Write Anyway (When you Encounter your Critics) and Find Your Story

Write Anyway

Write AnywayWhen we first decide to write, we feel good about it—we have memories and stories that are a part of who we are. We want to capture times long gone and preserve them in story form, and leave a record and legacy about our lives. But other voices get in the way: “What will people think; you should be ashamed; you’ll embarrass the family. Don’t air our dirty laundry! You know only part of the truth, so be quiet. Your mother would roll over in her grave if she found out you wrote that.”

We all know these voices. They tempt us throw down the pen, sit back and turn on the TV. We want to write out truth, but we don’t want to lose the good will of our family, and most of the time at least, we don’t want to make them angry. Writing a memoir is an act of courage, even defiance against powerful family dynamics. We need to find a way to resolve this dilemma enough to keep our writing project going.

As a family therapist, I’ve worked with many families, and because of that background, I’m in a position to help the writers I work with understand the source of their resistance to writing their truths, and how to manage those critic voices.

When we write memoir, we are reclaiming our story, and we stake a claim to our version of the stories that we lived. Every family has multiple story lines. There’s the “official” version, controlled by the most powerful people in the family, those who have the most to lose. The “lesser” points of view—often held by children or those lesser in power—are often not believed or accepted as true.

Who decides what version of a story to believe? Who is not listened to? Whose point of view is unwanted? The answers to these questions will be decided by family dynamics and power. Many writers I work with tell me that they were not believed, or their version of “what happened” is not accepted, so they have a hard time claiming their own story.

In many families there’s a “scapegoat,” the person that everyone blames for what is wrong. Again, it seems that the writer/witness/narrator in the family is often found in this position too. You may hold a unique or unpopular view of the family stories and those with in power may want to suppress it. Usually this comes from fear.

I am always telling the writers I coach to write their first draft as if no one is going to read it. Write the first draft—and later draft too until all your revisions are complete—story in a protected bubble so you can find your story and your voice.

Some tips from the family therapist:

  • Figure out the power dynamics in your family. If your inner critic voice is chatting to you, write down what it says. Also figure out if there is a specific person whose criticism you are most worried about.
  • If one of your voices says things like: “I don’t know how to write; my family will hate me; how do I know I am writing the truth” keep writing, keep searching for the stories you need to tell. If you were silenced when you were growing up, writing your memoir will help you find your story, the one that belongs to you, and you are no longer silenced when you write.
  • DO NOT hit the delete button when you hear the critic voices after writing. DO protect your writing from curious family or friend invaders until you are comfortable with your work—usually after several drafts are done and you know your story. Treat your work like a vulnerable young plant that needs protection.
  • Find writer buddies to help support you through your networks online. You can ask for writer buddies in the NAMW network and during our teleseminar question time and during our group coaching calls. Several people have been matched up that way!
  • If you’ve been abused, neglected, forgotten, or silenced, you probably learned not to value your own point of view. Writing your story can change that! Keep “telling it like it is.”

September Roundtable Discussion – FREE to All

Grant Faulkner

Grant FaulknerWhy NaNoWriMo is Important for Memoirists

Presentation by Grant Faulkner, Executive Director of National Novel Writing Month 

September 15, 2016

4 PM PDT  5 PM MDT  6 PM CDT  7 PM EDT

Grant Faulkner, Executive Director of National Novel Writing Month, November 1-30, known as NaNoWriMo will join us to talk about how you can join this worldwide writing frenzy and get a first draft done in a month.

It’s a great way to kick off the “school” year to hear from the person who heads up this international effort to celebrate writing. NaNoWriMo has created a phenomena that adds hundreds, even thousands, new writers each year to the annual National Novel Writing Month celebration. Here’s how it works: you sign up on the website and commit to writing 50,000 words during the month of November. Not only does it light a fire under you to get a LOT of writing done, you’re joining thousands people all over the world who are doing the same thing: committing to writing through writer’s block, procrastination, and confusion to get words on the page.

And great news:  you do not have to be a novelist to join NaNoWriMo. Grant and I are going to talk about how it all works and what the benefits are to you as memoirists. Many memoirists join to blow past all the issues that slow them down. When it comes down to it, if you have a word count to fulfill and accountability, you will write more.

We will talk about:

  1. What is NaNoWriMo and how did it get started.
  2. How you can join and how it works.
  3. What memoirists can gain from joining NaNoWriMo and how it can help you write your memoir.
  4. What is the expected outcome at the end; What does “winning” mean?
  5. What happens after it’s over—on your own again.

Writers say that NaNoWriMo was one of the most satisfying writing experiences they have had.

