Artist-in-Reticence

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.

Unrequited Love

The first time my heart was broken, my mother, who’d never read a single self-help book in her life, passed me a tissue, and informed me that no man in the universe was worth one of my tears. I was going to wallow, write tormented poetry and spend six months in my...

Why I Struggle to Share My Writing on Social Media

“You should share all your work on social,” an editor told me firmly, some years ago. And from then on, I did. Every time one of my articles was published, I dutifully posted a link to Facebook. And each time I felt miserable, as I anxiously awaited the...

That Dear Little Smear

When that big spunk of a Phys Ed teacher broke my virginity at eighteen, my mother did two things: she put me on the pill and sent me for a pap smear. I didn’t like the sound of that. (Who gets smeared? What is ‘pap’?) Next thing, I was on my back, feet in stirrups...

The Dynamics of Manifestation… I Get It Now

A couple of years ago, I wrote a book to help other writers get their story into the world called Your Story: how to write it so others will want to read it. My aim for it was modest – I was going to self publish it, and it would be a gift to the writers I mentor and...

Are You Sharing or Over-Sharing?

I am by nature a sharer, and am delighted, for example, when people help themselves to food on my plate. As far as I’m concerned, few things are more enjoyable alone than in a group. I am happy to be shared with too. Tell me your secrets, your deepest desires and...

Keeping Faith

You can tell when someone is hungry. People who are hungry have dry lips. Chapped with dry bits that stick every so often when they talk. They do not pause to lick them, the frayed seams at their mouths. Most of my clients at (POWA) People Opposing Women Abuse, a...

Ouch – a Painful Start to 2019

Ouch – a Painful Start to 2019

I rushed to South Africa mid-December, when I got that call. You know the one. Your father is critically ill. During the 14-hour flight, I prayed. Please let him live. I cried when the lights went down. I didn’t know what I was flying back for. A protracted, drawn-out recovery? A father incapacitated? A funeral?

I went straight from the airport to the hospital to see my great big lion of a father lying unrecognizably helpless and attached to a squadron of machines that go ping.

It will be a good story someday. But it wasn’t when, later that night, I prolapsed a disc in my back, and ended up in the same hospital as my father for treatment. Two days after that, my older sister nearly fainted and was admitted to hospital for a week with labyrinthitis. We were dropping like soldiers on the frontlines of a poorly planned military expedition. I spent Christmas, New Year and all up four weeks in physical pain that brought me to tears; dosed to the max on painkillers, anti-inflammatories and muscle relaxants, unable to visit my father again while he recovered slowly in hospital.

Joanne New YearPain is a strict teacher. She demands attention and doesn’t let it stray from the present moment. While everyone was making bold New Year resolutions, I just wanted my body back. Facebook was torture – it was excruciating to see everyone’s celebrations, overseas holidays, or simple joys when I could barely make it to the loo. I learned just how sorry I can feel for myself when I am not upright, strong, capable, dependable, a fixer, a do-er, a person others can rely on.

With each passing day, I was shown a different side to myself, and I struggled to like her.

I’ve known for some time that I’ve been shuttling at a warping pace. I have needed to slow down. Well, here it was. Enforced rest. Enforced nobody-ness. I became someone who could barely stand on her own two feet. So I did the only thing I could – I lay on a bed and worked on my new book.

 

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.

Sometime during this season of horizontality, I wrote this poem:

How to console
the bruised animal of the body
become the kind of hero
you never really want to be
because who would ask
for this pain
even in the name of
transformation and self-development?
Then to find
the spare change of compassion
a true charity
for everything in you that is broken
and may never be fixed
to seek metaphors
for the injury
try to see it through God’s eyes
not take it personally,
this affront to the ego;
trust the story
that is telling itself
through your wretched hours
and call in the happiness
of small mercies
like the water
on your skin;
the sun shaft through the window
that lands on your face.
 
My friend Gabriela asked what I wished for 2019. ‘Just to be free of pain, strong and healthy,’ I said. To which she wisely responded, ‘None of us will ever be pain free in this life…. Perhaps wish for pain you can handle. Or even better that your faith in a higher power changes your perception of pain so greatly and gives you other things to prioritize that you forget about your own pain. Or even better yet…that you are able to soothe the pain of so many other souls that yours becomes infinitesimally negligible. Right there is a prayer worth praying.’
 
