heal. Maybe it can help someone else too.

Humans are story-livers and givers. We relate, we learn, we empathize, we resonate, we make decisions, we change the world through story. It is my obligation to share mine.

The Path to Publication, part 7: Brewing questions

What is it ABOUT?

It’s been almost exactly a year since my graduate thesis and creative project was approved by my advisors. It has had time to mellow. Or ferment?

Was I afraid it had fermented so much that it would explode when I took it from its box buried in the closet? What on earth had me so afraid that I would rather do anything — I mean, anything; I even went out and scooped up the dog’s piles of do-do — than sit down and start on this project? You know, the one I am so ready to do? “That’s what I want to do!” I said.

Well, I know, really: FEAR OF FAILURE (perfectionism) and/or SUCCESS (imposter syndrome or “What if that’s all I had in me? What then?”) But that’s a topic for another day… (although I have written a lot about fear before as well as little about the fear of success.)

But finally after a lot of procrastination in the form of house-cleaning, binge Orange is the New Black watching, and justified-as-research memoir reading, and yes, dog-poop-clearing, I finally picked up my manuscript. (And then I wrote this blog post as an additional justifiable procrastination method.)

So far I have only read the memoir section. I have to admit I’m pretty happy with what I read. That is, in Part I. It’s more complete than I remembered and I don’t think it will need a whole lot of editing. Part II, however, is a different story. Literally.

In that section I am telling a very different story than I was in the first part, which is the telling of certain childhood memories. Part II is an existential exploration into the ineffable. It has no structure as it was a recording of what I was experiencing while I was writing my memoir and doing research into the worlds of myth, women’s development and spirituality, and psychology. It is as fragmented as I felt at that time as I was attempting to connect of the dots of ME.

So, in order to gain some focus for my next steps I have challenged myself to answer some questions about my book.

1. What is my story about? What is the question I am asking?

2. In my story, what do I (the author, main character) want/need?

3. What is the obstacle to what I want/need?

4. How do I get over this obstacle?

5. How do I change in the process? What do I learn?

6. What am I teaching others through my story? What information do I hope to relay? What personal learning speaks to the universal? WHY am I telling this story?

I am hoping that as I answer these questions, I will gain insight into the true reason for my story; what it needs to say, not what I think I want it to say.


To read snippets of my memoir, “Leaving Fundamentalism in Search of  Voice,” click here.






The Path to Publication, part 6: What is Creative Non-fiction?

imageWriting is like building a spider’s web. Create a point of connection, attach it to another, and another, until a whole network — a piece of art; a story — has been built.

Each point of learning, each experience, each conversation, each sentence I write is slowly building a story, the overall design of which, although I am the one writing it, is as yet unclear.

Although this post isn’t specifically about publication, it is very much a part of my journey of learning; more points of connection in this web that is my story.

It’s now a week since I returned from the writing conference — and what a week it was! I somehow beat my own writing record (not something I was intending to do and won’t be in a hurry to try again) and researched and submitted three articles in less than 24 hours. By the time I hit send on that feature story at 5pm on Thursday, I was as tired as when I hiked up and back down Vermont’s highest mountain (another feat I’m not in any rush to repeat).

Today, it felt justifiable to take a day off from the freelancing frenzy to sit in the sun and do a little blogging. And to revisit these pages of notes from the conference. So let’s talk about the overall Creative Nonfiction, the fastest growing genre — and my genre — for a moment.

What is Creative Nonfiction?

Well, I’m glad you asked! Lee Gutkind, founder of the Creative Nonfiction magazine had some gems to share on this topic. Here is a mixture of his points (direct quotes are his) and my analysis:

Creative Nonfiction:

Knowledge through Narrative: “Telling stories that matter to the world.”

Stories with Substance: It is a balance of personal experience and a sharing of information (the emphasis being on the substance/information). You share your story in order to tell a larger story.

Like fiction, it must have characters, scenes, plot, climax, resolution. But above all, it must relay information — teach something (NOT preach something).

Why CNF?

“The brain is wired for story.” Humans naturally create stories about everything in our world.

It teaches us empathy through personal connection and resonance. When a story appeals to our feelings we will remember the information. When a writer shares their “obsessions” and the particular world they are immersed in — be that a medical situation, a home-building project, acts of activism, etc. — they will always find an unique twist on the subject even if it has been covered before, because it is through the author’s unique eyes/experience that it is now being seen.

And Memoir?

The private story + the public one with reflection on what it all means, i.e. WHY I am telling you my story.

To read snippets of my memoir, “Leaving Fundamentalism in Search of  Voice,” click here.