If you follow my blog you might remember my post about my New Year resolutions for 2015. One was starting to write my life story. To keep me accountable I thought I share my progress with you and the world on my blog. Maybe you are also passionate about writing and have started a writing project. I am fascinated by the number of creative people I have met since I ventured into the world of writing and publishing in 2013.
Keep Reading While Writing
As most of you know, I have self-published my book Downsize With Style within six months, doing the entire project management myself. I spent a lot of time reading blogs about writing and publishing to learn as much as I could while working on my book. I also subscribed to the podcast So You Want to be a Writer, which is an awesome resource for writers. Then, last year in October, after watching an interview with Michael McQueen, I came across his lovely journal called Memento. The story behind this book is inspiring and prompted me to start filling out this journal as a legacy for my two children. While working on it, I became very clear about the fact that I know very little about my mother's and grandmother's lives. And I regret very much that I did not take the opportunity to ask them about their childhood and how they lived when they were younger. Unfortunately, both, my mother and grandmother, passed away in 1998 within a couple of months.
My mission for 2015 formed: I am going to write about my life to leave behind a record for my boys and their children. Both my kids were born in Germany but moved to Australia when they were very young, six and three years old. Especially my younger son does not remember much from his early years in Germany.
Expect to be Taken out of Your Comfort Zone
The first step I took was attending a life writing class with Patti Miller at the Australian Writers Centre. There, I met a group of lovely writers, passionate about recording their life story. The course went for six weeks, a couple of hours each Friday morning, and got me started on my project. Patti has more than 20 years experience in writing and publishing and has just released her new book Ransacking Paris, which I started reading. I read quite a few memoirs in the past year in order to learn about the different topics, themes and structures. With creative writing exercises, Patti got us into the flow of putting together bits and pieces of our lives. It is a fascinating process! The more I researched into old documents, dived in my childhood photo albums, the more I realised how many exciting things I have experienced in my life so far, and how much I had forgotten about them! Writing a memoir is living twice, a very true saying. It is also a healing process and very powerful. When I shared my story about my mother's illness and passing away in 1998 in class one day, I started to cry in the middle of reading out my homework. I could not help it, I felt like I was experiencing it again – exactly as it was at the time. Patti was very compassionate and encouraged me to go on, and – sobbing – I kept reading. This was a very powerful experience, and I realised that it was the first time in 17 years that I shared this emotional day with strangers. After I had finished reading, I felt relieved and very calm inside. Some of the women in the group told me that they had tears in their eyes when I was reading my text. This encouraged me to keep going and sharing my life story with the world.
After our course had finished mid-February, Patti suggested to make a writing plan and set writing goals on a monthly basis. As I am a morning person, I often get up a 5am and start writing bits and pieces about my life. Some days, I had no idea what to write about and turned to some of the exercises in Patti's book Writing Your Life, which we used in the course. It is amazing how these exercises help you getting back on track. All of a sudden, the words seemed to flow out of my head onto the page (or screen, as I use my laptop mostly). With this method, I managed to write over 27,000 words by mid April. My goal was 10,000 at the end of March, and 20,000 at the end of April. I am amazed how much I can write about my life. I know it is a first draft, and there is still a long way to go, but I am happy with my progress so far.
Join a Writing Group
I have also initiated a memoir writing group after finishing the life writing class. We meet once a month in North Sydney. At our first meeting in March, four people showed up, and we read each others' pieces and gave each other feedback – a very helpful exercise! If you are in Sydney and would like to join us, please contact me or leave a comment on this blog.
The next step on my writing journey is the writing workshop Starting From Place with Felicity Castagna at the Sydney Writers' Festival. I have travelled quite a lot in my life, and I would like to add some travel vignettes to my memoir. So, I am looking forward to working with a writer who specialises in writing about places.
I will keep you updated on my progress throughout the year and would love to hear from you if you also embarked on the journey of writing about your life. Please share your story on this blog.