The Life Righting Collective runs courses to encourage self-exploration through life writing, raises funds for course fees and brings people together to share their stories and grow community.

Our journey continues with Part 2 of Under the Covers with Desiree Anne Martin.

As a beginner writer I take heart from Desiree’s respect for her craft in several ways. Firstly, it gives me clear techniques which I can both relate to, and put to immediate good use. Secondly, it teaches me to be gentle with myself during my struggle to keep writing. Thirdly, it shows me how I can rest in, as well as engage with, the healing which writing brings to my past. And lastly, when I recognize the deep respect between Desiree and her writing, it reminds me to slow down and honor what writing is bringing forth through me.

I am reminded that that writing births something precious into the world. This new expression is both a child - deserving tenderness, boundaries and respect - and a wise old woman, bringing me and all those who read my words the ability to heal, to grow and to surrender to our greater story.

For this, I am deeply grateful. I believe you might feel the same after reading the responses below.

Q: Could you tell me a bit more about the process of writing your story – did you block of time in order to continuously write, did writing happen at certain times over a longer time period  or did you fit your writing into whatever timeslots you could find?

I had two approaches to writing my story once the decision was made to put my truth on paper.

One was that I treated it like one would a job. I did this by scheduling specific times to write during the week and stuck to the schedule religiously and wrote like a demon. Even when I had nothing to write during those spaces I carved out for myself, I wrote about not being able to write or about writer's block or I did free writing. Most times though, I had the beloved Muses hovering around me and I found I was able to write what I so desperately needed to.

I also created a huge "timeline board" and stuck it to my workspace wall. I divided it into ages (0 to 5 years old, 5 to 10 years old etc) and filled in events I had already written about and then filled in what events still needed to be given a voice. This was a great, practical tool to help me with both content and structure.

Q: How did the writing process flow? Did some pieces come quickly and some slower? Which parts did you love and which did you struggle with?

It flowed, it stuttered, it stammered, it got caught in gridlock at times! I found that my recollections of the past, pre-recovery, flowed far more fluidly than my chapters dedicated to the years I was in recovery. I'm not entirely sure why that was, but I think it may have been because my mental health issues were more prevalent and uncontained in sobriety/recovery, so my memories weren't as vivid and details encroached on one another and some ended up a muddy, murky mess. I found myself having to fact-check with a few people around incidents that took place during the last part of the book.

I loved when I wrote and I was immediately and seamlessly transported to that very place and time that I was trying to evoke on the page. I loved that I could clearly remember every sensory aspect of the experiences which is why I believe my writing and descriptions are so detailed and vivid and, some have said, visceral.

I did struggle with going back to some of the darker, more harrowing places and, in some instances, I would find myself taking entire chapters to my amazing therapist and saying, "I went there. We have to process this." That kind of emotional support was invaluable as I traversed my own often traumatic landscape. Some days I couldn't face the page or the world because of the undigested pain that was still sitting in my throat, my gut, my very cells.

My second approach - because I'm a chronic insomniac and also obsessive and impulsive by nature - was to write when an idea hit me like an anvil from the sky. Sometimes this would mean being jolted out of sleep and writing furiously at 3am until the birds started their morning song and sometimes I would write parts of chapters on the Notes section of my phone when I had free time in between sessions at work. Both approaches combined worked well for me in my efforts to complete my manuscript.

Stay tuned for part 3… coming soon…

Photo credit: paolo-bendandi-1142357-unsplash
The Life Righting Collective runs courses to encourage self-exploration through life writing, raises funds for course fees and brings people together to share their stories and grow community.
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