Book recommendations, MS, reading, writing

Writing: From Phobia to Freedom

Any writer is a reader first, and I’ve always been an avid reader. However, when it comes to which books I read, like most things with the monster there are two parts of my life: before relapse and after relapse. Having RRMS, I’ve obviously had many relapses. I’m talking about the life-changing, brain-frying relapse that hit me in December 2015, before I had a diagnosis. That story is here. I’ll call that relapse Ralph.

Before Ralph, I was voraciously devouring the classics and literary fiction that make up my husband’s extensive book collection. He once dared me to read Clarissa by Samuel Richardson, a wee book of 1536 pages entirely written in letter format. Epistolary is the technical word, apparently. Sounds like a virtual urinal 😜. Clarissa ended up being one of my favourite books of all time. Don Quixote by Cervantes is another that seemed daunting but I loved so much I will make myself read it again one day.

Despite having a degree in French Language and Literature, I always hated writing and avoided university courses that had an essay component as much as possible. Give me a factual test any day, don’t ask me to articulate my thoughts in writing. I was wracked with paralyzing self-doubt that I could ever adequately express the thoughts bouncing around my skull. Or that the thoughts were even worth expressing.

When I was on maternity leave with our third child in 2010, I started my Masters and one of the first courses was statistics. I hear the collective groan, but I surprised myself by really enjoying it. Writing the initial essay was the first time my thoughts stopped bouncing and ordered themselves into words, then paragraphs, then into the very first A+ in my life. More importantly, the professor complimented me on how clearly and succinctly I had reasoned my arguments. Amazing what a difference a few words, and twenty years of experience, can make in a person’s self-perception.

Fast-forward to 2015. I hadn’t yet met Ralph, but I had been relapsing every six months consistently for five years, luckily always bouncing back completely. One of my favourite memories of my career is lunchtime in the staff room with certain colleagues. You know, the ones who speak their minds and the subject matter sometimes gets a bit bawdy but is always hilarious? Many lunch hours sharing stories and loud laughter with people I still consider dear friends, even if we hardly see each other.

Anyway, I shared some (not all, I was a grade one teacher, for Pete’s sake) of the more adventurous, sordid tales of my adolescence in the 80s, as well as the story of how I met my husband, which was also in the 80s as it happens. I had several people tell me, sometimes after staring at me wondering how I’m still alive, or with hearts in their eyes as I recounted my personal love story, that it sounded like a movie or I should write a book. I thought little of it, until that summer when… wait for it… I had a dream.

https://youtu.be/yM4e8GUP0Cs

Sounds stupid, I know. The first time I dreamed the title and the first line, I woke up and thought, weird, and moved on. Then I had the exact same dream the very next night. Always a believer in signs, I opened up a blank document and typed that first line. For the next six weeks, the story wrote itself, around 80,00 words, my imagination filling in the many places my memory couldn’t locate. It was an unreal, life-changing experience.

That project sat on my iPad until the following September, when the residual effects of Ralph’s visit forced me to face the fact that I could no longer teach. Reading has always been a loyal companion but I found that not only did the cog fog make reading really difficult, even holding a physical book took too much energy. Thank goodness for digital books and Bookbub!

All my brain could handle at that point were romance novels, and I had to face my own snobbery to the whole genre that had me, with the exception of a brief Danielle Steel phase when I was 18, too embarrassed to even go to that section in the library. There is a reason that romance represents such a large proportion of all books sold. People, okay mostly women, love a love story. For obvious reasons.

Spending so much time reading, I started noticing the formulaic nature of a lot of the books, not to mention some atrocious quality issues and that lead me to beta reading. I joined some groups on FB, read some interesting manuscripts, and finally felt brave enough to share parts of my manuscript with a few people, including one full exchange. I valued the feedback and wrote several more drafts but I really suck at rewriting. “Killing my darlings”? Yeah, I suck.

What sucked even more, was that even though I was proud of having written it, when I asked myself “What is this book actually about?” You know, that rather important question you should ask yourself BEFORE you write 80,000 words? I had no idea, really, and ‘it’s the story of how I met my husband’ is just, well, blah. While I will always love reading that story, and maybe someday I will rework it so it actually follows proper novel structure, for now it hibernates.

