Relating "Advent" and "Apocalypse" to Writing Memoir? Yes, I Am!

On Sunday our church welcomed a new senior pastor and head of staff and his family into our church family. We've been looking forward to this day and hearing our new pastor's first message. I never expected it to take me to a post on writing memoir. Imagine our surprise when we looked in our bulletin and saw the sermon topic: "Apocalypse Now?" A follower of his blog since we called him in November, I recognized this as resembling Brian's blog title, "apocalypso now." But still...

Following the morning Scripture reading, Brian began his delivery. Using his natural sense of humor, he took us through a litany of apocalyptic elements--natural disasters, serious illnesses, movies, life experiences, and more. But still...

"Apocalypse" defined ~

And then for the first time, at least for me, our pastor defined the word "apocalypse" as a revealing, disclosure, lifting the veil, prophetic, unexpected. I always thought of an apocalypse as cataclysmic, disastrous, catastrophic, world-ending. Never did I think it related to my life in any way. But Brian kept talking...

As his sermon took off, Brian shared from his personal life. Early in the life of their son, Ian, Brian and his wife, Kirsten, learned Ian was autistic. They were told if he didn't speak by age seven, he would never speak at all. Apocalyptic? For them, yes! It brought forward a torrent of questions: Why Ian? Why us? What do we do now? How will we cope?

Suddenly, like a slide show, my life memories began to process. Never before considered apocalyptic, I looked at life scenes included in the current draft of my memoir: verbal and emotional abuses in childhood, parental manipulation, dropping out of college due to illness, divorce, single-parenting, blending a family, several spinal surgeries and more, the loss of my wordsmith and mentor to a savage dementia, but nothing on par with what so many others have suffered. And yet...

Advent fits into this how?

Bright and shining star! (Pixabay/no attribution required)
Bright and shining star! (Pixabay/no attribution required)

There has always been a revealing, a new journey, a time of preparing for changes, transformation, light shining in a new way waiting somewhere. Yes! Like Advent!

Advent--a time of preparation, waiting, candlelight, the coming King, the hope of a bright star--the season that began Sunday. The time before Christmas.

Most of us spend the four weeks before Christmas in a hustle and bustle, hurried and harried state. Shopping, wrapping, shipping, decorating, baking, partying--wearing ourselves out. Never slowing down to appreciate the fact something big is on the horizon. A day of celebration so apocalyptic it changed the world.

Mining our memories for writing memoir ~

And this is how I realized that, for me at least, the words "advent" and "apocalyptic" relate to the writing of memoir.

Memories (Pixabay/no attribution required)
Memories (Pixabay/no attribution required)

To write memoir we research our minds and as archeologists of the mental turf, we uncover apocalyptic memories of life, whether good or bad, to write what we know as the truth about our lives. In a sense, we prepare, wait, hope for memories to surface and fill pages of a book. As well, the apocalyptic in our lives is sad or joyful, happy or glum, painful or healing.

As an advocate of writing to heal, I see these two words as meaningful to the memoir process in that we dig for that which we see as important to our lives and memories. In the process of gathering and writing, we begin to heal. Perhaps another apocalyptic event in our lives. Maybe another light that shines in the darkness of our past. I believe this is the thread connecting memoir writing to the words "advent" and "apocalyptic."

For now, I intend to listen carefully to our new pastor, not only a man of the cloth but also a lover of words and a writer. I think I may learn a thing or two...maybe three!

What thoughts came to you as you read my post? I'd love to know. Anything you want to share may be left in the comment section below. 

Reflections on Gratitude

Gratitude is talked and written about a great deal as we approach Thanksgiving. I listen and take part but wonder if gratitude isn't meant as an everyday occurrence. Isn't there always something in a day you are grateful crossed your way?

