ON WRITING TOUGH
After quitting my day job in 2004 to write full-time, my life changed in ways I could never have imagined. My books sold and became bestsellers, I won awards, I became a keynote speaker at writing conferences, I taught writing workshops throughout the western U.S., and I met incredible people. But everything came to a screeching halt in 2015 when my mother came to live with us.
Mom broke her right hip in 1998. I had moved to the island a year before so after she hurt herself, working proved difficult for her. She built a house on our property in the woods and lived on an acre of land set off for her. But about six years ago, mom began showing signs of failing cognition. First it was the smoke alarm, then mysterious electricians had been inside her house and stole her checks (or so she claimed), then there was the data fraud, then she worried that the mortgage company was calling her note. Those are only some of the examples of what we realized later were signs of Alzheimer’s disease.
So, when mom moved in, I began journaling the experience through blog posts which I called THE DEMENTIA CHRONICLES. When mom died, in December 2016, I had written twenty-five posts and decided to compile all of them in a memoir. But after she passed away, the memoir part proved too difficult to write. Mom’s death was too fresh. The writing felt strained and uncomfortable—it felt blocked. I was writing another novel with ease, charting thousands of words a day but when I tried to shift gears to that memoir, well, nothing. I didn’t know where to start. It was as though I couldn’t even write a coherent sentence! After eighteen months of mom’s death, I feel equipped to organize my thoughts, to decide on what to include and what to leave out. I decided that although writing fiction was my comfort zone, I would step fully out of that comfort zone and write the memoir or not write at all. And, it’s not easy. But writing something uncomfortable, something important like the writing of an elegy, a closing prayer, shouldn’t be easy. Geoff Thompson talks about this eloquently when he says, “Writing has been challenging at times but that's where all the growth is. I know I'm in the right place if it's difficult. Something a British writer said to me once was: ‘If the project doesn't make me wobble, I don’t take it.’ You have to be uncomfortable to grow.”
I write in the morning. So, now, I spend one hour writing to the memoir and three hours on fiction. If I don’t write any memoir, I punish myself by not writing fiction. Simple as that. It’s a trick, of course, but I believe what Geoff Thompson says. The memoir is tough and it’s where I must write. Either write or wallow in a comfort zone that doesn’t allow for growth.
Susan Wingate is a #1 Amazon bestseller and an award-winning author of books that span the genres of mystery, thriller, romantic suspense, paranormal, inspirationa, and Christian fiction, fantasy, memoir, and writing how-to's. Ms. Wingate's novels are recommended for teenagers, young adults, and for older adults who are young at heart!
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