Harder to bear than the pain itself, was the treacheries of my own consciousness. I wanted more than anything to trust these words of Mary Oliver:
 
‘All things are inventions of holiness, some more rascally than others.’
 
My family and I have had a rascal of a time. But perhaps I am exactly where I am meant to be as I learn to love the parts of me that are no ‘use’ in the world; the person I am when I can offer nothing to anyone; when I feel small; unaccomplished; terrified.If You Can Write, You Can Draw - Dov Fedler
 
I had hoped to write a different kind of New Year email to you all – to inspire, lift you up, tell you of the great plans I have for 2019 and the opportunities I want to open up to any of you who want to write. I still hope that email will be written. But now is not the right time as I navigate the uncertainties of the coming weeks – like whether my father and I will both be well enough for us to launch his book If You Can Write, You Can Draw, and how I will manage the flight back to Sydney at the end of January.
 
 
My incredible team have rallied around me, and assured me that they will make sure we are able to offer the 7 Day Free Writing Challenge again to anyone who didn’t finish it or would like to redo it. We’ll be launching my brand-new website soon with heaps of beautiful resources, materials and courses. I will be so ready to offer The Midlife Memoir Breakthrough workshop in Sydney in March (I think we have one or two spots left).
 
And as soon as my body releases me from solitary confinement, I hope to bounce back into the world, with renewed insights, offerings and energy.  

I wish you all a sense of belonging  to your body and soul  no matter what 2019 brings your way.

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.

Make Sure Your Story Is a Story

The biggest mistake I made with the first draft of my first novel is that my main character Mia was passive. She did nothing - lots of shitty stuff happened to her. The problem is that characters who do nothing make us feel nothing. And if your reader doesn't care...

A Simple Exchange of Niceties

Perhaps the truth depends on a walk around the lake. - Wallace Stevens The first available appointment was for next week only. That was in nine days time. Enough time for hands, brains, eyelids and knee joints to form according to the charts. I took a walk. I needed...

Nobody Walks This Earth Alone

Nobody walks this earth alone. TS Eliot wrote, ‘April is the cruellest month,’ but he got that wrong. It is June. Yeesh, it was a bad month. My work threw up one hardcore challenge after the other. I barely had a chance to catch my breath before the next one hit....

How the Scariest Moment of My Life Reminded Me I Am Safe

It was 2am on the second night of my recent visit to South Africa and I was wide awake with jetlag. I trundled down the stairs of my parents’ home, made myself a cup of coffee, called my husband in Australia, checked my emails and called my friend Katrina to discuss...

Warning Signs

For a supposedly smart girl, I accepted behaviour from men that I shouldn’t have. There has never been a single horrific incident, but rather countless events I’ve dismissed as ‘nothing much.’ They go back as far as my earliest memories. Even as a toddler, I used to...

The Long View of Creativity

How long is my vision? Does it have a depth that can rival oceans? Has it curiosity akin to a child’s? Will its manifestation mean something even if I never get to see those results? These are questions I ask as I embark on a new writing project. Queries exploring the...

Catching Up to the Stories Inside

Catching Up to the Stories Inside

Catching Up to the Stories Inside

I recently went to see A Star is Born at the movies: the remake with Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga. Bradley Cooper directs and also plays the lead male character, Jackson Maine – a singer/songwriter and alcoholic.

The morning after seeing the film, I read a New York Times article about Cooper and the movie. Here’s an extract from the article:

“In 2011 Clint Eastwood talked to Cooper about the role of Jackson Maine. But Cooper was hesitant. He was 36; he didn’t think he could play someone that weathered. ‘I knew I would be acting my balls off to try to be what that character was, because I was just too – I just hadn’t lived enough, I just knew it,’ he said.”

Later that year, Cooper went home to take care of his father, who was dying from lung cancer… Cooper held his father in his arms when he took his last breath. In that moment, everything changed for the actor.

By 2015, he felt ready to play the role (of Jackson Maine) in A Star is Born. Now he looked in the mirror and saw it. “Honestly,” Cooper said. “I could see it on my face. I just felt it.”

A few weeks ago, I was trawling through notes to help me start writing a chapter in my book, and I came across a questionnaire Joanne Fedler had asked me to fill out before she started mentoring me – way back in July 2013. The first question on the form was ‘What are you writing or what would you like to write about?’ And right in front of me was a one-liner I’d written which summarises EXACTLY the book I’m writing now. Not the one I started a year ago, but the one I started in October, because the first one wasn’t working.

