Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

A Little Background

We’ve all heard this phrase or used it when frustrated by circumstances which push us away from progress. Are you familiar with the origin of the phrase?

Two steps forward one step back…is a catchphrase reflecting on an anecdote about a frog trying to climb out of a water well; for every two steps the frog climbs, it falls back by one step, making its progress arduous.

The phrase is sometimes cynically rearranged to ‘One step forward, two steps back…’ to reflect a situation where, seemingly for every attempt to make progress in a task, an actual retrograde performance is achieved. The phrase One Step Forward, Two Steps Back was used as a title of a 1904 revolutionary pamphlet by Vladimir Lenin.

Instead of quoting this phrase (‘Two steps forward one step back…’) sometimes it is summed up with the briefer exclamation of “Frog in a well”.[1] This tale should not be confused with another tale with a different meaning, but also sometimes titled Frog in a well, which refers to having seemingly small aspirations in comparison with compatriots.[2][3][4]

— Source: The Free Dictionary by Farlex

(For the full listing in The Free Dictionary, please use this link.)

Did I Bore You With That Story?

All of the above is shared to set the stage for sharing something that may shock some, surprise many, and make others among you smile.

As I’ve mentioned before, I contacted 1106 Designs about the possibility of working with their staff on preparing my memoir for publishing. Before that could happen, however, I felt a need to restructure my manuscript. It did not feel right. The perspective in which my mom is shown isn’t a fair one, in my opinion, and I wanted to correct that.

The more I thought about picking up those pages and cutting them up to tape them into new homes, perhaps even in another chapter, I could not bring myself to touch that project.

It didn’t help that when we returned from a weekend getaway the first weekend in October I felt under the weather for approximately two weeks, a time providing me with the opportunity to make a clear decision.

I consulted with others who have written memoir, talked with my best friend and husband, and then prayed. It was a big step I would be taking. I needed to know I had gathered the best of the best around me to consider this decision.

The News

I have decided to temporarily shelve my memoir and think on what I want to do with it later. In the meantime, I have decided to try my hand at fiction.

For some time, I have been toying with an idea. And a different view is indeed needed from my writing seat. This idea involves working on a historical novel set at the turn of the 19th century.

At this time, the orphanage system in our country was large and desperately needed. No welfare system existed to care for children without homes and often without parents. My father was one of those children. His widowed mother made the decision to admit her three children (two sons and a daughter) to the Masonic Orphanage in Louisville, KY.

I would like to share my father’s story but do not have enough accurate historical information throughout his childhood and adolescence to do a biography so I’m turning to the historical novel. 

Excitement is in the air as I begin to research the orphanage system and continue my attempts to learn more about my father’s family history. You’ll learn more as I know more.

In essence, this means that The Writing Studio is no longer focused only on memoir and creative nonfiction. I’ll be writing more about fiction as I make my way through the writing of my novel while hopefully maintaining a balance between the various genre.

7 thoughts on “Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

  1. Funny story. I’ve never read your blog until today, and I came upon it via Nancy Peacock’s blog. But, what you just wrote – about pausing from memoir to write fiction – is something I, too, wrote about this week.
    I’ve been boxing myself in, and, as a lover of story, since needed to tear that box to shreds, and so I did.
    Thank you for sharing your words.


    1. Jeffrey, so glad that perhaps a comment I left on Nancy’s blog brought you here. I’m also glad we’ve found ourselves boxed in and needing to shred our boxes. I read your similar post and am amazed at the similarity of my feelings. In my memoir, The Other Woman (referencing my abusive mother), I would write about a characteristic of my relationship with my mother and incidents showing it in action. Then I was done. Move on to the next characteristic. Not very satisfying.
      I also like the way you broke up your post with your "pause" message. I think I like it much better than the "popover" interruptions. Are you a Squarespace owner as well? I really like the looks of your site.
      I did go back and subscribe and look forward to your fiction and nonfiction writing’s. I also intend to read Fassler’s article and Listi’s book. Thanks for mentioning them.


  2. Good for you, Sherrey! Sometimes when we have worked long and hard at something, we discover a new way "in" to our subject. May fiction offer you just the right amount of research challenge and distance from self to take you to ever deeper understanding of the meaning of adoption — historically and now — for yourself, and for others.


    1. Shirley, my friend, I always appreciate your beautifully and meaningfully worded comments. Research has always been something I’ve enjoyed, both in writing and in my law firm work. I’ve begun that part of this work, and it is as I expected–challenging and fun!


  3. I’m happy to hear you are stepping back as you move forward with a new genre, Sherrey. Best wishes as you occupy that wonderful writing space which I hope we will hear more about in the coming weeks and months. 🙂


    1. Hello Marian, and thanks for your gracious understanding. I’m excited to look into the research and story needed to share my dad’s rise through and over many storms to become the loving husband and father he was.


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