I know there’s at least one thing I’m meant to do with my life: write.
I’ve always said that one day, I’ll write a memoir – for myself and for others who suffer with invisible illness.
THE RIGHT TIME
For many years, I avoided writing my story. It felt too big, too hard. I wasn’t ready. I focussed on writing fiction in short story form and worked at developing my writing skills. Yes, a form of procrastination but also a valuable use of my time. I learned a lot and my writing improved.
This year, during a period of reassessing goals and making new ones, I realised that my vague, ‘one day’ attitude had been holding me back. I had to make a start on writing a memoir. It felt like the right time. (If not now, when?)
WAKE UP CALL
These realisations jolted me as if a bucket of freezing water had been poured on my head. The project felt mammoth and I worried about failing to cope with the emotional heaviness that would inevitably come from writing about my past. I feared the unknowns I might find at the bottom of the pool.
There were so many ‘buts’ and ‘what ifs’. I felt clumsy at writing nonfiction, having spent years writing fiction. I didn’t know how to tackle the project. I didn’t know how to ‘life write’.
NURTURING SEEDS OF SELF-BELIEF
For years, I believed that my voice didn’t matter because my life experience was one of feeling unheard and invalidated. Will anyone listen to me now when they haven’t before? Who will even care to read my story?
With an unsure voice, I shared that I was thinking about starting a memoir with a few trusted friends. Most responses were validating and encouraging.
Buoyed, and certain it was time to start writing a memoir, my packet of self-doubt-seeds morphed into saplings of self-belief. I was finally able to say, ‘It’s time. It’s important I write my story. I’m here to write my story.’ I felt these things deep in my gut.
Today, I hold these saplings close to my heart and protect them with crossed arms. I water them and hope they will grow bigger, stronger.
I realised that this is my life so this is my story. I own it so I have the right to tell it. My voice is important.
FALLING INTO THE DEEP END
I waded in, like an insecure teenager faking confidence, by enrolling in The Centre for Stories Life Writing course in Perth, run by Rosemary Stevens – a huge commitment for me, living three hours south with multiple health issues to manage and a family to look after.
I didn’t expect the first session to spring board me straight into the deep end. I hadn’t brought my floaty!
The class exercise prompted me to write about one of my earliest childhood experiences of rejection. This, with multiple other triggers heaped on top, pushed me into a downward spiral. I’m ashamed to say that, in a very bad headspace, I ended up at Bunbury A&E.
At that point, I felt like I’d made the wrong choice to step out in faith and start my memoir. A mocking voice yelled inside my head: ‘See, you can’t do this. You’re too weak.’
A week later, I managed to haul myself out of the deep end, dry myself off, put on some fresh clothes and get to the next Life Writing class. And I’m glad I stuck with it because I’m learning so much from a wonderful teacher and supportive peers.
When you set out to do a thing you know in your bones you’re meant to do, you sometimes get stalked by evil and laid out flat. You have to gather your wits, pull yourself up and fight demons in order to move forward. This is often what happens for me. I stand up, convinced a thing is what I’m meant to be doing then wham! I’m floored by claws ripping down my back.
I’m still dealing with chronic illness and I’m still working on my mental health. I’m still working through events from my past that scarred me. The difference now is that I’m choosing not to let these difficulties stop me from writing my story.
I’m trembling but I’m doing it anyway.
SO OFTEN, GETTING PUBLISHED IS NOT THE POINT
Deep down, I know that writing a memoir is going to be a source of healing for me. I’ve decided that if healing is the sole outcome of writing my story, it is enough.
Getting published is not the point – that’s a whole other story. I can’t afford to think about who’s going to read my story, and all the people I’m going to offend, or I won’t be able to write from the heart. (I’ll have to think about others after the first draft is complete.)
If my memoir gets published (added bonus!), I hope it will give a voice to others unheard who have struggled with life in similar ways to me.
I’m going to write this memoir slowly and with a care for my heart and brain. If the memories get too much, I will stop and be kind to myself – give myself a break.
I’ll nurture my self-belief saplings.
It may take me ten years to write this memoir, but how long doesn’t matter. The important thing is I’m on my way.
Who knows what my future holds. All I have is now: today. And today I will write my story.