.

About Elana

 

Elana Benjamin is a writer, qualified lawyer and mother of two. Her work has been published in Good Weekend, The Sydney Morning Herald, Sunday Life, Essential Kids, Debrief Daily (now Mamamia), SBS Life and the Jewish Book Council blog. She’s also the author of the memoir/history My Mother’s Spice Cupboard: A Journey from Baghdad to Bombay to Bondi (Hybrid Publishers, 2012).

And it struck me that like Bradley Cooper, who wasn’t ready to play the part of Jackson Maine in A Star is Born until 2015, I wasn’t ready to write my story back when I filled out that form. Five years ago, I just couldn’t have written that book. I had to learn the craft of writing. I needed time to process my experiences, get some distance from them, and make sense of them on a deeper level. I had to live more. And I had to write more.

I’m not suggesting that anyone else needs five years before they write their books. But I would compare it to being sure that you want to be a mother, or a doctor, when you’re just 10 years old. You have to live many years before you can begin to realise such visions. And in the meantime, you have to be patient and never lose sight of your dreams.

I haven’t been doing nothing in the intervening years (and nor did Cooper – he acted in other movies and a stage play after 2012). All along, I’ve been reading and writing and taking notes and listening to podcasts and working and raising my kids and living my life.

Now I am ready to write my story, the one I knew I wanted to write back in 2013. I can, as Bradley Cooper says, “just feel it.”

Sometimes, our lives have to catch up with the stories that are deep inside us, that we somehow know we must tell but perhaps aren’t ready to yet – because we are scared, or don’t have the tools or the hindsight we need. In the meantime, we just need to keep living and writing.

Come and Join the Midlife Memoir Breakthrough

A Five-Day 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.

The Art of Shutting Up and Keeping Secrets

When we start writing, we get excited and want to share our happy news like a newly pregnant mother-to-be. We want to blab to everyone, ‘Hey, I’m writing a book.’ It’s hard to keep a secret as big and beautiful as this. But we must. If we care about what we’re doing,...

This Is Not the Story I Wanted to Write

This is not the story I was planning to write.But sometimes the stories we don’t intend to tell are the ones that most need to be shared.It begins with a typical night out: drinking and dancing at a club. Except the drink a guy handed me was spiked. I have no...

People with Passion: An Interview with Van Jones

The first time I met Van Jones, we had a fight. I had just landed in the US to do a year of law at Yale, and had ventured out to my first party. I was one of the few with a weird accent and I was trying to find my people. I decided I didn’t like him and hoped I’d...

Writing about Ourselves So That Others Will Read It

  When we write about ourselves, it’s not dissimilar to writing about a fictional or imaginary character. In Hemingway’s iceberg, we see that what we need to know about a character is vast compared to what we show. This depth of knowledge helps us to...

People with Passion Interview with Tanya Savva

'I love this part the best,' I said to my husband this morning. I had just finished nominating Tanya Savva's new book, The Adventures of Kenzie-Moo for the NSW Premier Literary Awards. There's something deeply happy-making about helping other people reach their...

Joanne Fedler Media Spotlight: Jess Zlotnick

'The purpose of freedom is to free someone else.’ -Toni Morrison   I started mentoring writers ten years ago to save myself from starvation as an author in a climate of declining advances and book sales. But something happened in the teaching that saved me from...

Why Books Are the Best Presents

Why Books Are the Best Presents

Why Books Are the Best Presents and All of Our Wins in 2018

 

“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends;
they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.”
―Charles William Eliot

‘I’m so proud of you,’ I sniffed. I was holding the first copy of Xanti Bootcov’s memoir, But They Look So Happy which had just arrived from the printer. From screen to hands is a magical transformation. I adore the heft of paper, the gloss of print. It is a tiny miracle to have walked a path with someone from ‘I want to write a book,’ to holding the book in your hands.

‘And I am so proud of you,’ she said. ‘You did it. You really published me.’

Just as she’d never imagined she’d someday be an author, I too never quite grasped that I’d actually be publishing books and the heat of accomplishment each one would bring me.

A few weeks ago, the delivery guy said to me, ‘You sure buy a lot of books.’

Despite being in an anti-acquiring phase of my life, books have escaped this purge.

A physical book is, of course, a ‘thing,’ and you can, like me, have too many of them and run out of shelf space, which is what a Kindle is for.

