The WOW! Women on Writing Blog Tour is stopping by Cathy C’s Hall of Fame today with Linda Joy Meyers and her recently released The Power of Memoir. And that’s a good thing. Because not only do you get to share Linda Joy’s insightful thoughts about Accidental Enlightenment, but you also get a chance to win her wonderful how-to book!
Let’s see what Linda Joy has to say on writing in Accidental Enlightenment:
As a memoir writer and therapist, I’m always on the lookout for the small slices of life that make a story. Whether we realize it or not, we weave small stories as we go about our everyday life. What happens on an ordinary day as you drive to the store? You could have a lovely ride where you see all the beauty of the world-red roses and yellow tulips, a beautiful dog, smiling children; or if you’re having a bad day, you might have a small rear-end accident, irritating, but you’re grateful that no one was hurt. A trip to the store could change your life-meeting someone new that clicks, or encountering an old enemy that sends you careening into dark places you thought you’d escaped.
No matter what we’re doing in life, there are many ways to understand the meaning of certain moments, especially the accidental ones. This is also true with writing.You might start a piece about a lovely memory-a summer day when you picked blackberries, then find yourself writing about a scary man or a tornado or your dead grandmother, or the time you were punished for breaking a dish-memories you’d forgotten for years. Some writers feel a little bit crazy or like they are doing it “wrong” when they begin in one place and end up in another, especially when they find one of their darker stories sitting down at the writing table like an uninvited guest.
The “accidental” writing is an opportunity, if you choose to view it that way, a chance to look deeply into our souls, a chance to heal and soothe old wounds. But we need to be willing to serve the dark guest at the table, to ask questions whose answers we are not sure we want to hear. After a while, you may find yourself writing in your gratitude journal. Writing can turn us around like that.
If you sit down and write for 10 minutes, not stopping to answer the phone or listen to the whispers of the inner critic, you can create a space for something new to happen. You might think you know what you plan to write, but what if something different comes out? Can you take a chance to let some other part of yourself step in and express the “something else” of your life?
You could begin with: “I remember…” Another writing session: “The best day of my life was…” And, “I wish it had been different…”
As you can see by these prompts, you begin to create an open space where you discover stories and yourself. Allow your hand, your mind, and the story to lead you to an accidental encounter with yourself, with the truths of your life.
One of the foremost researchers in the area of writing as healing, Dr. James Pennebaker says, “Story is a way of knowledge.” This is a very exciting idea, because it means that we don’t have to know what we are going to say. That we can count on the greater wisdom of our deeper self to take us where we need to go. Just as on that car trip, we can find ourselves in unexpected places. Don’t worry about getting stuck. if you keep writing, you will find your way to where you need to go, accidentally enlightened by your writing and your stories.
Write for ten minutes today, and discover yourself!
I LOVE this idea! I’m kinda crazy about Linda Joy Meyers, too, though we haven’t met. She’s been a therapist for 27 years, and she’s used this experience, as well as her MFA in creative writing from Mills College, to conduct workshops on healing and writing. And this work has influenced her ground-breaking book, The Power of Memoir.
Inside its pages, you’ll find the steps you need to take to write your healing story. Steps like “Understanding Your Reasons for Writing” or “Organizing the Narrative Arc.” But you’ll also find answers to questions about publishing, and you’ll read stories from workshop writers.
But what I like best about this powerful how-to book is that you don’t need to write a 60,000 word memoir to appreciate what Linda Joy has to say. Maybe you just want to write a 1,000 word essay. But you want to get to the heart of your writing. The Power of Memoir can lead you there, 10 minutes at a time.
Okay, so now you’re wondering how you can get your hands on this book, right? Leave a comment. In fact, you can leave a comment anytime through Sunday, ’cause I know some of you don’t get a chance to stop by till the weekend. Monday morning, I’ll draw a name from the comments and some lucky writer will get The Power of Memoir. Oh, and leave me some contact info…either an email or your blog address, so that I can let you know you’ve won.
And finally, just so you know, no one paid anybody here at the Hall of Fame. I received a lovely copy of The Power of Memoir, which I’m giving away. So there.
How do you know when you should publish that sizzling memoir, or lock your possible best-seller in a vault and throw away the key? Elizabeth Kirschner, author of My Life as a Doll, is here today to share her thoughts on this very subject. Let’s see how she settled this sticky situation…
RIP: Why I Buried My Memoir
It is here, at Sea Cabin Retreat, in Kittery Point, ME where I wrote and revised my memoir, Walking With Winter, and it is here where it will remain. I have written R.I.P. on its cover and have given it, as I have other manuscripts, what I call a pet funeral.
Why, one might wonder, am I so willing to put aside work I labored over, quite literally, around the clock for months on end? Why not give the universe Walking With Water, which is about childhood abuse, mental illness, and very much as well with recovery, when I know it would help heal other trauma survivors?
The answer is simple-my memoir would devastate my large, extended family, all of whom, except for my siblings, have no clue about the abuse. Even what my siblings know is sketchy and that is the way I want it to be because with knowledge comes pain.
So why did I go undergo the marathon it took to churn out the memoir? Because, because, because when I embarked upon the project I had every intention of publishing it. I wanted that larger audience, believed fully that telling my story would help others, especially the victims of trauma, their families and caretakers.
In the end, my greatest accomplishment is not about this manuscript, but the triumph of my survival. Writing the memoir, when all is said and done, was my finishing school. It put me on a high learning curve as I meditated upon, often during long walks by the sea with my dog, the varying ways in which my experiences have impacted my life.
In short, Walking With Winter was my boot camp, and during the rigorous work of writing it I finally freed myself from the ghosts of Mother and Father who had ungodly power from the grave. It was a gift I gave myself and the experience, for me, was made complete by letting one person bear witness to it.
Together we spent two days reading the entire manuscript aloud, which was one of the most empowering things I’ve done in my life. When the last word hit space, we simultaneously hit the floor and screamed a scream which was both full of unholy horror and a halleluiah. That moment was my grande finale. It needed no applause and may the memoir and my memories rest in peace, alas, at last, but I wonder how many others have written R.I.P. on their memoir for better or worse.
I’m always impressed with the courage of those who tackle harrowing life experiences in a memoir. But here, Elizabeth gives us an option to consider. Sometimes, the writing of a memoir is enough. Thank goodness, she doesn’t feel that way about her poetry!
She’s published three collections of poetry, including Twenty Colors, Postal Routes, and Slow Risen Among the Smoke Trees with Carnegie Mellon University Press. Most recently, she’s added a fourth book of poetry, My Life as a Doll, with Autumn House Press.
Elizabeth has also collaborated with many composers and has two CDs, both from Albany Records, that feature her work. In The Dichterliebe in Four Seasons, she set her own poetry to Robert Schumann’s gorgeous love song cycle. And in New Dawn, Carson Cooman has set to music eight of her poems. (How totally cool is that?) Elizabeth studies ballet and lives on the water at Sea Cabins Retreat in Kittery Point, ME.
I’ll bet that’s a fine place to write. And Elizabeth pens some mighty fine writing, doesn’t she? I’m sure she’ll be dropping in today if you’d like to ask a question about memoirs, poetry, or even Kittery Point. Thanks, Elizabeth for stopping by!