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

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

 

What’s Really Going On, Nicole?

NicoleFluffyJacket

“Once you become self-conscious, there is no end to it; once you start to doubt, there is no room for anything else.”
~ Mignon McLaughlin

 

I’ve had a cranky few days.

I could explain it away as lack of sleep – too much noisy koala sex outside my bedroom window keeping me awake all night – but that would not be it. A contributing factor? Sure. But still, I know my own mind.

Which is why I have a handy question for such instances.

‘What’s really going on, Nicole?’

That’s what I ask myself. Because I know that I know…

So, yesterday, I asked myself, ‘What’s really going on, Nicole?’

‘Oh, just shut up!’ I told myself in my best cranky voice. ‘Leave me alone. I’m just tired. I’m just busy. That’s all.’

The word ‘just’ is a huge red flag for me. It’s my cop-out word. It’s my loaded word. It’s nothing… It’s just…

It’s just that I’m obviously avoiding some big fat thing that I don’t want to talk about.

Hmmmm.

Does that sound familiar to you?

Are you sniffing, and flicking your hair, and shaking your head, and turning away, and saying ‘Fine, I’m just fine…’ at something too?

It’s no good living with a stompy five-year-old in my head having a temper tantrum. That’s not how I want my year to be. 2016, among other things, is about bringing what is hidden into the light. It’s about owning our shadow, and the unclaimed and rejected parts of ourselves, our families, our societies.

I decided to make a pot of tea and do some journalling using a technique called Left Hand Right Hand Dialogue for connecting to that cranky inner child.

 

Let me show you what followed:

Big Nicole: ‘Hi, Little Nicole’ I asked with my dominant hand. ‘What’s really going on?’

Little Nicole: ‘Your planner is dumb!’ I responded with my non-dominant hand, in words so cranky they made stab holes in the page.

Big Nicole: Surprised, (I love my Planner and have been using this method for years) I asked ‘Why do you feel that way?’

Little Nicole: ‘I don’t want to do it. I don’t like it. It’s stupid.’

Big Nicole: ‘Why don’t you like it?’

Little Nicole: ‘I don’t want to do it. I don’t want to have to do that thing.’

I immediately experienced a sinking feeling in my stomach. My stupid Planner. Yep. It’s four days into January and I still haven’t chosen or brainstormed my One Big Thing.

Except.

Actually.

I have.

Last year when I was working with Bek, my graphic designer, she asked for an example of a mind-map that we could use as an illustration in my Planner. I happily obliged, telling myself, ‘I’ll just choose this thing, because it’s a good example, and it’s not really my One Big Thing. ‘Next year I’ll choose something different. Something business-y. Or health. Or… something.’

Here’s that thing I keep avoiding.

mind map

What’s really going on, Nicole?

Shut up, alright. I just don’t want to do it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

People will know I’m weird. I won’t be able to take it back once it’s been said. People will judge me. I’ll be laughed at. Rejected.

It won’t be good enough.

I won’t be good enough.

I don’t want to do it.

Except that I really do. It’s the thing I care about so much. Every time I think about the manuscript, finished and needing editing and sitting in my bottom drawer. Every time I think about it, or avoid thinking about it, or do it, or actively avoid doing it, Black Cockatoos fly over my farm, squawking loudly. My Aunties, encouraging me. Reminding me. I am this thing. I need to be this thing.

That’s what my Aunties told me about Black Cockatoos, all those years ago as I sat in the dirt in a circle of wise Aboriginal Women.

“Dis fella keep you company too. Remind you of your black sisters, up here in dis country. Even when you leave and go far, far from here, dese black fella birds and their yella-tailed cousins will find you. Sing to you and say ‘Remember, Remember,’ No way we let you forget. Dat story in you now. You belong part of our family now.”

“One day you live somewhere, you call dat country home. Smell like dis place. Earth. Sea. But make you happy again. We send all dem black fella birds remind you your promise. Remind you your story. Then you know it’s time. Time to be dat story. Live dat story in your heart. Live your true Dreaming.”

 

Already, people who are working with my Planner have been sending me encouraging messages about my memoir. Because I used that stupid example, and it’s there on the page for everyone to see.

Have I started it yet? they ask. Can’t wait to read it!

Do you need an accountability buddy?

??????????????????????????

Bugger.

Today I will sit with my Planner and map out how to properly make my memoir my One Big Thing.

I’m not resisting now. I’ve had my little moment. It’s time to own this thing in me. To own my story and put it out into the world. And then move on to something else.

I am what I am. My ‘Otherness’ is what shapes me. It will all be okay.

I highly recommend asking yourself the question.

What’s really going on?

Examining stuckness, resistance and repressed emotion is always a good thing. Bring that which is hidden out into the Light.

book

Looking Back at Me

Looking Back Through Time by Lady Victoire Deviantart.com

Looking Back Through Time by Lady Victoire Deviantart.com

“We look back on our life as a thing of broken pieces, because our mistakes and failures are always the first to strike us, and outweigh in our imagination what we have accomplished and attained.”
~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Maxims and Reflections

 

It’s odd, this process of writing about yourself. Seldom do we truly take the time to look back on our lives without being caught in the emotion of the moment, or the memories.

I need to be objective now, to get my facts right as I finish the job of editing this memoir. I’m sifting through old diaries, notebooks, photographs and scraps of paper.

I held some photos in my lap today. I can’t share them with you. To do so would be to trespass the privacy of others, long gone from my life.

I have few photographs of myself. I’d always thought myself so ugly. I’ve been entirely self-conscious, and as this strange unnamed illness (that turned out to be Lyme) progressed through my late teens and early twenties I hid more and more from the lens.

But here they are, these frozen moments in time. What strikes me is that the me I see is so different to the way I’d remembered myself. There was grace there. Elegance even. My own fresh young beauty. And so much hope, still. So much hope in those eyes of mine. So much life and love and emotion.

It made me fall in love with myself. It broke me open with tenderness.

How I wish all of us could reach back through time and whisper in our own ears that we are beautiful, and precious, so that we might live more fully and be more emboldened in our choices.

Too late for the past, but not for today. As I lay down to sleep tonight I will whisper that truth. I am beautiful. I am precious. My dreams are important. It’s never too late…

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