MaMoMeMo
May is motherhood memoir month

writing

Back to the Bones

the skeleton of the story- Photo by Danielle MacInnes After a mid-month slump (something I’ve come to expect might happen now, and maybe because of that it just does…), I’m back in the saddle with writing a memoir in a month, at least the bones of the story. I return to the bones, that inner framework; every story has a skeleton it hangs upon. The backbone of this memoir is a series of three trips made in one month to see my dying mother. All flashbacks and side stories hang from this time frame, the central story. But how to stick with just the bones and not get carried off with the flesh at this point- this is the challenging question. I’ve pondered the pantser vs. plotter assessment and know that I’m not as much a plotter as a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants writer. But I also know that every story, including memoir, has…

Death & Mother’s Day Cards

I am looking at the rack of lovely Mother’s Day cards when I realize I don’t need to buy a Mother’s Day card this year. My mother is dead, or as I like to think, has flown away. The Mother’s Day card was always a quandary for me anyway, filled with so much glowing praise that just didn’t apply. It always took me awhile to find the right card. Some years I just modified an all occasion card or, in my artsy phases, made my own card. It was always a rather conflicted occasion, so why now am I close to tears standing in front of the Mother’s Day card display? I never thought I’d miss her, but I was wrong. And yet I don’t miss so many things about her, but there seems no way to be in touch with my actual feelings, processing them instead of numbing them,…

In Over My Head

Photo by William Daigneault Ask yourself every once in a while: Am I in over my head? Am I posing questions in my work to which there can never be satisfying, final answers? Am I trying to tackle a project here that is well beyond my capacity as a writer? Am I just a little afraid of the direction that all of this is going? If the answer to each of these questions is yes, then you are heading in the right direction. Steady on. These questions and quote from the The Mindful Writer by Dinty Moore speak directly to where I’m at on Day 8 of Memoir Month.

Simply Write

The Power of a Writing Salon collage by LLGreenstone Today we met at the Camas Library, six writers and myself. This is the third month we’ve met, and we all went away amazed at how productive a bit of writing time can be, even with minimal feedback. I introduced our prompt and we got right to work, a short session of only 5 minutes, plus a minute to wrap it up. Each writer had the option to read or pass. The first reading is not up for feedback. It acts more as an introduction to each other, without any words spoken except those that were written during that 5-6 minutes. But beyond this, it is an opportunity for the writer to hear her own writing, how the words she’s put together fall upon the ear and heart. Years ago when I was at UCSD Eudora Welty came into the Honors…

Running from Writing

Why I run to and from Writing ( photo by nathalie d. mottet) Writing makes me run. Sometimes I sit down to write, get a few sentences in, and want to jump up. Suddenly something seems more important- I’ll be able to work better with more coffee, or water, or a snack, my mind says. This is not my higher calling mind. This is my primitive feed-me-now toddler mind, the one that does not want to work hard. The one who loves pleasure and avoids pain. There is something both painful and pleasurable about writing. But most of the pleasure comes after the work of writing, so I discipline myself to stay on the ball (I sit at my desk on a balance ball) and keep writing for as long as I can. The pleasure, if it comes, is usually later, after I’ve written, maybe when I’m reading over what…

Permission to Struggle

It’s okay to struggle. painting by L.Lyn Greenstone Give yourself permission to struggle, Char, the Pilates instructor says. She also says things like, it’s okay to wobble. I never see her wobble, and none of the HIIT Pilates moves we do seem a struggle for her strong body, but I trust she knows what she’s talking about. As I take in her words, something settles within, allowing me to focus and be okay with weakness. So I take this bit of wisdom home, mull it over as I write this memoir. I’m struggling with organization, structure, and cohesiveness–all things I shouldn’t worry about right now. But I want to name all 31 chapters, know more about where I’m going, what the stops along the way will look like, and how I’m going to get there. It turns out writing isn’t like that for me. It is always a surprise journey.…

Write a Memoir in May

I’m writing a memoir during the 31 days of May- since May is (Motherhood) Memoir Month–I deemed it that–now I have to do it. On Day 1 I decide my memoir will have 31 chapters, a chapter a day. The writing will be lean, maybe just the skeleton of the story. It sounds do-able, yet ambitious. Both impossible and possible. Impossible goals scare me. I hear my mind saying, No, no, no, don’t try that- you’ll fail, And then you’ll feel like a failure. Stay in the cave (as Brooke Castillo, The Life Coach School says; I recently spent a year being coached…). This is the primitive part of my brain talking. But I want to live from my pre-fontal cortex, lean into a higher calling. So here is my new thinking on this: If I know I will most likely fail, why not do it anyway? Trying and failing…

Untangling the Mess

First drafts are messy. We’ve all heard that, but I always think no draft can be as messy as mine. Given enough time, I will restart and restate parts of the story, losing track of what I already wrote. I’ll rethink it until the story swirls around and leaves my head spinning. Finally I have to print it and cross out areas, bracket and draw arrows to new places, cut and paste, with scissors and tape, old school. Actually, I start with my journal, so lots of scratching there too. I wonder how it will ever come together. But if I stay with it, like the bucking horses my mother used to put me on, it finally calms down and becomes something cohesive and wonderful- a great ride, a story readers can inhabit. I live for that. Believe in it. Believing keeps me going. Writing is an act of faith.…

The Barbed Wire Within

When I sit down to write about my recently dead mother I am overcome by a sense of dread. I want to write this memoir, I tell myself; it is an important story that needs to be told. the hard edges of writing difficult stories tear like barbed wire on the inside marika-vinkmann Her death was untimely in many ways, a wrongful death I might have prevented, had I not been somewhat ambivalent at the time, eager to go back home and spend Thanksgiving with my real family. In my absence, my older brother, who our mother trusted to take care of her, and who she had signed over everything to, put on Lorzepam, a heavy anxiety med, and morphine. He moved to a group home where she was given occasional sucks of water from a dirty sponge. When she lived more than the two days our brother got nervous,…

Where You Begin, Again

Forget the flowers- write about fears, and all else your heart runs from. May is (Motherhood) Memoir Month- You don’t have to be a mother to have a motherhood story- It’s where YOU begin, or began, or begin again. I am always and forever beginning again, a firm believer in new beginnings, but also in finishing what I’ve begun. I’m not as good at that. I’m better at starting over. Right now I’m working on finishing a memoir about my mother- what it means to be a daughter of a manic mind, and how her recent death has changed our relationship. It’s a complicated, conflicted relationship, and writing about it helps me understand it better, helps me understand me better. Meanwhile, the writing feels messy. However, I’ve found some tools to help bring order to the chaos. As I write toward my goal of bringing completion to this work during…

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