Sometimes You Need Right Timing

“Sometimes my successes come quickly and at other times they are terribly slow to arrive. It is not my place to determine the speed at which they arrive or if they arrive at all. My place is to keep forging ahead no matter what.” 
Craig D. Lounsbrough

If you follow my blog you’ll know that I’ve been working on my memoir for a while now. I started it after many of you asked me to keep telling the story of my time in the Kimberley and of my Aboriginal Aunties.

I’m up to my eighth draft now, and I’m fairly sure this will be my final one. This week while I’m mostly in bed recovering from the flu I am making these last few changes. I’d been hoping to be working on it at a writers retreat this week, but I didn’t make the final cut. I would have been too sick to go anyway. Funny, that.

I’ve tried to get this thing out into the world a few times now, and it has never flown. Each time, after the rejection, I have let it sit for a while and then have reworked it. Each time it has changed quite dramatically.

I’d decided that no matter what happened with this latest opportunity that I would complete the draft and then send it on. When I began this latest edit a few days ago I was sure I knew what my story was about, what the themes were and what needed to be changed. And then I had a discussion with my sister. As we talked about family and history I suddenly understood that this draft was missing a major message – something one of those wise Aboriginal women had shared with me which had changed everything I thought about myself. I saw that if it could change everything for me it would do the same for many of you. Some truths are universal like that.

If this draft had not been delayed I would never have reached that critical realisation.

So I’m trusting in right timing. I’m trusting that every rejection and hold-up was needed to shape the story it will become. I’m trusting that very soon it will be time for this story to be born into the world.

Has that ever happened to you? That the timing was all wrong until suddenly it was right. Looking back you knew that every disappointment was okay because now you were exactly where you needed to be.

I’m so looking forward to sharing my story with you. Wish me luck as I labour through these last changes!

Much love to you, Nicole  xx

This Blog Post Is Very Short

“There are days when I lose track of time, of place, of everything else, because I’ve been transported to another universe.” ~ Susan Isaacs

 

I sat down to write my blog post, and then, just for a moment, I opened up the document where I am editing my memoir instead.

Three hours later I looked up and realised that I had been completely lost in my story. No time left for blogging!

Sorry about that.

It’s delicious though, isn’t it, to lose track of time like that doing something that you love?

What can you lose yourself in today?

I promise to have a more worthy offering for you tomorrow.

Much love, a slightly distracted Nicole  xx

Chop Wood, Carry Water, then Surf the Net!

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“Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.” ~ Zen Buddhism quote

“When hungry, eat your rice; when tired close your eyes. Fools may laugh at me, but wise men will know what I mean.” ~ Zen Buddhism quote

 

It has been a frustrating week.

Due to a faulty landline I’ve had no phone or internet connection at the farm, unless I hiked up the hill behind the house with my iPhone.

At first I was angry. It’s a situation that has been dragging on for almost three years, with our landline slowly deteriorating until every phone call became a lesson in frustration due to static and poor line quality. (And our internet runs off this line too!) The telco kept sending technicians, and the phone would work a little better for a while, and then decline again. Until finally it broke altogether.

This week while they worked on our line I wondered what I would do. No amount of wishing was going to give me an ability to be online.

So in the end I drew on the wisdom of my favourite Zen quotes.

I rested.

I did laundry and actually folded it and put it away.

I planted things and tended my garden.

I tidied.

I wrote. So many words.

We did yard jobs. We chopped wood, and carried water to the plants where the hose doesn’t reach.

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Life became so much simpler when I stopped struggling against the things I couldn’t change and chose to be in the moment instead.

It was peaceful.

There was also something freeing about being so much less available, once I let go of the stress of no longer being in control.

But now the line is fixed. I am reconnected with the world. My internet is fast and my phone line is clear. So exciting!!!

And we have enough wood cut and stacked to see us through the winter.