But books are not ‘things’ in the manner of a nik-nak. They are not tchotchkes or ornaments. They do collect dust if you are not careful enough, but they take up space in a different way than too many vases or platters do. They are more like sculptures than trinkets. They are art. They tell the story of who we are. We are defined by what we’ve read.

 

“Our books will bear witness for or against us, our books reflect who we are and who we have been, our books hold the share of pages granted to us from the Book of Life. By the books we call ours we will be judged”
―Alberto Manguel, The Library at Night

 

Even if we lose or give away a physical book, it can still stay with and in us. It has been easier for me to let go of some relationships than it has been to get rid of some books.

Books leave their traces in our hearts and minds.

The gift of a book tells someone, ‘There are treasures in here I think you will love.’ It is the most meaningful of all gifts. It is the antithesis of a voucher. It is the ultimately personal acknowledgement of the depths of another person’s humanity.

So with Christmas and Chanukah just here, we want to invite you to bookishly love your family and friends. Joanne Fedler Media has something here for everyone in your life. And let’s face it, a book is such a modest investment given the time, energy and creativity it has taken to produce it, yet it is never a ‘cheap’ gift. People always feel thought about when you give them a book.

Need something for your mother, mother-in-law, sister-who-loves-to-read or grandma-who-goes-to-bookclub?

They’ll be moved to tears by Xanti’s memoir, But They Look So Happy about Xanti’s experience of adopting two six year old orphans in Mexico. 

Or if they prefer literary fiction, my book Things Without A Name (10 year anniversary edition) is a good holiday read. It’s the story of Faith, who at the age of 34 has given up on the prospect of ever falling in love because she’s seen too many love-gone-wrong stories in her work at a women’s crisis centre. It is by far my best book – and I’d love to know what you think of it.

For the children in your life, we have two exquisite offerings – Jess Zlotnick’s What Mouse Knew and Tanya Savva’s The Adventures of Kenzie-Moo – books that encourage emotional literacy and will give you a warm chocolatey feeling as you read them.

Got a doodler in your midst? A latent creative? How about Dov Fedler’s If You Can Write, You Can Draw?

And for poetry-lovers, my 50th birthday collection, The Turning might hit the mark.

I know many of you have already purchased some (or all) of our books – so THANK YOU – your support means everything to us.

 

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.

2018 has been such a huge turning point for me personally and for my team.

We have taken over 130 writers through our transformational Author Awakening Adventure.

We are currently running two overlapping Masterclasses with over 60 aspiring authors.

We’ve published 6 books with the help of the wonderful Karen McDermott of Serenity Press and The Making Magic Happen Academy.

JFM books 

And we already have a line up of books for publication in 2019.

This year we published 22 new writers on the Joanne Fedler Media blog with 29 outstandingly written blog posts, edited by our blog and content manager Jennifer Pownall, who did an awesome job.

In March we are running a 5 day live event in Sydney – The Midlife Memoir Breakthrough. We still have a few places left (at the time of writing this newsletter). While I was creating and curating the Masterclass, I learned so much about how we can shape our experiences into shareable narratives and I want to pass on these insights in an intimate group of writers.

Whenever I mentor my writers, the first question we ask is, ‘who is this book for?’ If you are still reading this newsletter, the answer is, we are writing for you.Thank you for your ongoing support to our writers and to this community.

I couldn’t have done any of this without my incredible team – thanks to Norie, Naila, Lisa, Jennifer, Zed and Jean-Marc who have executed on all my crazy ideas with so much creativity, brilliance and enthusiasm,

Finally, I was asked to write my Soul Story for Karen McDermott’s new magazine Enrich. It came out in a voice I’ve never written in before – and was one of those surprises provoked by the prompt.  I hope it inspires you to give it a go – what’s your soul story? (If you’d like to purchase copies of the magazine as stocking-fillers, you can get some here – it’s filled with other wonderful stories and special offers for readers).

May you have a blessed end to 2018.

Come and Join the Midlife Memoir Breakthrough

A Five-Day 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.

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...

Without Self-Compassion, Why Should Anyone Trust Us?

Celebrity drag queen Ru Paul sings, ‘If you don’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else?’ Amen to this when it comes to the act of writing. All writing begins with self-compassion. To write, we have to own our voice and our right to write. I...

Three Voices, Three Stories, Three Survivors

“My husband hit me.”I saw the darkened bruises on the chestnut brown skin of her face, just under her right eye and asked, “Aayana, what happened?” anticipating the worst before she answered. It was the first time I had heard those words. I had watched my father...

