About not knowing  

Are you the kind of writer that needs to know where your project is going in order to create?

Then you’re my people. Most of my life I’ve tried to plan and control as much as I can to fend off uncertainty and doubt. And my writing life is no exception. For type A’s and those of us who grew up with anxious/insecure attachment or abandonment, one of our go-to self-protections can be trying to figure out everything as quickly as possible. It’s a way to feel safe. That seems to spill into my writing life too. Even after all these years as a writer, when I’m staring at all that white space on my laptop I still must remind myself that it’s okay not to know what I’m trying to say or how I’m going to say it. I can trust that the ground won’t crumble beneath me simply because I can’t yet puzzle out the next step in my project.

The answers will come

When I was writing my memoir I struggled because I felt like I couldn’t make any progress on my material until I had the structure. But as memoirists know, it’s not easy to arrive at a structure until you have worked on your project for a while. Needless to say, this limbo wrecked Type-A me.

Perhaps the lesson I had the hardest time learning all the way up to my thirties was that I didn’t have to have all the answers or framework in place to feel like I’m where safe where I am. I can trust that I will find my way; settle into the unfolding of the dynamic and interesting process living and writing can be.

It’s okay not to know

I share this with you because I am a reformed need-to-knower. I’ve lived long enough and — happy to report — written for long enough now to recognize the part of me that wants to have all the answers. The part that can still find the many creative choices I have in front of me and the work of trying to distill what I’m trying to convey confounding. But I also know how to quiet that part of me that is balking; it’s a small and scared relic worrying about not being enough.

It’s okay not to know not to know if you’re writing a linear or non-linear memoir, it’s okay not to have a title, how you’re going to find a publisher, how to approach family members about your memoir, whether you should actually keep that scene you’re worried about. It’s okay not to know even what the heck you’re writing!

The answers will come. The answers are coming. The answers are on the way.

I find in my personal life and my writing life that calling out for myself what is really going on helps me digest the obstacles I’m experiencing. We can’t address and work through what we won’t acknowledge.

A helpful prompt

recommend that you allow yourself to entertain all the thoughts that swoop in disturbing your creative time. You can do this prompt whenever you need to and frame it the way that works best for you.

-Grab something to write with and give yourself a 10-minute timer.

-You will write on this prompt in the way that works best for you: sentence-form, list-form, drawing-form, associative word-form. You decide. The main thing is to keep free writing, whatever comes to mind.

-Here’s the prompt:

When I think about writing my memoir I worry that: _______

Once 10 minutes is up, tuck that away. You’ve exorcised the restless parts of yourself and now you can get to work. If those voices pop up again during your creative time tell them to go grab a blankie and a nap.

Upcoming workshop offering!

I’ve got some memoir workshops coming up this spring and summer and registration is beginning.

My first offering is on May 11th.

I’ll be presenting Putting the Plot in Your Memoir + a Q & A at Bianca Marias of the podcast The Shit No One Tells You About Writing’s virtual retreat All About Memoir.

Here’s a link to check out my co-presenters and register. Mention I sent you when you register!

On Let’s Talk Memoir

Season 4 launches April 2nd! Make sure you’re subscribed so you don’t miss an episode.

Listen HERE.

Latest episodes:

Ep. 83 The Vulnerability of Writing About Difficult Motherhoods featuring Karen DeBonis

Ep. 82 Loving and Wriiing About an Imperfect, Magnificent Child featuring Cathy Shields

Ep. 81 Self-Declared Spiritual Gurus, Secret mantras, and Yoga Cults featuring Joelle Tamraz

Thank you for reading my work. I’ll have more memoir writing encouragement and workshop announcements next month. If you have a memoir question you’d like me to address in my newsletter please get in touch.

Take good care of yourself and thank you for being here.