Writing Around Obstacles

SheepBlockAs anyone who has written more than a dozen life stories or begun a memoir knows, some stories flow onto the page more smoothly and easily than others. What do you do when a story jams up? What do you do when you start writing and realize you aren’t going where you thought you wanted to go?

Let me use this blog post as an example: I originally intended to write it to highlight Andrea Hurst’s AUTHORNOMICS Interview Series, which features weekly interviews with literary agents, editors, authors, marketing experts and more talking about their opinions on the publishing industry, writing, and what a writer needs to know. I wanted to tell you how valuable it can be to learn from experts in other genres as well as your own, and I wanted to alert you that I’m featured in an interview this week.

But that’s not enough to fill an entire blog post, so I decided to add a few more resources, for example a link to Kathy Pooler’s blog, Memoir Writer’s Journey. Kathy is a walking Wikipedia for life writers, with more resource links per post than anyone I know.

Jerry Waxler’s blog, Memory Writer’s Network, is crammed with wisdom and writing lessons gleaned from his deep study of over a hundred memoirs. He includes dozens of author interviews.

I could fill many pages with links to rich blog sites like Shirley Showalter’s Discover the Power of Writing Your Story, or SuziCate’s Water Witch’s Daughter, one of the finest and most consistent examples of scintillating description I’ve found. Linda Joy Myers’ Memories and Memoirs is full of great tips, along with the Women’s Memoirs site.

I save one of the best for last: the National Association of Memoir Writers. I saved this one for last because I hope you’ll click over to learn more about the 3-week NAMW short course I’m offering, beginning next week: Soaring High and Digging Deep: Tools for Refining Your Memoir, which I mention in the AUTHORNOMICS Interview.

That last link brings me back around to my original intent of discussing what to do when your story doesn’t go where you intended: Let it take a detour. Write around the log jam – or through it. If you encounter a flock of sheep on a New Zealand road, unless you plan to sit there for an hour, you must keep moving, very slowly, until you work your way through. You might later edit out extraneous material after you write to the other side, or perhaps you’ll find it has value after all, and leave it in. Today I cut a lot, but left in links I have been meaning to feature, “when the time is right.”

A second alternative is to set aside your keyboard and linear writing in favor of more visual ways of exploring and organizing memories and meaning. I’ve written a number of posts on some of these tools in the past, but reading about them and using them are two different matters. In the Soaring High and Digging Deep class, you’ll have the opportunity to discover their power by using them yourself and share your experience with others to learn even more.

To find out more about the class and memories in general, join me on February 9 on the free NAMW February Roundtable: Memories are Made of This … or Are They? Click here to sign up.

Write Now: Pull out a story you’re jammed up on and write aroudn your logjam. Just freewrite about it and see where you go. Surprise yourself. You can throw it away later, or you may find a gem. Try a tool like inner dialoguemind-mapping, or asking yourself questions. Sign up for the class and get help as you practice using new tools.

Photo credit: Susan Mack


SuziCate said...

You're right; I find some stories flow while others take me in an entirely different direction. Sometimes it's because I really want to say something entirely different and it's not time for that story in which case I put it away and pick it up another time. Other times the end result might be totally unexpected yet much deeper and richer than anticipated...usually best to go with the flow since I can always pick up where I left off.
I thank you for being a great source for our writing needs. I am familiar with each of these blogs most of which I've found through you.
Also, thank you for your kind words for my blog.
I've decided to settle in for the day and complete some of the stories I started during my November writing month! Hopefully, I'll have a few ready to post this week!

kathleen said...

Sharon, I really like the idea of letting our story" take a detour" as so often when I begin to write ,scenes or people I'm not even thinking of writing about just show up uninvited and lead the way. It's as if the story reveals itself through the writing. Journaling in a free write manner or even leaving my desk and walking in the woods can get those creative juices flowing if there's a jam. I echo SuziCate's sentiments in thanking you for all you do to guide us. I really appreciate your kind words for my blog and feel honored to be mentioned among others I hold in high esteem. Thank you!

Sharon Lippincott said...

SuziCate, I look forward to more stories! I'm especially enjoying your "Living in the Moment" pieces. They are a little piece of mind chocolate every day.

Sharon Lippincott said...

After binge reading memoir the last few days, I'm realizing that reflection makes the difference. In my experience, the detours generate the reflection that enriches our stories.

I love the way the life writing blogsophere is generating so much community. You set a high standard for the rest of us.