Helena Wagener is an LRC course graduate. We’re delighted that she has offered to write a series of blogs, interviewing Desiree Anne Martin about the process of writing her memoir We Don’t Talk About It. Ever. As writers, many of us are curious about the writing process in others, but we want the details, those honest, revealing nitty-gritty bits that aren’t glamorous and don’t usually get the spotlight. Here Helena reflects on her own writing experience before looking under the covers to explore those under-the-hood realities of the creative writing process with Desiree-Anne:
First a bit on why I wanted to do a blog series interviewing authors. A few years ago, I stopped writing. I no longer trusted words to convey what I was experiencing rather than what I was thinking. Then I attended a memoir course with the Life Righting Collective. Not only did I rediscover my trust in writing but, for the first time, I could really connect with the concept of writing my memoir.
Every time I sit down to write a piece, I remember that which has been forgotten and I honour my story. Yet, the more I thought about writing the memoir the less I wrote. Rather than living the writing, I started thinking about it. I thought about how to structure things, what my readers might hate about what I am saying and how long it will take to finish this darn book. Then I‘d get up and go for a walk.
Desiree-Anne Martin has done more than think about writing. Not only has she birthed her memoir ‘We Don’t Talk About It. Ever’, she is also constantly engaged in making sure it reaches the audience who deserve to read it.
Harriet Lerner (2004), in her book ‘Fear and Other Uninvited Guests’ suggests that “No one gives us courage...rather than giving us courage, they help us to remember the courage we already have and inspire us to act on it” (p. 120).
Speaking with Desiree-Anne about how she remained true to her writing, has helped me remember and to act on my own courage.
I hope that reading part 1 of our Undercover Conversation does the same for you.
The idea to write my memoir was born from short stories that I had posted on my blog that I had created two years before where I posted poetry and short stories (www.believemoredeeply.co.za). Some of the stories were autobiographical or drawn from real-life recollections. These vignettes were so well received that, when I stood back and looked at them, I realised that they were starting to form the skeleton of a memoir. I still didn't have the confidence to launch straight into the bold declaration that: "YES! I am going to write my memoir!" but after attending a writing workshop in December 2017, I found my authentic voice and my elusive courage and - with the encouragement of the group and the firecracker that would become my publisher - I became hellbent on writing my memoir. So I went about "collecting", a process of writing about stories and memories and events; writing about whatever came to me, in no particular order. I just silenced The Critic that was telling me "it's not good enough", "it needs form and structure", "your story isn't important enough for anyone to want to read" and I wrote like a woman utterly possessed.
Having a book, my book, my truth, published has been a long-held and cherished dream of mine. I can remember visualising my name on the cover of a book when I was 10 years old and I started keeping journals and diaries - a practice I have kept up on and off since. But when I first realised that it could actually become a reality - as a result of feedback in LRC workshops and with the encouragement of my now-publisher, it was like I was driven by a Formula 1 engine! I need to admit that I am the kind of person that - when I want to do something - I become like a woman possessed! The journey from being an inkling of an idea to actual writing was filled with excitement, fear, self-doubt and self-criticism but also an unmistakable yearning to put pen to paper and release my sacred truth. Once I made the decision to write the book, it was like a floodgate opened: all of these memories and recollections washed over me, begging to be written about and initially I was more than a little overwhelmed.
Where do I start?
What do I and don't I write about?
What are the repercussions going to be?
The answers were: start anywhere and just write. Write about everything that is aching to be given words and set free. Don't worry about the repercussions until it’s time to worry about the repercussions. Just write.
Stay tuned for Part 2 – Continuing to write.