I’ve started a few other projects since then, but I usually get to chapter 7 or 8 and it fizzles out, or my brain decides to start a different story. My latest project has made it to chapter 11 because I finally decided to try outlining, and found some awesome books and resources from C.S. Lakin at Live, Write, Thrive. Thanks, Suzanne!

The other tip I have been making myself stick to is to Just. Keep. Writing. I’m a terrible perfectionist and will reread the same chapter 16 times, trying to fix it but unsure how. So, I’m not letting myself look back more than a few paragraphs each day until I finish the first draft.

To keep up the forward momentum I signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo for the first time starting July 1st, with a word goal of 30,000. It is really helpful to have a virtual writing group that is all working towards a similar goal. So far, I have written over 9,300 words and am enjoying getting into a more regular writing routine.

Launching this blog last month was a huge step in getting over the phobia of sharing my writing. I started this way back in November 2016, but didn’t have the nerve to actually share it until June 2018. Imagine my surprise when I finally launched and the Bad Writing Police didn’t show up at my door to confiscate my iPad. People were more supportive and encouraging than I could have imagined. Not to mention that I picked up almost 100 followers from that first post! Mind. Blown.

I thought I would be tapping away and sharing in solitude, happy if even one person from my personal life bothered to read my ramblings. And frankly, even if nobody followed I would keep going. That’s a lie. Knowing my words might have meaning to even just one other person is huge.

In light of my commitment to myself to #facethefear, in September I’m going to a writing retreat. I am equal parts excited and terrified. Sharing my writing with people face to face? Ack! I’ll let you know how that goes, it should be a great adventure.

Any other writers out there? I’d love to hear your stories. If you have a phobia about writing, I strongly encourage you to give it a try. Whether you choose to make up stories or write down some of your own, there is something magical that happens when you silence that inner critic and let your words flow; it allows you access to a part of yourself that perhaps has been hiding for too long. You don’t have to share it, just write it. You may surprise yourself.

Wow, this was a long post. Thanks so much if you stuck with me to the end!

Have a great week everyone!

❤️ Amanda


** A book series I recommend for romance, vicarious travelling and delicious food descriptions, is Laura Bradbury‘s ‘Grape’ series. Laura understands the Spoonie life better than anybody. She had a liver transplant last year for a rare, life-threatening autoimmune disease, and is making the most of her new lease on life. She recently released My Grape Paris which brought me right back to the six months I lived in Paris around the same time. They have villas to rent in France, too!

40 thoughts on “Writing: From Phobia to Freedom”

  1. “Virtual urinal”, I really laughed at that.
    Yes we must support our sisters, “adjust our crowns” and persist. Like you I read. A day without reading is a day wasted, I always tell that to my kids.
    Write on. I am too. The perfectionist in me scraps and edits. … And thats OK. One day is one day for all of us. I send a hug Amanda. Loved this post.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Fantastic post Amanda! Thank you for the book recommendation as well! I love finding a good book to read. I won’t say I have a phobia of writing because I do someday want to write a book. I guess there might be a phobia with that though because I am afraid it will not be good enough. I guess most people probably have that kind of fear though. We will see what happens in the future! I hope you had a lovely day and I hope your evening is restful!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks so much Alyssa! I think it is a really common fear, but it’s important to get past that and figure out what kind of book you want to read and write that book. I have no idea if I will pursue my novel through to actually publishing it, but I’m loving the process and learning about the craft of creative writing. Unlike you though, I’m not working. I hope you can find time to start your book project soon, even just for yourself. I read a post where someone (there’s that good memory 😉) said that if you wrote 140 characters a day, the same as a Tweet, you would have written a novel in a year. Breaking it down like that makes it seem more manageable.

      I was happy to read that your headache has mellowed out, I hope that’s still true! I’m feeling alright these days, the monster just likes to come out at night to annoy me the most. Good times. Hugs to you! 💕

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That is a great way to break things down! Of course I do not use twitter and won’t as someone has ruined it for me completely, I won’t mention any names though:)! I really have always dreamed of writing a book, I even have an outline of it. Maybe someday it will happen! I am working but only 6 hours a day, which ends up feeling like a lot! If and when you do pursue a novel, I will buy it because I already know it will be fantastic!!!!

        My headache did mellow for a little while, but yesterday it was horrible!!! Thankfully today it was not bad at all. I am considering wearing my glasses at work, they have glare resistance, instead of my contacts.
        I hope you have a nice evening!!!! Hugs to you as well!!