 

Bio

Grant Faulkner likes big stories and small stories. He is the Executive Director of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), the co-founder of 100 Word Story, and a founding member of San Francisco’s Flash Fiction Collective. His essays on creative writing have appeared in The New York Times, Poets & Writers, Writer’s Digest, and The Writer, and his stories have appeared in dozens of literary journals. He recently published a collection of 100-word stories, Fissures, and is currently writing a book of essays on creativity that will be published by Chronicle Books in the fall of 2017.

National Novel Writing Month

100 Word Story

Learn more about Grant on his website.

You can follow Grant on Twitter here.

 

 

Censorship—The Hot Topic of the Week

How do we censor ourselves? What do we do when others try to silence us? In the middle of the political debates, these topics have risen to the top: the right to speak, the right to be silent, and the power of words. Every day we witness word battles on TV and on social media. And when we’re writing, we find ourselves with our own struggles to say our truths and how much to keep our silence. We live in a world where what we say and how we say it can ultimately reach many people, and quickly. In the heat of the moment, we may wish to take back our words that have already flown out into the world, but sometimes that spontaneous expression is our most authentic self. One thing is for certain, if you are a writer, you're aware that you have an audience, that you can reach out in a huge way to the rest of the world—through your stories, your blog posts, your online writing groups, and through social media. Often social media can be a way to try to right wrongs, or it can be used to attack. As always, we can choose what we say and how we say it. But what if others try to silence us? What if our stories have ventured into the realm of discomfort for some readers? When I hear about instances of censorship in the writing world, I draw upon my own philosophy of how I prefer to run writing groups, whether in person or online, and how I support writers. For the last twenty years I have conducted writing workshops in which I define our context as “a safe, sacred space” where what needs to be revealed can be without censure. A place where feelings and secrets that have been hidden for a long time can come into the light of day so the writer can view these issues from all sides. So what is in the dark can come into the light. That does not mean that everything written will be golden, or that everyone will be comfortable, including the writer. In fact, discomfort is often the result of honest writing, of digging deep to find truths that were hidden or unbidden or even previously unknown by us, buried somewhere in our unconscious minds. If we as readers are uncomfortable with what we read or hear, it's an opportunity to look within ourselves to see what button is being triggered. It is never right for us to silence the writer. Their story belongs to them, and comes from a unique point of view. I'm not talking about trash talking or vicious personal attacks here—I'm referring to the authentic stories that are struggling to be released. As a writing community we not only need to invite these stories, but to support the writer's right to have their story. We are living during a time when our true and authentic stories desperately need to be told. We are the voices, the witnesses, to what we have seen, lived, and experienced. This is personal history that's being revealed, which paints a picture of our times, of who we are worldwide as people. We are in a global community and all the stories matter. All stories offer a window into worlds many of us don't know, but need to know about. I wish you all the freedom to write, to express and to be received with compassion and good will.

How do we censor ourselves? What do we do when others try to silence us?   In the middle of the political debates, these topics have risen to the top: the right to speak, the right to be silent, and the power of words. Every day we witness word battles on TV and on social media. And when we’re writing, we find ourselves with our own struggles to say our truths and how much to keep our silence. We live in a world where what we say and how we say it can ultimately reach many people, and quickly. In the heat of the moment, we may wish to take back our words that have already flown out into the world, but sometimes that spontaneous expression is our most authentic self. One thing is for certain, if you are a writer, you're aware that  you have an audience, that you can reach out in a huge way to the rest of the world—through your stories, your blog posts, your online writing groups, and through social media. Often social media can be a way to try to right wrongs, or it can be used to attack. As always, we can choose what we say and how we say it.   But what if others try to silence us? What if our stories have ventured into the realm of discomfort for some readers?   When I hear about instances of censorship in the writing world, I draw upon my own philosophy of how I prefer to run writing groups, whether in person or online, and how I support writers. For the last twenty years I have conducted writing workshops in which I define our context as “a safe, sacred space” where what needs to be revealed can be without censure. A place where feelings and secrets that have been hidden for a long time can come into the light of day so the writer can view these issues from all sides. So what is in the dark can come into the light. That does not mean that everything written will be golden, or that everyone will be comfortable, including the writer. In fact, discomfort is often the result of honest writing, of digging deep to find truths that were hidden or unbidden or even previously unknown by us, buried somewhere in our unconscious minds.    If we as readers are uncomfortable with what we read or hear, it's an opportunity to look within ourselves to see what button is being triggered. It is never right for us to silence the writer. Their story belongs to them, and comes from a unique point of view. I'm not talking about trash talking or vicious personal attacks here—I'm referring to the authentic stories that are struggling to be released. As a writing community we not only need to invite these stories, but to support the writer's right to have their story.  We are living during a time when our true and authentic stories desperately need to be told. We are the voices, the witnesses, to what we have seen, lived, and experienced. This is personal history that's being revealed, which paints a picture of our times, of who we are worldwide as people. We are in a global community and all the stories matter. All stories offer a window into worlds many of us don't know, but need to know about.  I wish you all the freedom to write, to express and to be received with compassion and good will.How do we censor ourselves? What do we do when others try to silence us?