People with Passion Interview with Xanti Bootcov

'I'm terrible at spelling and my grammar is horrible,' Xanti said to me. 'I think I am even dyslexic. But I have a story I need to write, and I need your help.' It has taken two and a half years of dedicated commitment, but finally, today, Joanne Fedler Media is proud...

I Am Well if You Are Well

I was a week away from my due date. I was enormous and uncomfortable as I stood barefoot on the deserted beach. I had survived the past year. Barely. Grief and sadness swirled in me like aurora borealis. Birth demands hope. You have to be an optimist to bring new life...

How to Become a Writer Publishers Want

How to Become a Writer Publishers Want I often get asked, 'How do you get published?' The better question is 'how do we become the kind of writers publishers are looking for?' Here are my thoughts: Write the best goddamed book you can – live what you’ve written. Don’t...

I Dare You to Read This Without Taking Offence

I Dare You to Read This Without Taking Offence

Large change doesn’t come from clever, quick fixes; from smart, tense people; but from long conversations and silences among people who know different things and need to learn different things.
Anne Herbert

My son is over six foot. He wears a size 12 shoe. For all intents and purposes, he is a man. And that is not an easy identity these days. I have fought all my life for the rights of women in the face of what we used to call ‘the patriarchy’ and now goes by the name of ‘toxic masculinity’. And while it does a great job of identifying the impervious pollution of unconscious sexism and misogyny, I wonder what the impact on young men is, being thought of as part of a poisonous environment.

A while back, I was chatting with my son about one of his friends whose father left his wife after an affair.

‘It’s common,’ I said. ‘Lots of men cheat on their wives.’

‘Yeah, not real men,’ he said.

I like that about him – his clarity about what it means to be a man.

It’s an identity he’s been slowly forming through his teen years which has included him speaking up against racist comments (and taking a hit to the head for it) and becoming a vegetarian because he doesn’t want to cause suffering to animals. He’s been teased for his choices by his basketball team-mates, and still orders the falafel when everyone else is eating hamburgers. I find this ridiculously endearing because I know how much he used to love a good hamburger, and no-one would choose the falafel over the burger unless they are driven by something larger than appetite, more meaningful than instant gratification and sturdier than peer approval.

When my son shows signs of not being an asshole, I am proud. I don’t know if telling him this is patronizing, but it probably is. My feminist daughter thinks men get way too much praise for just being decent human beings, which is why the average guy generally thinks much more of himself than the average woman does. Of course, she’s right. She sees the world horizontally right now, but as a mother, I also see it vertically, and at times, even aerially. It’s a function of midlife – we get fly-vision.

I see the ‘and’ rather than the ‘or,’ and it’s with this perspective that I want to build a conversation around what it’s like for young men these days in the #metoo era. I’m talking about those who are outraged by violence, who would never, ever think about hitting or assaulting anyone (let alone a woman) and yet who are loaded with testosterone. I want to hear how it feels to be huge and hairy and sweaty and yet suffused with mindfulness and kindness (words that would make the average guy grimace given how enfeebling they sound).

I’m not making this a competition about who’s got it harder (we know women do), but I do want to speak for our sons, because no self-aware young man these days feels he has a right to have an opinion about anything anymore. I want to speak up for good men because there are many, and women need to remember our fight for safety and equality is not a fight against men.

.

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 know half the folk who’re reading this will get pissed off, because everyone’s ready with their particular form of ‘offence-taking’ and opinion, and because these days social media lets us. And here’s the problem – offence-taking is a binary notion, where you’re right, so I must be wrong. But I’m a bit over all that, and I’d much rather we both just listen without anyone having to claim a victory. Rumi reminded us of the field beyond notions of wrongdoing and right doing, and that’s the venue for this dialogue.

Raising a son has given me a passport to a world I would never have had access to otherwise. I grew up with sisters, with an artist for a father. Until my son, I’d never watched a boy-sprout grow into a teen-wolf and then into man-form. I’ve been so committed to working for women’s voices that I have, at times, tuned out from understanding the harmonies that are necessary for us all to sing together.

No matter the righteousness of our intentions in one direction, we will always create collateral failures. This is the nature of all human endeavour, which ought to be the antidote to our hubris, and give us permission to change our minds. Our opinions, enthusiasms and devotions should shift as we grow in consciousness. This is what it means to become a true adult, something Toni Morrison calls a ‘difficult beauty.’

