We get all up in our own grills, don’t we? The nasty self-talk, the limiting beliefs and the overly cautious choices that are motivated by fear rather than hope. These are all hallmarks of the perpetually Unkind-to-Selfers. I’m guilty on all counts.
We have only ourselves to blame and that isn’t always easy to live with. There, I’m laying that accusation down, but let me tell you a story to soften the blow.
In my ongoing effort to improve self-kindness, I’m getting honest about why things haven’t always turned out just the way I’d hoped. For me, that includes rewriting my manuscript – again; because I needed to admit it is no longer good enough, by my standards. While I’ve been ghostwriting and growing a writing inspiration and coaching biz online at pattimhall.com these last few years. I’ve also written two memoirs. Before you ask, neither of them is published yet. (But thanks for asking.)
I’m rewriting now, but this was a long time coming. I knew that I was going to completely overhaul my manuscript before seeking a new agent for it. I knew this rework would entail a new title, outline, structure and yanking our seven-year-odyssey with rare disease ruthlessly out of chronological order. Here’s the rub – I knew what it was going to take. I knew because I am a writer, voracious reader and #memoiraholic and I know memoirs. I knew my manuscript wasn’t reflective of the story I wanted to tell or my writing ability anymore. I wasn’t willing to make these next few forays into conventional publishing with anything less than what I felt was my best. But did I jump in with both feet and get to work? Nope. I had a meltdown. I worried about things I told myself were more important. I stopped writing all together. I worked on my paying gigs, built a new website, but didn’t touch my book. Didn’t touch it at all.
I may sound like I have clarity now, but it took me 18 months. That was time I didn’t want to lose because I am stricken with a passion for valuing every day (the essential lessons of my two memoirs.) AND, what is worse and far more unkind than the way I treated my book, is that EVERY SINGLE DAY I berated myself for not rewriting, as if I had forgotten to pick up my child and left him on the curb at rush-hour. Yes…18 months of beating myself up (“Just forget it, Patti, you’re a has been, nobody is going to interested in this.”), diminishing my work (“You took too long.”), judging my initial motivation for writing that book AND for being a writer (high-pitched witchy giggles and imaginary crooked purple fingers pointed at me).
I’m a book writing coach, and that irony wasn’t lost on me. Had I been my own client I would have patiently and lovingly companioned myself, offering: “You’ll know when it’s time.” and “The story will be so much better for the waiting.” But I didn’t. Instead, I fell back on the script that has been my constant companion since childhood. It was some of the nastiness self talk ever for me, so far beyond the “inner critic” that I can’t label it and won’t try.
Some weeks ago I wrote a new kind of script… a Self-Schooling Script. I crafted a Personal Memoir Writing School and I was my only student. It had a few units of study that I devised as a return to the writing life. I wrote every day. I read constantly. I hung out at the bookstore regularly. I studied. I picked up the five memoirs that are what I consider the most exceptional exemplars. I listened to them on audio and then marked up the paper copies in order to disassemble the plot lines and structure, and to absorb the authors’ voices. I went at this like I would any grad school course because I was staking my life on this. I’m not being overly dramatic here. Writing isn’t what I do, it is who I am. Without it, I would cease to exist. I knew that once I uttered the words, once I said out loud to the universe that I was going to permanently shelve my book, my relationship with myself as a writer would be shattered. I would be shattered and it would be my own doing. I would never have let one of my clients or writer pals step away from their identity, their story or their life’s work. I couldn’t let myself either, in the end. Kindness to myself won out. I coached myself eventually. Thankfully.
Schooling myself has been exhausting, expensive and frankly, self-indulgent. It has been as necessary as therapy to come out of depression and yoga to overcome what winter has done to my body (more on that next month). But I’m writing again, have a new 21-page outline and the memoir is being reborn. I got schooled in some acts of self-kindness and I’m a better writer (and a better me) because of it.
a version of this appeared in www.kindovermatter.com in 2017
[My memoir Loving Large: A Mother’s Rare Disease Memoir is releasing in April 2020. You can order your copy online at Amazon worldwide or please seek out a copy at your local bookseller. With thanks, Patti.]