Allow Me to Disappoint You

Allow Me to Disappoint You

You wouldn’t believe what an excellent track record I have in not disappointing people.

I like to think it’s because I try hard to be a half-decent person. But what if it’s the consequence of pathology? A damaged neurological wiring that causes me to default into doing anything to avoid the ire or displeasure of others?

I hate to be hated – whether it’s personal (in the way breaking someone’s heart, not being the friend someone wants you to be or holding certain opinions about Trump or Harvey Weinstein is) or impersonal (given inherited and chosen identities – being Jewish, white, privileged, a feminist and the like).

But despite this, I don’t want to be so likeable as to be universally liked.

Such popular appeal makes us boring. If people can’t see our shadow because we’re hiding it, we’re doling out palatable versions of ourselves in search of likes, follows, retweets and invitations to dinner parties. That’s when we’re exactly the sort of person I don’t want to be.

I’d truly rather be thought of as a harridan than a ‘sweet person,’ have lunch with a lunatic than a ‘good guy,’ hear a sex worker talk than a life coach. I’m well over playing safe, hedging my bets and fence-sitting (sorry about that trio of clichés). I want to be the weather – to affect peoples’ temperature – one way or the other. As writers, artists, creators, lukewarm is as good as no reaction. We have to know how to turn people on, as well as off.

Allow Me to Disappoint You - Joanne Fedler

The fastest way to polarize people is to learn to say NO.

No, I don’t like Jane Austen.
No, I don’t eat animals.
No, I can’t speak at your event.
No, I don’t like your skull tattoo.
Thanks, but no thanks.

 

About Joanne

Joanne Fedler is an internationally bestselling author of 10 books, writing mentor and publisher. In the past seven years, she’s facilitated 12 writing retreats all over the world, mentored hundreds of writers (both face to face and in her online writing courses), set up her own publishing company, Joanne Fedler Media, and published four debut authors (with many lined up to follow). She’s passionate about publishing midlife memoirs and knows how to help people succeed in reaching their goal to become a published author.

I have crazy-high standards of myself. They’ve served me well in the past – they got me a Fulbright scholarship, a Yale law degree, ten published books, an online business, a publishing company …but they are also the source of my suffering. Anything short of excellence, impeccable execution and over-delivery feels like devastating failure to me. When I show up, I do it drag-queen style – all in, hyper-enthusiastic; dazzling. After I’ve done my thing, I want to leave you breathless.

I am not surprised (just annoyed) that my body has conspired to teach me how to let myself and others down. When I prolapsed a disc eight weeks ago, I didn’t realise I’d need months and months to recover. I figured (as I did after giving birth to my daughter by Caesarean and flying to Cape Town 6 weeks later with her at my breast to make a presentation in Parliament), that I’d fix it quickly and get bJoanne Fedlerack to business as soon as possible.

But my body isn’t having any of it. It’s refusing to give me a single clue about when I will be ‘back to myself .’ It’s buggered up all my plans for the year. It’s forced me to let down three writers who wanted Joanne Fedler Media to publish their books – I’ve had to pass them on to other publishers. That has hurt.

It almost made me postpone my long-awaited Midlife Memoir workshop in mid-March. Through tears I wrote – but did not send an email to the ten writers who’d paid, booked tickets and accommodation letting them know I wouldn’t be able to go ahead. It felt like breaking up with someone who has only been good to me (not that I’m even good at breaking up – I’m still in friendly contact with every boyfriend I ever had.)

But once I’d sat down with what it feels like to disappoint others, something weird happened. I suddenly saw how I could do it – just in a different way: without over-delivering; over-preparing or overwhelming everyone. All I needed to do is show up, even if a bit disheveled, hobbling, quietened by infirmity.


As soon as I admitted in writing how frail and capable of incapacity I am,
the illusion I’ve always had about myself (invincible) shattered.

The trance broke.
The spell was undone.
I was porous with relief.

 

 

As soon as I said ‘No, I can’t…’ I worked out a different ‘Yes.’