With my eye fixed on the longing to end all violence and to create a world where no one has a #metoo story, I also want to open up the dialogue, so we stop generalizing about ‘men’ and ‘women.’ We’re smarter than that and life is more complex than these blunt stereotypes. I want my understanding of suffering to include the quiet agony of young men who have committed suicide before anyone ever knew that macho-heart was breaking.

As a radical feminist in my youth, I want to say that I can’t imagine I was an easy mother for a boy to have. I was vehemently anti-violence which meant ‘no toy guns’ and ‘no violent video games.’ I had strict rules about how boys should behave, and my son stress-tested all of them. I read every book on parenting and then threw them all away. I regularly accepted my abject failure as a parent and resorted to praying when my strategies crumbled. It was only when I saw a therapist who told me to ‘untangle my story from my son’s story,’ that I began to understand that my form of parenting was a form of bullying itself, a way of castrating potential (anticipated) violence. This is a form of toxic expectation, just as bad as expecting our children to be gifted, heterosexual, religious or some other projection of our own unlived life or congested consciousness.

I want to take responsibility for my role in the world we have, to stop blaming others, and to unhook from my own tendency to slip into the victim-role when things are not going my way. I hope I can model this for my children so that they can both move forward in their lives looking for the ‘and’ rather than waving slogans.

I want the chance to speak to people who want to listen to what I know. And I want long conversations with people who know things I need to learn.

Download Things Without a Name Free E-book

Joanne Fedler Media blog joins the global women’s campaign, the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, which starts from the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (25th November) up to Human Rights Day (10th December). We would love you to share these stories on social media (using the hashtags: #OrangeUrWorld #OrangeTheWorld #HearMeToo #EndVAW), with your girlfriends, mothers, daughters, friends and sisters.

During this period, Joanne Fedler’s book, Things Without a Name (10th Anniversary Edition), can be downloaded for FREE.

Things Without a Name by Joanne Fedler

Download Things Without a Name E-book

(Please check your email after clicking Submit for the download link)

Oops! We could not locate your form.

Things Without a Name
(10th Year Anniversary Edition)
by Joanne Fedler

Book Description:

At 34, Faith has given up on love. Her cleavage is disappointing, her best friend is clinically depressed and her younger sister is getting breast implants as an engagement present. She used to think about falling in love, but that was a long time ago. Having heard one too many love-gone-wrong stories from the other side of her desk, Faith is worn thin by her work as a legal counsellor in a women’s crisis centre. Then one night, an odd twist of fate brings her to a suburban veterinary clinic where she wrings out years of unshed tears. It is a night that will slowly change the way she sees herself and begin the unearthing of long-buried family secrets so she can forgive herself for something she doesn’t remember, but that has shaped her into the woman she is today. Faith will finally understand what she has always needed to know: that before you can save others, you have to save yourself.

Come and Join the Midlife Memoir Breakthrough

A Five-Day 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.

What Is My ‘Voice’ and How Do I Find It?

When we start writing, we’re told we have to find our ‘voice.’ Naturally, we begin looking for it.
It’s not under the pile of unopened mail.

7 Things the Writing Community Can Do for You

Being part of a writing community has changed so much for me. I have been a writer my entire life, but I have almost always navigated the ocean of words on my own. Only in the last year have I come to realize what it means to my journey to have other oarsmen in the...

Spelling Out My Story

“Bernard! If you don’t stop that, I’ll go get the sack.” That was all Marie said, and her son stopped, looked up in fear, and apologised. Marie relaxed back into her seat and explained, “He knows I’ll hang him in the sack from a tree for an hour. It's funny, he is so...

9 Spiritual Principles to Boost Your Creativity

So many people tell me, 'I'd love to write, but I'm just not creative.' They speak as if creativity is an innate IQ or EQ or an extra nipple some people are born with which precludes the possibility of acquiring it. I think of creativity as a way of seeing, a...

Where Is My Writing Voice?

When I heard the question, “How do I find my writing voice?” I had this vision of searching my house. Looking behind the cushions on the couch, checking amongst the debris long forgotten in the back of my wardrobe, maybe even turning out the rubbish bin in my...

Buoy

1 It is four years to the day. The pillow next to mine whispers this in my ear just before I open my eyes to the careless daylight. I wonder if it is a deficiency – perhaps a leak sprung in me after he died - that in all the time that has passed since we lay together...