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A Life Examined – On Memoir Writing

Image by Anna from flickr via Wikipedia

Image by Anna from flickr via Wikipedia

“Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.”
~ Charles Dickens, David Copperfield

“From the ages of 8-18, me and my family moved around a lot. Mostly we would just stretch, but occasionally one of us would actually get up to go to the fridge.”
~ Jarod Kintz

 

This past weekend, unexpectedly, I was holed up in bed recovering from a nasty infection. I’d planned a million things for my weekend, but ended up doing nothing much except thinking and reading.

I’m revising my memoir right now. It’s my One Big Thing for 2016 – to have it completed and submitted to an agent or publishing house.

I remember when I began this wretched tome. How hard can it be, I said to myself. Writing about yourself has to be easier than writing fiction. You already have the story line and all you need to do is put words on the page.

I thought I could knock it over in three months.

Be warned, my friends. That is delusional thinking. This is my third year of effort, on the back of a lifetime of diaries and scribblings and, more recently, blog posts. I have come to discover that memoir means agony. It means the constant overturning of stones under which you’d preferred not to look. It means stripping your own skin – at turns with a blunt butter knife or a cheese grater. It means scrubbing back the tidy stories we tell ourselves in order to come to a deeper truth.

This is my fifth draft, and finally I feel that I am getting somewhere.  I believe I am writing now with a voice closer to my own (rather than a story voice – in the way that some people have a phone voice), and distilling experiences into clean and beautiful elixirs or poisons, depending on the circumstances.

Sounds awful doesn’t it?

And yet…

Through the process of writing this memoir I have come to see my life more clearly and to know myself more deeply. I have crashed through limited thinking and found grace and compassion for myself and others. I have excised meanness and victim-thinking and blame from my pages and from my mind. I’ve healed old hurts. I’ve found me. I’ve learned to love me, flaws and all. I’ve learned to love others in ways I’d given up on as impossible.

I hope, one day soon, to be able to share my story with you. More importantly, I hope to encourage any of you seeking to use part of your own life for writing and self-examination. Memoir is soul work. Our own story, examined, is a great teacher. Through sharing our stories we connect, one to another.

Image from pinterest

Image from pinterest

 

Home In My Own Bed!

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“I live in my own little world. But it’s ok, they know me here.”
~ Lauren Myracle

 

There is something so sweet and good about sleeping in your own bed after a long time away.

It’s a little crowded just now though. Harry and Bert refuse to leave my side. Not that I’m complaining. 🙂

The two weeks of rest is going well. I have napped and ready many books. I have sipped cups of tea from bed, and coloured picture books as a mindful meditation. Or just for fun.

My mind, free to roam, has surprised me with little extra treats and ideas for my end of year retreat, and for all kinds of other wonderful offerings. I love being able to be in a space of dreaming and creativity – and for me that process seems to work best when I am in my pyjamas. (Hooray for no more breezy hospital gowns!)

I’m doing really well, and the trick now is to keep resting and not overdoing it. (This is always the hard part for me. Do you find resting hard too?) Mind you, it’s challenging to overdo things when you are pinned to the bed by two loyal dogs, and you have a husband and a personal assistant who lovingly growl if I even look like doing anything workish.

Today I’m working on my pirates and fairies story, mapping out adventures and filling in some details about important things for this world I’m creating in my head. Of course that will be interspersed between more naps and cups of tea and cuddles with my boys. Probably my most important story development will happen in my dreams!

Please know that I’m sending you all lots of love. Of course you’re included in my healing meditations each morning and night. Thank you too, for all the healing, love and well wishes you’ve sent me. It has helped heaps!

Hugs and love and all that good stuff, Nicole <3 xoxo

What Else Can You See?

Image courtesy of Chris Dryden

Image courtesy of Chris Dryden – who is the awesome star of this shot, and also, my friend!

“To acquire knowledge, one must study;
but to acquire wisdom, one must observe.”
~ Marilyn Vos Savant

 

A wise and talented memoirist and creative writing teacher, Beth Kephart, has her students do an exercise where they go out into the world and take ten photographs.

The students know they are going to come back into the classroom and write about those photos. I bet they are already thinking about the clever things they will say as they snap off their shots.

