Writing a memoir is like painting a landscape or sculpting a jewel-studded necklace. Each work of art starts as a vision, an idea; then, it evolves into a sketch, and slowly, something real and meaningful emerges.
As the artist applies more heart, soul, truth, reflection, creativity, time, and talent, the richer the piece taking shape.
My second memoir, Willful Evolution, started merely as a reprint of the original blogs I wrote over the past 10 years. Those online posts were the canvas—or the gold chain. They planted the seed of an idea that I thought well-enough conveyed the story I wanted to tell.
But the more I worked on the compilation, the more I realized many of the blogs were written in haste and did not carry a level of detail that would make me proud. Nor did they well lay out the story. They were only a level above a sketch, an uncut stone.
I tinkered, and my fussing added enough dimension, color, and depth that I felt comfortable showing the book to others for feedback. As I received others’ thoughts, the deeper I dove into my own process.
As a result, there is very little left of the original material I mined for the book. It’s been replaced by insights, honesty, and other gemstones I wrenched from my heart, wit, and wisdom as I reflected and dug deeper into my own truth.
Willful Evolution tells the story of the 10 years that have passed since my late husband, Ed, died from lung cancer—only four days after I was laid off from my full-time job. It’s a painful story, with turns I own and feel pride in, my own Cinderella story, with me as the prince holding the glass slipper.
Just as my inner psyche, confidence, and abilities grew and developed over the past decade, so too has this memoir, which is a sequel to Divine Renovations, the story of meeting Ed, falling in love, and losing him.
Early readers said things like this: “It’s great, and there’s too much of your travels with your daughter Molly in the beginning, but I don’t know what to suggest you cut.” (I didn’t either.)
“There’s so much of Molly, but not much of your daughter Sally.” (I knew that was because the past eight of those ten years were difficult for Sally and me. How to tell that part of the story?)
Others said they wanted to see more of Craig, my housemate for most of this period and also a best friend.
While I had gobs of time in March and April to work on the book, getting it to the point where I showed friends and colleagues, as soon as I began receiving feedback, I began receiving client work again as well.
I used the lack of time as an excuse to not really think about how to solve the very real problems and holes people had poked in the manuscript. Then, as often happens when I am working on a long body of work, the inspirations started to come.
I focused on the images that showed my vulnerabilities and the ways in which I began to conquer them, and that led me to know which of the travel scenes with Molly to release from the book.
I followed my heart, and that showed me what to include in terms of the evolution of my relationship with my daughter Sally. And my heart helped me have the conversation with her about the material.
It was easiest to add scenes featuring Craig. Some are amusing, some are sweet; some bittersweet.
Including Craig also pointed me toward the real beginning of the story—the two women I hosted when they were students at the International Language Institute. It was welcoming them into my home for a month at a time each that helped me know I wanted to find someone to live with me permanently.
Focusing more on Craig also brought another a-ha. I met Craig in a business networking group called Business Network International. BNI played an enormous role in my personal growth, and in my ability to secure my own future. Of course it belonged in the book, along with several other of my colleagues, and the work I did to grow my business.
A discovery of my grandmother’s writing last fall has also been woven into the prologue.
Each addition brought new and finer brush strokes, more painstaking cutting and polishing of the gemstones.
This week, I will begin designing the inside pages of Willful Evolution, and I expect I will have the book out in print in the first quarter of 2021. That brings me to the “overcoming fear” part of the process—the part where you have angst over hanging the work in a gallery for others to gawk at and evaluate.
I’m working on that part!
One moment at a time.