Gratitude is a quality similar to electricity: it must be produced
and discharged and used up in order to exist at all.
~~ William Faulkener

When I wake in the morning, it is simple to open my eyes and thank God for:

  • Good health, both mine and my husband's, as well as our ability to care for our home and ourselves.
  • Another day to write, create, communicate, think, see, hear, breathe, and live and love.
  • Our thriving children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
  • Our marriage and life together.
  • Our home and our ability to continue to live here.
Marcus Aurelius on gratitude
Marcus Aurelius on gratitude

Our days are spent in our individual work areas seeing each other only at lunchtime when I'm reminded of:

  • Bob's patient and forgiving nature.
  • Many storms, big and small, survived surrounding jobs, finances, children.
  • Mutual understanding and encouragement of the other's creative gifts and talents.
  • Satisfaction found in our morning devotional time.

And lastly, when I think of our many freedoms, I give thanks for:

  • Freedom to practice our religion of choice where, when, and with whom we choose to worship.
  • Freedom of speech allowing us to verbally express or write our thoughts and opinions freely and without fear.
  • Freedom to vote.
  • Freedom to seek medical care where and from the physician I choose.
  • Freedom to gather in public places to enjoy friends, family, neighbors, and more without fear.
Gratitude quote - anonymous
Gratitude quote - anonymous

My friends, we are truly blessed in many ways. If you doubt that is the case, then look for a moment at the lives of those who are not living as we do:

  • The hungry and homeless.
  • Children and the elderly suffering from terminal illnesses without the benefit of good care and insurance.
  • Friends and acquaintances who complain aloud to others about their spouses or significant others.
  • Those going through separations and divorces, especially families with children.
  • Victims, both male and female, of domestic abuse and violence, and children who are victims of abuse.
  • Those struggling with mental illness who either harm themselves, their families, or innocent others.

 

  • Those living under a government where religion is dictated.
  • Those living where they are not allowed to think or speak freely.
  • Those living where there is no democratic form of government and no freedom to vote.
  • Those living where to gather in public may mean arrest or death.
  • Those living in all parts of the world under some oppressive force over which they will never be able to climb out of poverty, homelessness, hunger, poor health, lack of education, and more.

 

  • Those who immigrated to our country illegally and then brought children into the world who are American citizens, and all of whom are the object of much anger, debate, and confusion in our government and within our population.
  • Refugees, whether from Syria or elsewhere, fleeing war-torn lands governed by a dictatorship where no one cares about who is hurting, dying, and leaving their homeland. Looking to other countries to take them, hopefully with help to return them to a peaceful homeland, they stand at the door and literally knock hoping not to be turned away. All while fear and doubt exist on both sides of the door.
Gratitude quote by Eckhart Tolle
Gratitude quote by Eckhart Tolle

Have a warm and wonderful Thanksgiving!

If you feel so inclined, please leave a comment about how you'll be spending Thanksgiving, what you feel thankful for, or why you struggle with the concept of gratitude. We speak openly and freely here, so please share your honest thoughts.

7 Things I've Learned About Myself from Social Media

Last spring I, along with others, took a Lenten break from social media. When I returned, I wanted to know more about my presence on social media, including my blog. That's when I turned to Frances Caballo and engaged her to check my social media sites as well as my website. The results of Frances's assessment provided good information, both positive and some not so positive. Eager to see what I could do with her suggestions, I moved ahead full tilt. And as reported in this post, I noticed some rising numbers and growth changes.

Frances even provided a schematic or schedule for posting to the social media sites I use. I have worked hard at prescheduling using Buffer and Hoot Suite. Of course, before you start scheduling, there is the step called curation, which also takes time. After curating and prescheduling, I felt an overwhelming strike against my writing time. Not only against my writing time but against my ability to keep up with certain blogs where I believe my community contacts are strong.

As a result, I've learned some things about myself. Most of them I already knew; some of them I didn't realize until now.

Flickr via Sagle
Flickr via Sagle

1. I don't like numbers, and I dislike counting them even less. I never liked math in any form growing up. I still don't care for math which leads me to my newest discovery about self: it's all about numbers. Not only do I not like numbers, I like analyzing and counting them even less.

I have heard all the arguments about numbers of followers, social analytics, and platform building. But I'm not sure I agree totally with their arguments. It seems those who enjoy social media and do well at it, and therefore accumulate the necessary numbers for a proper platform, are number lovers and counters. They enjoy the thrill of the chase. Everyone seems in the big race to see who can get the most followers, friends, likes, shares, and on and on and on. None of this holds any great interest for me.

