My Happy Place as a Writer

...ok, I didn't buy it.

For a long time I searched for my Happy Place as a writer and I didn’t find it. The reason I couldn’t find it was because I needed to create it. I needed to understand what this place is made up of. Most of all, I needed to identify the core of my motivation.

Writing can be a lonely, thankless venture. For about five years I have been in the process of establishing myself as a writer and I admit I am still far from where I plan to be. But I am exactly where I want to be right now because this is the place from which I move forward.

Right now I have a great deal of experience, raw material, writing resources, ideas, and visions of possibilities for the future. With each day that passes I accumulate more writing aids and grist for the mill. This is a good place to be. 

Five years ago I quit my job and began to work diligently on my writing. At that time I gained a lot of momentum as a writer. However, a year later I went back to work at two consecutive jobs. All the while I kept having a gnawing feeling that I was to focus on my writing. Finally I submitted my resignation. (I don’t recommend quitting your job unless you are convinced in your heart that this is what you are to do.)

The past two years have been riddled with doubt and confusion as I vacillated back and forth between staying at home on a reduced income and going back to work again. After repeated rejections from agents and editors I contemplated giving up fiction writing altogether. I over-analyzed and second-guessed myself after numerous blog posts with virtually no reader response.

I admit I have yet to regain the momentum I had during the first year before I went back to work. However, the time in between has not been wasted and I have gained many valuable insights.

Little has changed around me, but something has changed inside me. I have embraced the messiness and the beauty of where I am today. I have accepted what I have, and even what I don’t have.

I made two decisions which are moving me forward.

One, I am motivated by love. I write because I love people. I want to inspire, encourage and entertain people.

Two, I want to write.

I can write anywhere and on any subject. I may write comments on social media, or messages and emails to friends, or notes on birthday cards, or I may write in my journal. The success of my writing does not need to be measured in terms of financial profit. I write because I love people and because I love to write.

I am truly grateful for each writing resource I have studied, each note I have taken, each creative line I have written. I am grateful for all that has brought me to this place where I am today and all that will influence my tomorrows to come.

If there is one thing the past months and years have taught me it is this: Writing is a struggle and it will always be a struggle. That is why it is so critical to know why I am writing and who I am writing for.

My future success may not come in the form of a published book. In fact my future may look much like my past. I’m OK with that. I now see intrinsic value in what I am doing from day to day. I am in my Happy Place.

 

Writing the memoir

Did you know that there is a difference between writing “memoirs’ and writing “a memoir?” Well, I didn’t. This week I have been reading Writing the Memoir by Judith Barrington (1997). Her book is unexpectedly delightful and inspiring.

Memoirs are in the same category as autobiographies–a basic written account of facts–whereas, in the memoir, the writer reflects on the meaning of what happened, adding personal interpretation and judgment. According to Barrington, in a “contemporary literary memoir….the memorist tells the story and muses upon it, trying to unravel what it means in the light of her current knowledge” (p. 20).

What I found particularly interesting is that Barrington encourages memorists to look for themes in their lives. Writing is then collected around these themes.

A memoir has to be very selective in what it includes, or Barringtong warns, you will end up with a huge, sprawling autobiography. The memories of our lives are all connected but in the memoir it is vital to leave things out (p. 56).

At the end of each chapter the book offers helpful assignments to get you started on writing. One assignment asks the reader to list ways to focus a memoir. The memoir may be focused around a defined period of time, for instance, “The year I….” It can also be focused around the writer’s relationship to something–a pet, a place you have lived, a favorite activity, or an event.

A memoir can be short or long. Short memoirs might be collected as chapters of a book. The important thing is to remain focused. And, as a last thought,

Most people only ever write one autobiography, but you may write many memoirs over time (p. 24).