In the middle of the political debates, these topics have risen to the top: the right to speak, the right to be silent, and the power of words. Every day we witness word battles on TV and on social media. And when we’re writing, we find ourselves with our own struggles to say our truths and how much to keep our silence. We live in a world where what we say and how we say it can ultimately reach many people, and quickly. In the heat of the moment, we may wish to take back our words that have already flown out into the world, but sometimes that spontaneous expression is our most authentic self. One thing is for certain, if you are a writer, you’re aware that  you have an audience, that you can reach out in a huge way to the rest of the world—through your stories, your blog posts, your online writing groups, and through social media. Often social media can be a way to try to right wrongs, or it can be used to attack. As always, we can choose what we say and how we say it.

But what if others try to silence us? What if our stories have ventured into the realm of discomfort for some readers?

When I hear about instances of censorship in the writing world, I draw upon my own philosophy of how I prefer to run writing groups, whether in person or online, and how I support writers. For the last twenty years I have conducted writing workshops in which I define our context as “a safe, sacred space” where what needs to be revealed can be without censure. A place where feelings and secrets that have been hidden for a long time can come into the light of day so the writer can view these issues from all sides. So what is in the dark can come into the light. That does not mean that everything written will be golden, or that everyone will be comfortable, including the writer. In fact, discomfort is often the result of honest writing, of digging deep to find truths that were hidden or unbidden or even previously unknown by us, buried somewhere in our unconscious minds.

If we as readers are uncomfortable with what we read or hear, it’s an opportunity to look within ourselves to see what button is being triggered. It is never right for us to silence the writer. Their story belongs to them, and comes from a unique point of view. I’m not talking about trash talking or vicious personal attacks here—I’m referring to the authentic stories that are struggling to be released. As a writing community we not only need to invite these stories, but to support the writer’s right to have their story.

We are living during a time when our true and authentic stories desperately need to be told. We are the voices, the witnesses, to what we have seen, lived, and experienced. This is personal history that’s being revealed, which paints a picture of our times, of who we are worldwide as people. We are in a global community and all the stories matter. All stories offer a window into worlds many of us don’t know, but need to know about.

I wish you all the freedom to write, to express and to be received with compassion and good will.

Featured NAMW Member – Coralease C. Ruff

cora4

cora4In January, 1997 my world as I knew it came crashing down around me. My 21-year-old daughter was killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic, where she had gone to serve as a missionary.  This journey of survival took me through some very dark and scary valleys, over some gigantic mountains, and finally through some calm and soothing meadows. I cried many tears, felt excruciating heartache, anger, fearfulness, and appreciation, and yes, gratitude. I worked hard at learning to live with my loss, and discovered it is possible to survive and go on living a reasonably meaningful life.  I learned it can be difficult to find original information on first-hand experiences of grieving individuals. I am writing my memoir Still Living Still Loving After a Child Dies– to fill that void.

In my memoir, I want to share the lessons learned and insights I gleaned from nearly 20 years on this journey. I want to provide hope, inspiration and support to grieving parents through the rough terrain of loss and devastation to a sense of peace in a future without their child.  My picture of how grief softens over the years should instill confidence in parents that they can survive.  Finally, I present coping strategies for getting through the difficult times and resources for dealing with grief.

I have been a member of NAMW for three years, and completed theWYMI6M course in December, 2015.   I enjoy participating in the monthly coaching calls and became a writing buddy to Lynette from Richland, Washington who once lived in my community in Vienna, Virginia. I didn’t know it at the time, but her kids attended the same school that our kids attended.  We now support each other in our memoir writing efforts. NAMW provides numerous and valuable memoir writing resources as well as mentoring and networking opportunities.

Testimonials

Myers makes a compelling case for the power of words as a form of healing and growth.

professor of psychology, The University of Texas at Austin and author, Opening Up and Writing To Heal

...the NAMW memoir classes with Linda Joy Myers are wonderful