I want to spend my days writing, not counting and analyzing numbers.

2. I'm an introvert who does not like crowds any better online than at a social gathering. Yes, I am an introvert. I'm happily married to an introvert. The good news is I can make myself "perform" at a social gathering doing the mix and mingle dance, but I don't like it. My husband says I'm better at this than he is. On social media, the party or gathering includes people who follow you who have no profile info posted, the ones who want to sell you Twitter followers, SEO and marketing experts, software application outlets, and the beat goes on. I equate these to the dinner hour marketing phone calls we receive. I prefer to spend any time I have beyond writing communicating with those writers and readers I've come to know blog-to-blog outside the confines and requirements of social media. Lately, I feel I have lost touch with these fellow writers. And yes, spending time with them means I'm safely hidden away in my writing corner at home with my laptop and my kitty.

Dragonfly Coffee House
Dragonfly Coffee House

3. Lest you worry about me socially, I do have a few writing friends I gather with personally here in Portland and workshops I enjoy attending. Through the time social media extracts from my days, I had less time to spend with these people. I quickly learned I preferred being with these few than with the masses on social media. Sometimes it's over lunch, over coffee, or browsing one of our great bookstores in Portland. We talk writing, share our work, and even give time over to fostering friendship between us. It's the way I like to do business and friendship.

4. Some of the time I spend on social media detracts from my continuing education in the art of writing, and I consider ongoing education prime to my efforts. With the writing community available to me here and just down I-5 South, I have so many opportunities. It is often difficult to choose which one to take advantage of first. There are multiple Meetup Groups for writers in Portland, as well as Willamette Writers and Oregon Writers Colony, with Indigo Editing and PDX Writers offering workshops and classes, and people like Gigi Rosenberg, author and artist coach, who have found Portland to be the place they want to craft and teach (more about Gigi in #5 below). With all these entities offering so much, how can I spend time on social media and not increase my knowledge of my craft? Personally, I can't, and I won't.

5. A short time ago Gigi Rosenberg wrote an eye-opening and inspiring blog post, Be Your Own CEO. This post made an impact on my feelings about how I spend my days. In the post, Gigi talks about one of the assignments she gives when coaching artists. The assignment comes in two parts as you'll see when reading her post. I decided to work through the assignment, knowing already what the answer would be.  Mine is the same as Gigi's. And this is what she had to say:

For me, the one thing is to finish this revision of my memoir. Everything else in my life needs to support that one mission. Because I am the CEO of Me, Inc., and what I say, goes. ...

Everything else is going to revolve around that one thing I want. Because I want it and I'm the boss of what I want.

Now, I know what you're saying: That's pretty selfish. Not really. We all want something, and most often we want it badly. So badly we are willing to do almost anything to get it. Why shouldn't a writer, musician, artist, aspiring doctor or lawyer, other professionals, star athletes not do the same?

6. None of the above have mentioned my life outside of writing.  In order to cram everything into a 24-hour period with 5-6 hours of sleep each night, I have ignored my husband, necessary work on our small businesses, cleaning our home, cooking at my best level for two meals each day, making proper time for personal devotionals and prayers, forsaken my music participation with my husband, and for the most part have given up my love of needlework (quilting and knitting). Cutting out these things meant I had enough time for social media, the blog, and some of the book. Nothing about that seems quite fair, at least to me. There should be an hour or two each day to enjoy another creative outlet. And I'm going to do just that. Let's not forget we should all be committed to our health and physical well-being, and I'll admit I've been neglectful of mine of late.

7. The decision is made, and no one can change it. I am going to spend the bulk of my waking hours writing--my memoir, short creative nonfiction, blog posts. Also, I will take back my domestic duties (which I enjoy) and clean my home, do the laundry, and cook decent meals and in good weather help Farmer Meyer with the outdoor work. I intend to make sure nothing is left undone about the two small businesses Bob and I run. Church and daily prayer and devotion will take a greater priority. This is what I want to do, and I choose to do it.