I said NO to my old way of doing things, and YES to a more vulnerable, imperfect way of showing up. Knowing I may disappoint people has given me the chance to break; the space to heal, and the humility to admit I need to do both.

Now I get to discover who I’ll be now that I am not who I was anymore.

In the meantime, my team and I have been working on a completely revamped website to make navigation, support for your writing and resources to help you easily accessible. We will soon have dates for the next online 7 Day Free Writing Challenge and the Author Awakening Adventure (email [email protected] to register your interest), and more information on the exciting new releases from Joanne Fedler Media for 2019. And if all this sounds like I have not learned my lesson yet – just watch. I’m going to be delegating, taking more downtime to write my new book, and drawing on the incredible team I have to bring you these offerings.

Come and Join the Midlife Memoir Breakthrough

A Five-Day (18-22 March) Live Event in Sydney with Joanne Fedler

In this hands-on, intimate workshop (an eclectic mix of teaching, instruction, writing exercises, meditations, ritual, sharing and other joyful activities), I will teach you how to take the material of your life – the moments that counted, no matter how shattering or modest – and weave them into a memoir that makes sense of it all.

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Artist-in-Reticence

A month ago, I found out that I was going to be a literary artist-in-residence. I was shocked and delighted, but also uncomfortably pleased with myself for managing to secure such an opportunity. I felt honoured. And excited. Yet an underlying sense of hubris was there as well, with a scratchy voice in my inner ear like Gollum’s. “This is mine,” it muttered desperately and with uncharacteristic arrogance.

I was so disquieted by this side of myself that I quickly began turning inward. I started to question why I had applied for the residency and whether I deserved it. Who was I to represent an entire movement, shaking free from the societal norms of silence regarding infertility? What was I doing masquerading as a writer with ideas and skills to pass onto others? How could I have thought that my proposed programs would even appeal to the public, let alone connect them in any meaningful way to their own writing? Where had I found the audacity to even apply?

I spiraled. I sunk rapidly into self-doubt, and the inner critic I have spent the last year learning to dismiss crept up behind me, sunk her fingers into the flesh of my upper arms, and held on, hissing countless shortcomings against the back of my neck.

I spent the next three weeks flip-flopping. Some days I found myself grateful and looking forward to the residency. Other times, I couldn’t find reprieve from tension headaches and aching shoulders. I carefully programmed and diligently carried out preparations. I interrogated my motives and challenged my integrity.

The one thing I didn’t do was write.

.

About Jennifer

Jennifer wrote her first poem at the age of six, and she has been involved in the world of words as an editor, a blogger, and an article writer.  She is published in and shortlisted for a growing number of local, national, and international electronic and print publications, regularly reads at literary events, co-runs a writing group, and actively pursues educational opportunities to further develop her craft.  Most recently she had an essay, titled Bairnlorn, appear in the Globe & Mail, placed first in the My City, My Words poetry contest, and wrote and handcrafted two board books for her son.

You can follow Jennifer on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and/or Pinterest.

I had allowed the denigrator inside to stay my hand – to leave my pen capped upon the table, my laptop still beneath a pile of disheveled papers. I was disappointed in my paralyzed state and worried of what it could mean for my forthcoming residency. So when a friend pointed out an opportunity to craft a story for a contest with a quickly approaching deadline, I chose to dismiss the snicker within and to embrace my competency and creativity.

I wrote. I edited. I reworked and polished. By the time I was done, I was proud of the piece I submitted, and – more importantly – I had reconnected to my belief in myself and in what I know I can accomplish as a writer. More to the point, I had gotten out of my own way.

There is a danger in too much analysis. Being someone who has elected to pursue a passion founded in looking and thinking deeply, I recognize the irony in these words. But if all we do is examine, prod and second-guess, we will never get to the work. Silencing the voices – be they unabashedly prideful or shriveling in their timidity – allows us to get what we must onto the page.