But then she has them do something unexpected. She asks them to disregard the main object in focus, and instead look into the background. What’s there, she asks. What are you missing? What are you not seeing? How does that inform your subject? How does that influence your story?

In editing my own memoir, I took Beth’s advice. As I read through my finished draft I saw how Lyme disease was threaded strongly though the background, even though my focus is on my psychic awakening. I knew I needed to bring a little more attention and detail to this background thread. I also saw my insecurities, twinkling there like stars. The same insecurities I deal with twenty-five years after the fact. Hmmmm….

We can learn much from those background details. It can completely change our story.

I love my friend Chris Dryden’s photo of him jumping over a car on his skateboard, back in the day. It is such a strong image. But when you look into the background two things stand out. Chris is doing something amazing, and the guy in the blue shirt has totally missed it. The Charleston x-ray clinic stands watch too. The perfect destination for any skatie who doesn’t quite make that tricky jump. I laughed and laughed when I finally noticed that.

What’s going on for you right now? What details in the background of your life deserve some attention? How might they change your unfolding story? What things do you want to bring from fuzzy into focused?

It’s a useful exercise for life, as much as for writing.

Much love, Nicole xx

PS – If you are writing memoir I highly recommend Beth Kephart’s book Handling the Truth – on the writing of memoir

Inside My Story

“Put down everything that comes into your head and then you’re a writer. But an author is one who can judge his own stuff’s worth, without pity, and destroy most of it.”

~ Colette, Casual Chance, 1964

 

I’m deep into the editing process for my memoir right now. It’s a strange process, crafting your own story.

The only way that I can do it successfully is to become fully immersed in the story. It’s no good to do a bit here, and a bit there. It takes time for me to get into that place of flow, so it’s easier to simply sink down into it and keep going. That means no socialising, no work, no phone calls or facebook or being on tap for others. Right now I need to be front and centre for myself.

I’d thought that at this stage of the rewrite I would be a manuscript surgeon. Objective, detached, interested only in the problems and the process of rectification or amputation. But it’s not like that at all. To write my life, I have been walking that road in my mind. I have to put myself there, so that all becomes real again. Now, again.

I must admit I’ve been struggling too, with style. I have some literary bits, some introspective bits. Especially near the front of the book. You know, trying to craft an impressive beginning and all that… As I read over it, the words didn’t flow the way I wanted them to. I wasn’t sure what to do. Then Rosie wrote a comment on my blog;

Nicole, you couldn’t write crap if you tried! You go girl and write as you do here. Your following on this blog should tell you that we love the way you write. Hugs and crystal sparkles (you know which crystal!) xxx

A lightbulb came on for me. I stopped writing for imaginary judges and agents and publishers. I started writing for you, dear readers. Just like I would write any blog post. Just the way I’d tell you any of my stories.

Oh my goodness, Rosie! A thousand hugs, a box of chocolates, a big sloppy kiss. You’re a genius, woman!!!

 

I’m recrafting my beginning as though I was writing my blog. Telling it all the way it happened, with the usual out-falling of emotion and honest confession.

I guess that after one thousand odd posts here on Cauldrons and Cupcakes I’ve found my voice after all. Who’d have thought?

Thank you, lovelies. You are all much more a part of this unfolding story than you or I could ever have imagined. Bless <3 xx

Poking Bruises

Image from ifunny.co

Image from ifunny.co

“When we are tired, we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago.”
~ Friedrich Nietzsche

I’m still editing this memoir.

Because of that, I did something really dumb.

I couldn’t remember a detail about someone’s appearance. An old friend from the past. Turtle. What colour were his eyes? I couldn’t tell in any of the old photographs I have.

So I googled him.

There he was, standing beside his wife and child. Beside him, unexpectedly, the brother and wife of my ex-husband.

I clicked on the image, which led me straight to facebook.

And there, there was the life I walked away from. All of my ex-husband’s family. Their marriages. Their children.

I’d forgotten how much I loved them all. How dear they were to me.

Their children are young adults now, and I’d only known them as babies. Such a fine, big family. Still doing all the things that I once did with them.

Weirdly, some of those grown children look so much like me at that age that I could claim them as my own.

