First Fatherless Christmas

blurred-Christmas-tree.jpgIt hit me like a gut-punch this week. In a year of firsts since my father passed, this would be the first Christmas without him. I crumbled at the thought, but sucked it up, stuffed my emotions, and went to work.

“Guess what I did Pa? I joined the Marines.”

“Guess where I am Pa? I’m in Vegas and I just got married.”

Yup, I was that kid that would turn a parent’s hair prematurely gray. My father was my Rock. No matter what I did or where I was, he’d respond, “You did what?!” and then want to know all the details. He was always a shoulder to cry on and a soft place to land through two divorces and the death of my mother, his first wife.

The cycle of life is inevitable but getting older sucks. I know I’m lucky he was in my life for 63 years but it doesn’t ease the pain of the gaping hole his passing left.

I’m fortunate to have had a lifetime of loving memories with the man I’m proud to call my father. This weekend, I’m taking a stroll down memory lane looking through pictures and watching all the 8mm movies my father took that I had digitized. It will be another first, watching our younger years without being able to call and reminisce with him. Please pass the tissues.

Book Look: The INFJ Writer

MTBIAs a Psychology major studying Jungian personality theory back in the day, taking the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) was required. I like to know what makes people tick and the personality test developed by Isabel Myers and her mother, Katharine Cook Briggs nailed my type, Introversion iNtuition Feeling Judging (INFJ). I’ve taken the test many times over the years and no matter the circumstances, I’ve always been an INFJ, a rare 1.6% of the population.

41lflrfsfolI explored a lot of paths for personal growth and my bookshelves are lined with writing books, but I never could get back to the page. After Julia Cameron’s nudge at “Creative Reboot“, I began morning pages again. Then in a synchronistic surprise, the next day a new book appeared at the check-out table called “The INFJ Writer“.

Turns out a lot of writers are INFJs. In a brief conversation with author Lauren Sapala, I expressed my struggle to write and she responded that I’d probably have to get my memoir out of my system before I could write anything else. I devoured the book, reading it from cover to cover by the time I got home. Lauren speaks my language.

Soon morning pages morphed into a regular writing habit. I jumped into NaNoWriMo with wild abandon to write a crappy first draft of my memoir. Reading “The INFJ Writer” helped me understand where my potential roadblocks are and what I can do to navigate the emotional writing tides that sometimes threaten to swamp my progress.

I didn’t major in Psychology to practice as a therapist, but the knowledge I gained has served me well throughout my career. While the audience for “The INFJ Writer” seems like a small niche, I’m glad Lauren wrote it. The book inspired me to quit thinking about my writing angst and just start writing. Thank you Lauren.

Reclaiming My Name

In my first blog post, I alluded to my 1990s writing journey. As a professional woman, a mom of an adolescent, and a busy wife, I was working through a lot at the time. I became extraordinarily frustrated when the creative well dried up no matter what I tried. I’ve come to believe the universe was telling me I wasn’t ready.

I spent 31 years being married to two different men. I divorced for the first time after four years, taking back my birth name Sinness. I felt strongly about it at the time, and I didn’t want to be reminded of that failure. After 27 years of marriage to a terrific guy, sharing a daughter, and establishing myself professionally with his surname and my birth name as my middle name, the decision to retain his surname was easy. I had been known as my married name longer than my birth name. Reclaiming

After a third marriage, this time to a woman, we explored changing both our last names to one we could share. After many philosophical ‘why do women change their surname’ discussions, we decided to retain our own names.

After I began writing my memoir in November, I faced the dilemma of whether I should consider a pseudonym or pen name. When my partner suggested using my birth name, I was resistant. Why? I loved my recently passed father dearly. Why was I opposed to using his surname?

I brought up the issue to my writing coach Lauren Sapala, the author of “The INFJ Writer”, and she nailed the reason…to reclaim my birth name. It makes perfect sense. I did not know who I was during my adolescence, early adult years, or even when I wrote one of my first poems in the 1990s. It’s time to make peace with my past and reclaim the surname I was given at birth, Sinness.

51K & Nowhere Near Done

Now that all the excitement has passed and NaNoWriMo 2018 is in the books, I’m left with a 51K word salad. I envy writers who write with wild abandon about their fantasy worlds. Writing about my life is all too real and sometimes sucks.

I’m torn between wanting to tear my work in progress apart and wanting to marinate on the process, learning more about the craft of writing and putting together a memoir.

3-booksDuring NaNo, I ditched both outlines and wrote whatever came into my head. In the week after I finished, I started feeling that the structure I had believed would work wasn’t quite right. Turns out there is such thing as a memoir trilogy, but would anyone really be interested in reading a redemptive coming out story, a story of resilient empowerment, and a mushy love story?

Who knows, but clearly my intuition is telling me I need to tell those stories to myself first to figure it out.