I know the cacophony of conflicting thoughts will return. Again and again, I will have to face the introspective noise of my mind. It is inevitable. However, I chose how finely I tune into the din and how I counter its effect. This time, I was able to prevail because of a deadline. Now and then, it takes breaking down my goals. It could involve the skills of a good listener or the bend in a familiar forest path. It may require the soft, arching back of a cat beneath my hand, the scent of Nag Champa as I meditate, or the sweetened bitterness of a caramel latte. The key could be space or perspective or focus.

Mostly, it is simply about getting myself into the chair, in front of my screen or notebook, fingers poised.

Come and Join the Midlife Memoir Breakthrough

A Five-Day Live Event (18-22 March) in Sydney with Joanne Fedler

In this hands-on, intimate workshop (an eclectic mix of teaching, instruction, writing exercises, meditations, ritual, sharing and other joyful activities), I will teach you how to take the material of your life – the moments that counted, no matter how shattering or modest – and weave them into a memoir that makes sense of it all.

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How to Stop the Great Unravelling at Midlife

How to Stop the Great Unravelling at Midlife

We have two lives,
and the second one begins when you realise you only have one.
– 
Mario de Andrade

You will wake up one day and without looking at your iPhone, you’ll know that you are running out of time.

This bolt of insight will have less to do with your age in chronological time than with the state of your heart. If you’ve been on the run all your life from the truth, that somewhere ‘out there’ is your last day, your last breath, this will come as something of a nasty shock, as if you’d just worked seven years for one bride, and only now discovered you’ve been tricked into marrying another. Or that the terms you thought you’d agreed to have been unilaterally changed and you now want a refund, because who in their right minds would agree to that?

You may want to throttle the teenager, turn your back on the husband, drop the career you’ve been so carefully climbing the ladder towards, never cook another meal again, sell everything, find a younger lover, walk the El Camino, learn to scuba dive, paint, build a tiny house and work out who the hell you are now that nests are emptying and your ovaries have said, “I’m outta here.’

Brene Brown talks about this as the ‘great unravelling.’ It may turn up in our lives as depression (is it just menopause?), anxiety (menopause again?), contemplating divorce or a career change (surely that can’t be menopause??), joylessness (definitely menopause), having an affair (seriously, if not now, when?), resentment at events long-past, late-onset-lesbianism or bisexuality (OMG, that’s an option??) unhappiness for no reason, feelings of irrational rage, disappointment (in ourselves, our relationships, our lay-byed dreams), emptiness, wanting to leave it all behind, directionless-ness.

In the middle of the journey of life, I found myself in a dark wood
where the true way was wholly lost.
– Dante

Joanne Fedler

Joanne Fedler

Author, writing mentor, retreat leader. I’m an internationally bestselling author of nine books, inspirational speaker and writing mentor. I’ve had books published in just about every genre- fiction, non-fiction, self-help, memoir – by some of the top publishing houses in the world. My books have sold over 650 000 copies and have been translated in a range of languages. Two of my books have been #1 Amazon bestsellers, and at one point the German edition of Secret Mothers’ Business outsold Harry Potter- crazy, right?

The deepest questions of identity re-emerge to destabilize us just when we thought we had it all together.

Who are you?
Where did you come from?
Why are you here?

Seriously, after all we’ve been through?

Trust me, you are not alone.

In midlife, a seismic shift occurs between our past and whatever future lies ahead. Our ego-structures no longer work (who am I, again?), and we have to return to the labor of self-definition once more. We may have lost a parent or two. Our kids may have left home, or we realise we’re never going to have those kids we meant to have. The tummy pouch doesn’t help. The insomnia makes everything worse. We feel confined and belittled – by a stagnant relationship, stultifying routine or past failures and mistakes. Even our successes aren’t benign – we look back and are filled with sorrow at how many doors we never opened while we chased our goal of becoming an ‘expert’ or ‘specialist.’ It seemed like a good idea at the time – having something to ‘fall back on.’

We question why we were so quick to say ‘I do,’ ‘I’ll take that promotion,’ ‘sure, let’s have another kid.’ The roles and expectations we’ve been in service to no longer fit who we’ve become. Everything is too tight or too loose. We’ve outworn our responsibilities, graduated from our histories and outgrown the version of ourselves we’ve spent so long chasing.