I didn’t know that this stupid simple act of googling one image would lead to this. My heart broken open. My stupid eyes overflowing with tears. My body one big bruise, and each image poking it harder and harder.

I’m not sorry that I am no longer married to my first husband. I love the life I have. I love my husband Ben fiercely. I’d never change places.

But seeing these images brought to my awareness, so strongly, all that I have lost after thirty years of lyme disease.

This morning I am hollow. I can barely talk. That’s okay. The Byron Bay Writers Festival starts today. So I shall go sit in big white tents and listen to authors speak about their books and their writing processes, and their beautiful ideas. And perhaps I’ll find a kindred moment, with someone else who poked a bruise as hard as me.

Crazy Busy Writing!

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“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
~ Ernest Hemingway

There’s not much going on at my house right now.

Except this.

Reading. Underlining. Sighing. Crying. This book is all a pile of crap. Sudden bursts of stompy-footed door slamming and wandering around the paddocks. The clickety click of my keyboard. Endless kettles boiling.  Paper. Everywhere.

Ben brings me tea, and makes a hurried exit.

Thinking.

Reading. Highlighting. Sighing. Laughing. Hey, that bit was quite funny. Reading some more. Nope, it’s all still crap. Sudden bursts of stompy-footed door slamming and wandering around the paddocks.

Ben stokes the fire and stays out of my way.

Emergency phone calls to my sister. ‘Hi, can you remember when this thing happened? Great. Thanks. Bye.’ Hanging up to get straight back to writing.

Me reading over things thinking ‘Can I tell them that? Can I say that?’ Me wriggling in agony, ‘God, I can’t believe I’m writing that.’ Sitting under trees watching the black cockatoos flying overhead. The clickety click of my keyboard. Endless cups of tea. Words. Everywhere.

I’m working on the final edit of my Kimberley story. How stupid was I to think that it would be easy to write about myself! A memoir? I’d rather scrub the bathroom with a toothbrush. Hemmingway was right.

More tea. More writing. More sighing.

Let’s hope this is all soon done, so that normal life may resume.

What It Feels Like to be Hijacked By a New Story

Image from betsychasse.net

Image from betsychasse.net

“Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly.”
~ Franz Kafka

 

Last year, on one of my retreats, something very interesting happened. Just a passing thing. But it would not let me go.

I remember it so clearly. It was if God, or whoever it is up there in that unseen place, turned my head and held it gently in their hands as they directed my gaze and made all my senses hyper-acute. Look, they said. Remember.

It was a bizarre moment. Which then kept replaying in my head.

I had no idea why.

Not long after, in the middle of the night I woke up with my chest pounding. I’d just dreamed an entire scene related to that one moment now committed to the celluloid palace of my memories.

Image from fishki.net

Image from fishki.net

A few nights later there was another dream. A dream seemingly unrelated but so vivid that I hurried to capture every last detail on paper the moment I woke up.

I had no idea that all of these events would end up connecting.

I had no idea that this would be the genesis of a story within me.

Meanwhile I ran another retreat. I worked on being better, and stronger, and less Lyme-y. I planned my year for 2015. A year that did not include this story.

This was to be my year for editing the three manuscripts in my bottom draw. The year for me to get my website up and flying. The year for cookbooks and spiritual handbooks and blogging.

But no.

One night, in my dream, one of my characters came and sat on my bed. Nicole, she said, you need to tell this story.

I saw how all of these dreams were interconnected. How the thread of the story braided itself together in front of me.

And just like that, it has taken over my life.

I’m still doing all of the other things in my plan. But I find myself sneaking off in any spare moment to hammer out a few more words, or to spend a little time dreaming and planning and opening myself to whatever might come next.

I feel that this story owns me, and through me it is writing itself.

That. That is what it is to be hijacked by your story.

Beautiful. Magical. Terrifying. Wild. Healing. Hopeful. Brilliant.

Even the air tastes cleaner and more whole in my lungs since I began.

I can’t do anything but submit and give myself over to the telling of it.

I’m at that place where fate and hard work collide.