Twitterpated Wrimo

First TweetOne of the highlights of participating in NaNoWriMo has been connecting with the amazing Twitter writing community. I was an early adopter of Twitter back in my real estate days, but lately I checked it only for breaking news. Once I signed up for NaNoWriMo, I set up my new account and retweeted NaNoPrep advice for my first tweet.

NDay 1 Tweetever having done NaNoWriMo before, I sought out and retweeted inspiration. After finishing my first day of writing on November 1st, I felt brave enough to put my intention for this month out there for the world to see. I wanted to write the book I couldn’t find when I was searching for answers.

Then I found myself encouraging other writers, posting helpful articles I found, tweeting about awesome podcasts, and answering writing prompts. On Day 7 I responded about why this work in progress is important to me saying “I had a hard time relating to books about coming out later in the life. If my work can help ease the mind of another in the same circumstance, they will know they’re not alone.”

Day 25 Tweet When I needed motivation, I could usually find it using the #NaNoCoach hashtag. When I needed inspiration, a quick look through my timeline was all it took.

Throughout the month I saw a lot of writers post a character visualization of their work in progress. Since I’m a NaNoRebel and writing a memoir, I thought it was something that didn’t apply to me. On the 25th, I threw caution and fear to the wind and posted my dream of how I would cast the movie of my memoir.

My memoir may never see the light of day nor have a movie made, but a girl’s gotta dream.

Thank you my Twitter writing brothers and sisters for welcoming this newbie in the fold. This month began as an experiment in what might be possible, and ends in a new place to call home.

 

The NaNoWriMo Wind Down

In a little more than 48 hours, National Novel Writing Month 2018 will officially wrap.

When I first heard of NaNoWriMo, I thought I might be a little crazy to try. Before I jumped in, I read the 8 Best-Selling Books Written During NaNoWriMo That Show You It Can Be Done and thought if the authors of books like “Water for Elephants” and “The Night Circus” started them during NaNoWriMo, what could giving it a shot hurt. I threw caution to the wind, suspending judgment, ditching my inner critic, and trusting the process of spewing words on the page with wild abandon.

justina_ireland-1I wrote every day. During the weekdays got up at 3:30 AM to write before work at 5:30 AM, then once I got home I’d keep writing until I had at least 1,667 words a day. I did word sprints at local NaNoWriMo sponsored write-ins and on their website.

Since my shitty first draft was all over the place, I knew there were holes to address but there is no way I could tell you what they were. In fact, once I reached 51,473 words and wrote The End on November 23rd, I honestly couldn’t tell you what I did or didn’t write. It was a blur. At that point, it didn’t matter…I was a “Winner”.

I’ve spent this week reading and studying memoir, completed an introductory webinar called Memoirama: Everything You Need To Know To Write Memoir, and I’ve read through a few of my pages. It is a hot mess, but it’s not as bad as I had feared.

I’ve learned a lot this month, and I have a lot to learn and grow as a writer. NaNoWriMo has shown me I’ve got the commitment and discipline for butt-in-chair-time to do the work, and that my friend is half the battle.

The End…and New Beginnings

The-End.jpg

After I broke the 50K NaNoWriMo barrier to claim my Winner’s Certificate on Friday the 23rd, I thought I’d continue writing though the end of November to fill in some missing pieces of the story. Today after writing the 250 words which concluded the journey, I wrote “The End”.

I had an odd sense of finality, like even if I wanted to write more,  the story was wrapped up. I also know The End is just the beginning of trying to make sense of this total pantser memoir that makes a jackrabbit look like he’s hopped up on some good stuff.

Time to study some of my favorite memoirs and marinate on how exactly I want mine to be structured. Writers have talked about revising being their favorite part so I’m hoping my Viking creative alter ego “Freya The Fearless” takes over from here. Cheers, or as Freya would say, Skol!

NaNoWriMo Muddy Middle

I’m 18 days into #NaNoWriMo2018 and just broke 40K words. Most of them are probably shitty, but it still feels like a huge accomplishment getting the words out instead of thinking about writing.

FSWTM-RachaelHerron.JPGIn the past week I’ve listened to Rachael Herron’s “Fast-Draft Your Memoir: Write Your Life Story in 48 Hours” on Audible. Rachael had great success with National Novel Writing Month and it’s the basis of this book. Listening to her break down into baby steps what needs to be done makes me believe that I can do it.

I’m a recovering perfectionist and being perfect is what has stopped me from even trying to write. NaNoWriMo is all about spewing words on the page, no matter how messy or shitty they are. Just get them out there and worry about editing later. It’s not the way I normally write nor did it feel comfortable at first, but I trusted the process and after awhile, it felt liberating.

I’ve got 12 more days until the end of November so hopefully I’ll be well over the 50K target because a lot of what I wrote will be discarded like the contents of my Dyson vacuum. I’ve ordered the paperback of Rachael’s book so I can sticky note all the pages leading me through the next steps I’ll need to take. I can see the light at the end of this shitty first draft tunnel and it’s looking less and less like an oncoming train and more like the porch light of home.