We wonder, not just a little, what life has been suppressed inside us to get us to where we are.

And goddamit, we always wanted to write a book.

Dear soul, this is it.

This is where your second life begins.

Now is the moment to go back to retrieve what we left behind in our past as too painful or shameful. Here is when we arrange a meeting with those we swore we’d never forgive (that meeting may even be with ourselves). We divest ourselves of what is unnecessary – yes, it’s taken just this long for us to know the difference between what is and isn’t serving us.

Geoffrey Davis’s exquisite poem ‘What I Mean When I Say Farmhouse,’ takes him back to a memory as a boy, as loneliness and his parents’ unlived lives shadow his childhood. He ends the poem with:

             I want to jar the tenderness of seasons,
to crawl deep into the moment. I’ve come

             to write less fear into the boy running
through the half-dark. I’ve come for the boy.

At this midlife moment, our job is to go back for the parts of ourselves that we left behind and ‘write less fear, betrayal, suffering, pain, trauma’ into our stories. We integrate the place where the suffering began, with who we have become. We take the power of who we are now and lend it to the part of ourselves that was most powerless.

And in that meeting, something magical happens.

I want to create the perfect environment for this meeting and so I’ve created a transformational live event in Sydney from 18-22 March 2019. It’s the Midlife Memoir Breakthrough for 20 people who are ready to write into these stories.

Please come join me.

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Getting Lost in Our Own Bullsh*t – the Excuses We Use to Not Write

Getting Lost in Our Own Bullsh*t – the Excuses We Use to Not Write

Honestly I’ve heard them all. Hell, I’ve used them all.

I’ve had ten books published, have six or seven partially-written manuscripts saved in three different computers and dozens of journals, have mentored hundreds of writers, and even published a few through Joanne Fedler Media. There isn’t a ‘why-I-can’t-write’ excuse I haven’t cross-examined close-up.

But I’m at the stage of life where I’m over my own – and other people’s – bullsh*t.  We just don’t have the kind of time these excuses waste.

Here are some of the guises we use to duck and weave out of writing:

1. ‘And how shall I begin?

Most of us never get past the thought, ‘I’d love to write.’ Why? Because we don’t know where to start. We just want someone to point out the entrance as if there is only one. The truth is you can start anywhere. Where you start writing and where your book or story begins are not one and the same. You do not need to know where your book begins until if you’re lucky, your sixty-fourth rewrite.  I’m telling you this because you need to hear it – dilly-dallying over where to begin is your way of delaying your dream of being a writer. 

2. ‘I’m stuck.’

Anyone – and this is true – can write a good opening chapter. It’s what happens after that, that counts. We may get stuck after a couple of chapters and don’t know how to move through the sludgy bits beyond the honeymoon phase. This is where infatuation becomes real intimacy. This is where we have to navigate ‘the seven-chapter roadblock.’ First – get clear on why you’re writing. Second, connect with your character or the message of your book. Third, keep writing. Or stay stuck. It’s up to you. 

3. ‘I can’t finish this.

At the outset we don’t realise there are stages to the writing process. Finishing can be the trickiest part. Finishing is about architecture, pace, consistency, the structure of revelation and pulling the narrative threads together in a way that is satisfying to a reader. Finishing strong is as important as starting powerfully. But perhaps we don’t want to finish because it means letting go of the ‘story’ (read: pain/trauma/narrative and the identity we’ve formed around them). Not finishing can be our way of staying in the same place. This is where we take a deep breath and face whatever fears finishing brings up for us. And then we finish. 

4. ‘My writing is unoriginal and clichéd.’

Our first thoughts are usually clichés. To get to the good stuff, we have to dig a little. For this we need a shovel to dig through the fluff – the platitudes, the one-dimensionality to access what is buried, hidden and utterly enthralling.  As writers our job is to go deeper, to arrive someplace interesting that takes patience to get to. Do not make readers read something they already know, like, ‘When people we love die, we feel sad.’ Like, really? What else do we feel? What emotions are layered into sorrow, and how can we express them?