I know there will be naysayers about the time needed for social media. Others will debate whether or not a person has to count numbers or not. Some will argue that I'll never sell a single book without platform based in a grand social media presence. Even more will disagree with the time I spent on social media providing enough time to pick back up the chores at home and the things I do for others. And there may be some who will find something to say I haven't even thought about yet.

They are entitled to their opinions. That's why we choose to do all we can to keep this country free. However, as we used to say when we were kids, "Nobody is the boss of me!"

No, I'm the boss in this office, and I get to choose what priorities I set. I'm also allowed to choose which tasks I don't need or want to do, especially if I find them hindering my best efforts in my chosen creative outlet, writing.

I hope you'll find a moment to join in discussion and conversation below.

Timeline Story: 4. Putting a Love of Words and Writing to Work

This is the fourth post in a series sharing my Timeline Story, a look at the events, experiences and occupations that have contributed to shaping my business and writing life to the present. The first post is found at this link, second here, and the third here.

As I shared last time, I became ill my sophomore year of college, was sent home early second semester, and did not return that year. The longer I spent at home with Mama the stronger her claim on me became, and before I knew it, she had convinced me not to return at all. I use the word "convince" lightly here as I wanted to finish college, but I didn't want to fight any more battles. My sites were set on becoming independent and moving on and out.

Once my doctor had released me to work, I fell back on my days as a Kelly Girl. For those of you in a later generation, Kelly Girl was founded in 1946 by Russell Kelly as a typing service. Kelly's service picked up typing and completed it in his own office facilities. One day a client called and requested a secretary to cover for his absent secretary. Russ Kelly offered his own secretary for the day, and thus Kelly Girl had its beginning. Today the company operates under the name "Kelly Services." You can read more of the Kelly story here.

While filling a number of assignments for Kelly Girl, I kept my eye on the classifieds in the Nashville Banner and Nashville Tennessean. One Sunday afternoon, my eyes fell on an ad placed by Vanderbilt University Medical School for secretarial assistance in its Department of Anatomy. Offering some upward mobility and a decent salary for the day, plus benefits, I applied.

It wasn't too long before a call came for an interview. I met with the department chair's administrative assistant, Margaret, for my interview and shorthand and typing tests. There is no way to know how many others applied or what my scores were, but by the time I arrived back home, Margaret was on the phone with a job offer. I began work as a secretary to the Chair and Assistant Chair of the department as well as a cover for Margaret when she was away on vacation or for other reasons. I was excited because the position included grant writing, editing and proofing of non-medical graduate students' theses, as well as writing assistance for the faculty submissions to various journals.

I will never forget my first day of work. Walking into the entrance shown here, I felt as though my feet were not making contact with the ground.

I have many fond memories of my time with these amazing people. Chairman Jack Davies from Wales made life in the office a delightful part of the day. His sense of humor in the classroom, the labs, the research areas, and in the office area was known all over campus, not just the medical school.

Harry Ward, the Assistant Chair of the department, was the direct opposite--studious to a fault, staid in his demeanor. Dr. Ward likely had 50% of the first-year medical students frightened of him, and many others under his supervision. At heart, he was a gentle giant.

Surprisingly, I was given a good measure of freedom in my writing once I got down the intricacies of grant writing, and I enjoyed assisting the non-medical grad students with their theses. My work for them wasn't covered under my salary, but they made up for it with some lovely gifts and invitations to their family homes for celebrations.

All in all, for a first job, this was the place for a word nerd who loved learning new words, medical terminology, and research labels to settle in for a few years. However, while typing up a grant application one day, I noted that my position had been written out due to a lack of research funding from the NIH. A lack of research funding meant that over 90% of my salary was gone and nowhere else was available for making up that loss.

I knew then I needed to rub the press ink from the classifieds off onto my fingers once again and hunt for something else to do to earn a living. Back to square one perhaps.

UP NEXT: The next installment shuffles me through other medical positions and on into the legal community, where I believe my writing took off.

