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.

Under The Covers With Desiree-Anne Martin - Part 3

Helena Wagener

Our journey continues with Part 3 of Under the Covers with Desiree-Anne Martin.

Discovering some of the process behind the writing of Desiree-Anne Martin’s book We Don't Talk About It. Ever is helping me stay true to writing my own memoir.  Reading her responses gives me a deep trust in following my own process, while also honoring that which I am being called to create and share.

The questions and answers in Part 3 made me aware of the fine tension between respecting the length of time needed to complete a book, including the non-writing breaks where incubation takes place, and the constant showing up to honor that which is asking to be expressed through the writer.

I also now know that I cannot project how long the process will take and where the book will end. What I can do is pay attention and ask myself to discern between when I am coming from truth and when I am coming from fear.

Am I putting pressure on myself to sit down and write when I am not yet ready? Am I taking an extended break because I am avoiding what needs to be said next? Can I be playful with it, knowing that I am committed to the process, despite sometimes giving in to my fears? Can I be disciplined, knowing that I owe the telling of my story to myself, my readers and the story itself?

Read on... perhaps you might discover the question you need to ask in order to complete your own story.

Q: What motivated you to keep going?

Truth was my biggest motivator. As I wrote, the more I unpacked and breathed life into the memories and recollections by putting them on the page, the more I felt compelled to write my truth. I felt a deep sense of urgency to be brutally honest and break the patterns of my upbringing which were screaming at me to "be a good girl, keep the secrets, don't tell a soul, pretend everything is okay". I wanted to dismantle the generational legacy that had been passed down to me without my permission. I had to remove the proverbial muzzle and not silence myself any longer. I wanted to tell my story not only for my own catharsis and healing but also in the hopes that my words would resonate with someone and that they too would be inspired to speak their truth. And I also wanted to finally achieve my much-cherished dream of holding a copy of my book, MY book, in my hands one day.

Q: How long did the writing of the book take?

As I say in the acknowledgements of 'We Don't Talk About It. Ever.': "A book doesn't write itself; a life writes a book." So it took my entire life to bring the story together, to live the story. The seed for actually putting pen to paper was planted at my first LRC memoir workshop about five or six year ago, facilitated by the inimitable Dawn Garisch, where I, for the first time, owned that I was, in fact, a writer. I had a barren patch of not writing for a few years due to the usual life stuff like engaging in toxic relationships and having a beautiful baby. Then the writing bug bit hard again a few years ago. I launched my blog, publishing short stories which would later go on to become chapters in my book. But it was in December of 2017 that I became determined as hell to do it, to honestly write the story of my life. This dogged determination and unwavering sense of urgency led me to completing the bulk of the book, writing obsessively of course, in the space of a few months. The manuscript was picked up for publication by MFBooks Jhb in April 2018! It was a wonderful, whirlwind and somewhat frenetic process as the book was then published in July 2018.

Q: How did you know you were done?

Actually, I thought I was done (with the original manuscript) and my publisher said, "It just can't end there." I had concluded my story at a part where I was just a couple of years sober, in recovery. She talked me into writing about the last decade of my life stating that I needed to share the part of my story that depicted hope and redemption which was also incredibly important to me, as hope is a concept  I am helplessly addicted to. She initially gave me two weeks to write approximately 12 000 words but then changed the deadline to five days!

I actually attended a LRC memoir workshop to finish my book and it was immensely helpful, as they always are, with showing me what still needed to be written. I knew I was really, really done when I effectively showed the reader my character's/ my 180 degree change, from dying junkie to thriving recovering addict with the fullest life imaginable. Also, my publisher said so!

Stay tuned for the 4th and last part coming up next.

Read Part 1 here.

Read Part 2 here.

Photo by Jamie Templeton on Unsplash

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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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