Joanne Fedler

Joanne Fedler

Author, writing mentor, retreat leader. I’m an internationally bestselling author of nine books, inspirational speaker and writing mentor. I’ve had books published in just about every genre- fiction, non-fiction, self-help, memoir – by some of the top publishing houses in the world. My books have sold over 650 000 copies and have been translated in a range of languages. Two of my books have been #1 Amazon bestsellers, and at one point the German edition of Secret Mothers’ Business outsold Harry Potter- crazy, right?

5. ‘I’ll never get published.

Maybe we will, maybe we won’t. Worrying about getting published before we’ve started writing is premature, and immature. Everything in its time. Getting published is at the ‘mastery’ end of the writing game when we are still novices. Anticipating ‘failure’ before we’ve even attempted to learn the craft or get a first draft on the page is our way of talking ourselves out of the joy of the journey. It’s like deciding not to live because someday we’re going to die. Yes, but so? Let’s not be obdurate and miss the point on purpose.

6. ‘I don’t have a big vocabulary and my grammar is terrible.’

You don’t need to be academically smart or have a huge vocabulary to be a writer. You can be dyslexic, have ADHD, be a quadriplegic or even blind and still be a bloody good writer. Great writing comes from great feeling and being willing to be vulnerable on the page. As Bukowski says, ‘Stop insisting on clearing your head – clear your fucking heart instead.’ (But – and I cannot be dissuaded on this point – there is ZERO excuse for not being a great reader, which you must be to be a writer).

7. ‘There are things I don’t want to write about.

Fine. Try and not write about them. What you will find is that they sneak under the doorway, whisper through the keyholes and trickle through the cracks in the walls anyway. Everything we resist, appears in our writing either consciously or unconsciously. It’s our choice how we want to work with our ghosts and demons. But they will insist on getting in one way or another. Remember too, that we can only take a reader as deep as we are willing to go – writers are guides, and so the writing journey is about how fearless we are able to be with ourselves. We never have to write about our pain, but we have to write from it. Which often means writing about the things we don’t want to write about either to get them out of the way, only to discover that they really are the things we need to write about.

8. ‘I can’t decide–’

… whether to write fiction, non-fiction, short-stories or poetry. I can’t choose a name for my main character or decide where or when the story takes place.

Writing is about making decisions. It demands commitment. It’s not for the wishy-washy. Make a decision and move on. You can always come back and change your mind later if your initial decision doesn’t work. Don’t get stuck because you can’t decide whether your protagonist should be called Wayne or Wilfred. Really, don’t.

What other excuses do you have?

Whatever shape they take, label them for what they are – excuses. They are bullsh*t and you are bigger than your own bullsh*t.

Song to Myself

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What Your Reader Doesn’t Want to See

What Your Reader Doesn’t Want to See

I’m a novice writer. But I’m an experienced reader, as most writers (novice or not) tend to be. As I sink my teeth into yet another book, I find myself frustrated with the writing, but intrigued by the content. The author had a clear vision of what the story meant to her, but a somewhat murky view of how a reader might perceive her penned words. I’m starting to believe a well written book with nothing to say is far more gripping than an interesting story told in a self-important or confusing manner.

I have enough grey hair and laughter lines to remember the classic ‘80s comedy, Three Men & a Baby, with Tom Selleck cradling baby Mary while reading a bedtime story.

“The champ caught Smith with a savage left hook… that sent the challenger crashing into the ropes. Smith, his left eye swollen, and the cut above his right eye now much more bloody, countered with a barrage of vicious body blows.”

“What are you reading her?”

“It doesn’t matter what I read, it’s the tone you use. She doesn’t understand the words, anyway. Now, where were we? The champ began the fourth round like a man possessed, going straight for his opponent’s body.”

If four-month-old baby Mary can be mesmerised with big style and small content (and Tom Selleck’s beautiful blue eyes), I can too.

