Memoir 1 Planning and Writing Writing Resources

I Hired A Memoir Coach

I took a gigantic leap!

I have a tendency to bite off more than I can handle. To jump in without considering all the consequences and yes, occasionally my grandiosity makes its presence known, allowing me to think I can do it all. Alone. I am all-knowing.

Other times, I go into research overload and find out much later that this can be a smokescreen for procrastination. I am great at gathering lots of notes. I can get lost in them. Many are so cryptic I don’t know what they mean a few minutes later. If I look close enough, they will probably lend themselves to entirely new thoughts as the old flit out of this universe and into an alternate one of the paths not taken.

For once though, after the initial, “yes, I signed up for multiple and simultaneous courses” right out of the writing gate last year, and into the freak out from the enormous commitment of it all, I settled down.

I did a lot of soul searching to develop a writing practice I could feel comfortable with. I took part in writing accountability groups and still do. And I joined several workshops, which helped me ground myself while I gained skills and received feedback.

In March, I declared my rough draft as complete as I could get it. All the bones were in place. I had a table of contents. I had a plan for the second memoir. It was time to determine what I really had within all the pages and make a commitment to move forward.

I knew from the beginning that I wanted to write the first memoir in essays. It spans almost 30 years, from high school to homelessness. There are a lot of peaks and valleys and messes in between.

In those years, my Bipolar 1 and ADHD were undiagnosed, and I had a slew of eating disorders. I don’t pretend to be unique in this. But I hid it all. I wasn’t an “in your face stereotypical.”

I own my moments now and share my experiences, warts and all. There is a story I want to share.

In the two memoirs, my message is that those with a mental illness are not from a cookie-cutter. There are as many variables of the disorders as there are people who suffer from them.

So, now I had the draft.

I sat down to rewrite and add those essays I hadn’t been sure how to proceed with.

COVID-19 is getting to me. In the beginning, its lockdown was fortuitous – if that is even a way to look at it. I had nothing to do but write.

But as vaccines became available and restaurants, cafes, and parks opened up, Glenn and I got on the move, taking advantage of San Miguel’s plethora of outdoor spaces.

We can be dangerous with each other and don’t have willpower together. A glance between us can cause a change in plans.

Days passed and time marched on.

I love the Memoir critique group I am in, but I was noticing a bit of a trend. I got sidetracked by explaining and adding information in the discussion that followed a reading and went off-topic from the focus of the essay.

What could I do to make sure the essays stood on their own within the three themes? The essays are bread crumbs, stepping stones, if you will, towards the big breakdown, the climax of memoir number one.

I needed help and a professional perspective to help me hone my scattered mind. To time manage. To create specific goals. I used to schedule, but I really just moved goal after goal to another day. Over and over.

I needed consequences. Tough ones. No excuse ones.

I had joined a good deal of writing Facebook Groups last year. Danielle Anderson’s was one (Write Your Book – Share Your Story – Change The World – Memoir Writing). We scheduled a ZOOM consultation. I was jumping the gun and didn’t have a completed rough draft. But the questionnaire I filled out gave me a great deal to think about.

Some of what it asked me to define were:

  • What is my book about?
  • What is my Why?
  • What is my promise? Argument? Lesson?
  • Why am I the best person to write the book?
  • What is my universal truth?
  • Why am I writing two memoirs, not one?
  • How do I want them published? How do I back up that choice?

And, oh, so many more questions. Yikes.

Danielle offered great value before I even hired her.

Over a year from that initial discussion, I plunked down my credit card and hired her as my Memoir Coach – Ink Worthy Books.

I was positive Danielle would figure out how to get the best from me. Stretch my comfort zone. Not let me slack from my goal. She would not let me get away with being lazy.

But I am ready for that. I want the focused pressure.

My butt needed a fire lit under it.

And I wanted a bit of handholding while being sent out of the nest.

I want to accomplish my goals. I want to write valuable memoirs. I want to get published. I want to be a voice.

She and I meet twice a month, for a year’s worth of assignments and conversations.

My biggest challenge? – I am a scattered thinker. I branch out in thoughts that develop more thoughts and so on. They can be rapid and seem disconnected. If I can’t find someone to talk to at a time, I become my audience and have discussions in my mind for hours. But books have word limits.

For this memoir, each essay (110 of them) had to fit, or it didn’t belong, no matter how much I liked it. I had heard about “kill your darlings.”

Danielle is guiding me on my journey.

I am passionate about getting my point across not only to others but also to myself. I need to learn how to present the highlights and be more concise with my “elevator pitch.”

Of course, these things are new to me.

I finished my assignment for call #3 and sent it to her on Sunday. It required a lot of work. She reviewed and sent me notes, then on Friday, we had our meet-up. It was an extremely productive session, all packed into an hour. Now I have homework — this is keeping me contained and focused. How lovely is that?

I think we are a perfect match. Danielle herself is a very talented writer. She feels deeply and writes honestly. That was a prerequisite. I wanted to work with someone who got me.

It is going to be a year of exercising brain cells. Sifting through advice. Working with the best tidbits Danielle offers. And emerging from the experience with a manuscript I can be proud of.

I am so looking forward to it.

Hiring Danielle Anderson was the best thing I have done.

P.S. If you enjoyed this post and are working on your own memoir, I would love to have you as a subscriber. You can find the Subscribe box in the sidebar. 

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  • Reply
    J. Q. Rose
    October 19, 2021 at 12:45 pm

    I am in Danielle’s group too. That’s how I found you and dropped by. I am excited to hear how Danielle is helping you get clear on your memoir. I only know her from the group. I appreciate her generosity in offering so much time to get folks writing their memoirs. Wishing you great success in your memoir projects–both of them!!
    Janet Glaser writing as J.Q. Rose

    • Reply
      Ria Talken
      October 20, 2021 at 5:48 pm

      Hi There, congratulations on choosing to write! I wish you every success in whatever direction you take. To me, success is in the act of moving forward regardless of where it all ends. Yes, Danielle has been fabulous. The work with her is really paying off as it too requires me to move, to achieve. I am hoping to get both my memoirs out into the world. But I am also getting joy in the responses to this blog. I hope you subscribed and can enjoy future posts.

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