10 Quotes on Writing from Well-Known Writers

Who better to look to for quotes on writing than well-known writers. A fan of quotations of any kind, I've collected a few on the topic of writing from some of my favorite writers:

E.L. Doctorow

Quote from E.L. Doctorow
Quote from E.L. Doctorow

William Wordsworth

Maya Angelou

Via Writing Sisters
Via Writing Sisters

Anne Lamott

C.S. Lewis

Via Google Images
Via Google Images

Ernest Hemingway

Via Google Images
Via Google Images

Louis L'amour

Via Google Images
Via Google Images

Anne Tyler

F. Scott Fitzgerald

Anton Chekhov

Do you have favorite quotes on writing from writers? If so, feel free to share below. Some of our best writing advice comes from those who've gone before us down this pathway called writing.

(Images all via Google; clicking on image will take you to the proper site.)

What Is Creative Nonfiction Anyway?

Creative Nonfiction vs. Memoir
Creative Nonfiction vs. Memoir

As my writing and blogging gained momentum, I would see the phrase "creative nonfiction" used to classify an essay which, to me, was clearly memoir, or a book similarly characterized. For the life of me, I could not understand the need for separation of the two.Until . . .

I began to dig for an explanation of differences between creative nonfiction and memoir. What I learned is vastly important to how I'm refashioning my latest revision.

As I combed the Internet, local libraries, and writing publications, I found an online and in print magazine, Creative Nonfiction. When landing on a new or unfamiliar site, the first place I visit is the "about" section.

To my surprised pleasure, I came upon an article entitled "What is Creative Nonfiction?" written by Lee Gutkind, lovingly referred to by "Vanity Fair"  as the "Godfather behind creative nonfiction."

Gutkind begins his articlewith the following:

The banner of the magazine I’m proud to have founded and I continue to edit, Creative Nonfiction, defines the genre simply, succinctly, and accurately as “true stories well told.” And that, in essence, is what creative nonfiction is all about.

And Gutkind's words clarify what creative nonfiction is--"true stories well told." Aren't we told to share the truth in our memoirs? Isn't it the truth we are seeking as we write about our lives?

I suppose I should have been satisfied with Gutkind's definition, but I kept digging. Discovering a site hosted by Barri Jean Borich, I read with interest her post entitled "What Is Creative Nonfiction?" In her opening paragraph, Borich provided an extension of the answer found in Gutkind's article:

There are many ways to define the literary genre we call Creative Nonfiction. It is a genre that answers to many different names, depending on how it is packaged and who is doing the defining. Some of these names are: Literary Nonfiction; Narrative Nonfiction; Literary Journalism; Imaginative Nonfiction; Lyric Essay; Personal Essay; Personal Narrative; and Literary Memoir. Creative Nonfiction is even, sometimes, thought of as another way of writing fiction, because of the way writing changes the way we know a subject. (Emphasis added.)

If we take the two definitions and combine them and agree with the simple use of the word "nonfiction" to mean we only write what is true, not fictional, we have the beginnings of creative nonfiction. But what about the word "creative?"

Just because we write nonfiction and tell true stories from our lives' experiences does not mean we cannot and should not be creative in the process. The best memoirs I have read were filled with creations as delicious as a cold glass of iced tea on a hot summer afternoon. Others took me down dark, painful paths into lives of abuse and suffering, but they created the darkness for me, the reader, to experience and reach and understanding of the writer's story.

Never let it be said a writer writing creative nonfiction cannot paint a beautiful scene or imagine the garments and buildings of ages past in his/her family's life.

Even though we write nonfiction, our true stories must be "well told" as Gutkind suggests. And as Borich states a lot of what is written as creative nonfiction "depends on how it is packaged" and "who is doing the defining."

The only caveat to using your creativity in nonfiction writing is not to stretch the truth of your story.

We cannot overstep our bounds in using creativity to make up incidents which never occurred, or statements never made, or whatever else you could invent.

Are you finding opportunities to "paint" while you write your memoir or some other piece of creative nonfiction? Do you see other ways the two words, "creative" and "nonfiction," come together to define the genre or form we are writing? Let's find out in the comments section below.