We have a vision of how our story will go (well – I do…) but, when it gets to the nitty gritty of putting fingers to keyboard, visions can get lost in a flurry of ego. Just because it’s written down, doesn’t mean an audience has to read it. For writing to extend beyond me, I have to envision the reader’s needs.

.

About Simone

Crazy hair, solitude seeker, at peace in the natural world, Simone Yemm dedicated over three decades as a professional flautist and teacher. In 2008 she completed a Master’s in Journalism, specialising in editing, and continues to hone her skills as a writer. After a series of crises led to an emotional breakdown, Simone developed a passionate interest in mental health and shares her story to educate and support the wider community. With 25 years of marriage under her belt, she successfully raised three and a half young men and a chocolate-brown Burmese cat. A mean feat never to be underestimated.

www.simonelisa.com

As a novice writer I’m not in a position to state what to do for successful writing. But just as politicians learned over millennia, and drum into us with negative campaigning, it’s easy to know what not to do. As I lurch my way through another memoir, here are a few things I’m learning not to write:

  • Exclamation marks! They’re so annoying!!
  • Presumed fact. Belief isn’t fact. Back it up or acknowledge it’s a personal belief. This is a fact.
  • Half-truths. It’s difficult to develop empathy for a character claiming everyone is wrong and they are right. With only one side of the story, I instinctively distrust the assumption of innocence. What aren’t you telling me? Be vulnerable – tell me the whole story.
  • 1+1=3 Whatever the scenario (fact or fiction), give me the numbers and I’ll finish the sum. Our lives are unique – to us. Our stories are relatable – to everyone. Grief. Love. Fear. We all experience them in one way or another. I haven’t grieved the loss of a marriage, but I have grieved the loss of a career. Show me grief in the guise of divorce, and I’ll see the sum of your despair.
  • Tyipng erorrs. It’s hard to proofread you’re own work, and even with countless professional eyes on the the manuscript, typos slip through. But if there’s more then one per page, ewe need better professionals. Excesive speling, gramattical, & structurall, erors disturb the most forgiving of reeders.

For 36 years I taught eager (and disinterested) young people to play the flute. As years went by, I discovered how much more we learn from mistakes than we ever do from successes. I want to raise my standards as a writer and continue to hone my craft, and paying attention to both what works and what doesn’t is helping me do that.

I want to see the villain’s face crumble. Hear the soldier singing. I need to touch the warm flesh of young lovers, taste the salty tears, and smell the charred remains. Whatever vision you have for the story burning inside you, make it one we can all see. Remember your reader. Because then, much like baby Mary staring adoringly into Tom Selleck’s eyes, your story will find an audience.

Song to Myself

She who always knew that she was destined – destined, mind you – for more than domesticity never suspected that perhaps her knowing might be nothing more than the soul’s delusion holding imprints of hopeful mystery. This knowing comes now to bother her in the hubble...

How to Teach Boys to Respect Girls

Before my son was born, I didn’t think it was my problem to raise good men. I’d been working with raped and battered women as a women’s rights advocate for many years, and had seen my share of sexist atrocities by men-gone-wrong. My aim was to get justice for women –...

The Birth of Your Story

I wrote a little poem for you. The Birth of Your Story Avid reader book lover writer at heart had your family or let that ship pass by called ‘smart’ from the start rescued and raised others done your duty left when you needed to stayed too long in ‘maybe’ and...

Memoir Is a Moving Target

I thought I knew what my memoir was about. I was there after all. I thought it was a matter of working out where to start and where to end so I could settle my story down somewhere in between. How difficult could it be? So I started writing, in earnest, in the place I...

The Turning: Reflections on Reaching 50

I am taking the business of turning 50 terribly seriously. I am dedicating the twelve months since my 49th birthday to this incongruous milestone, given that the actual age of my physical body – half a freaking century – and how I feel inside couldn’t be further apart...

Women’s Bodies Over the Twentieth Century

'Civilization is a circle squared . That’s why in civilized societies, women’s lot and Nature’s lot has been such a sorry one. It’s the duty of advanced women to teach men to love the circle again.’ - Tom Robbins, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues If ever our bodies held...