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Aw, thanks so much for your encouragement, as always. And 6 hours is a lot when you feel crappy most of the time. I had to stop wearing contacts a few years ago because of nystagmus and I think it’s contributed to fewer headaches. I hope it works for you too!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. You are very welcome! Sometimes all it takes is a little encouragement to achieve remarkable things in life! To be honest, even though 6 hours is a lot when I feel like crap I still feel that it isn’t good enough. That is just me being hard on myself.
        I am glad to hear that stopping wearing contacts helped reduce headaches for you. I do not know why I did not think of this sooner. I am probably going to try it tomorrow!!

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Yes, you are hard on yourself, considering that you do your job for 6 hours then spend so much time on your blog writing thoughtful posts and commenting and and encouraging people everywhere. You are amazing, Alyssa!! Let me know how the no-contacts experiment goes. 💕

        Liked by 2 people

  3. Love this post! You are a wonderful writer. I know that writing is not my thing, however I’m a visual artist. It took me years before I referred to myself as being an artist. It wasn’t until people would stop by my house and see my paintings and ask me why I hadn’t told them I was an artist!
    P.S. I loved statistics too!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, Ellen! And it’s reassuring to know I’m not the only stats nerd out there. 🤓 I’ve always found it interesting how some people consider themselves experts on just about everything and others, even when they know their stuff and have experience, are reluctant to claim expertise, or even the name as you said. Three years on I can call myself a writer without feeling embarrassed and hopefully one day I’ll be able to call myself author too. Have a fantastic day! 💕

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Charisse, Thank you so much for your lovely comments. I’m sorry both of us are on this rollercoaster but I have met so many amazing people. It’s reassuring to see how much love and compassion is in the world, just not always in the mainstream where it’s easy to see. Have a wonderful day! 💕

      Like

  4. So many thoughts running through my head—
    I ❤️ 💗 💕 that your going to a writing retreat. I have a huge story to tell that would benefit me to write but I’m not sure I’m ready nor have the skills. Kudos to you!

    Second I used to teach too!! ESOL Teacher for 60 students K-5 in 4 different buildings. I so loved those children.

    I love that you name your attacks like a natural disaster!! Fabulous!

    Enjoy your posts!!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Just write it! Write it for yourself, you’ll be amazed at how fun it is. I know I don’t have the skills, I’m just playing and learning as I go.

      You must miss the kids as much as I do, teaching is such an amazing career.

      Thanks you so much for your support and your lovely comments, it means a lot!! Have a wonderful day! 💕

      Liked by 2 people

  5. What a nice glimpse into your journey as a reader and also a writer. I love how you take proactive steps to be better at writing, overcoming your fears and challenging yourself to go that one step further every time. I have a real fear of writing and am always wondering when someone will finally type an honest comment that tells me how terrible I am. But, as you mentioned, the blogging world has been very kind and patient, encouraging and positive. I intend to keep trying too, in my own small ways, to get better and to let go of my fear so I can enjoy it more for a long time. Thank you for this encouraging and inspiring post. I hope to check the books you recommended. And…I hope to read your book some day. You can do this!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. You are so inspiring and have a great writing style-I am looking forward to the first book! 🙂 That is the one thing I still feel like I can control with this disease…I read as much as I can and write when I can-such a great stress relief! I just picked up 63 books for $10 from someone in my city from Facebook Marketplace-almost all of which I haven’t read and are great titles and authors for me! Going to be a great fall and winter of reading! Love your blog!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Anita! I really appreciate you stopping by and commenting! That’s an amazing deal on books, what a smart way to buy them! There are moments when I could just disappear with unlimited books and a word processor and be happy on a desert island. Thanks for your encouragement, have a fantastic day! 💕

      Like

  7. I have a similar writing story but have only in ths last year or so fully allowed myself to write without that fear of not being perfect. Its all because of online writing sprint groups. Thanks for the follow. Love connecting with writers ☺

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Haha, yes. Going back over my first draft once it’s done could be cringe-worthy since I’ve only been letting myself go forward, no matter what. Whatever, if I get it done, that’s something right there, I figure. And not to be mean, but reading some of the stuff out there now because of self-publishing (which I am not bashing in any way), boosted my confidence that maybe I can pull this off.

        Liked by 2 people

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