I’ve been asked many times why Mosaic Heart took so many years to write. Sometimes people follow that question with “Is this normal?” I don’t think it’s the norm to take more than ten years to write a book, but I also don’t believe my experience is that unusual. A book will take the time it takes to come into its full expression, especially when we write memoir.
Our job is to make sure we pay attention to what needs to be included and to avoid putting up unnecessary roadblocks or allowing our inner saboteurs to derail us.
Most, if not all of us, will experience those times when we allow ourselves to get derailed—whether it’s because we let ourselves get overly busy or deep inside we question the worthiness of our story. And then there are those times when life gets in the way or slows us down—those times when we need to pause, when we need to stop and consider the possibility that the story we want to tell may not yet be complete. It’s up to us to stay alert to the reasons behind our starts and stops.
When I look back at my writing journey with Mosaic Heart that began in 2008, I expected my memoir to follow a certain arc: childhood to marriage to motherhood to breast cancer to recovery—told in the context of the discovery of my voice and my inner knowing. However, life continued to transpire, and by 2014, I was diagnosed with a second cancer. Along with those two cancer experiences were the events that took place within my marriage and family and a deeper calling to the work I do today as a writing coach, editor, and publisher.
At some point, it became clear that my original story arc couldn’t hold. It no longer fit. With that realization, came the biggest “crossroads moment” in my writing journey.
It took a few months to allow all the questions to bubble up; they didn’t show up all at once. The process was more of a slow release. As I answered one question, another appeared, which then required that I take the time to consider the answers. Some of the biggest questions included:
- Are my two experiences of cancer the lens through which I tell my story?
- Could my two experiences serve as the first and second part of my memoir?
- Is there a middle that needs to be included or is it more appropriate to bring in other aspects of my life in the context of those two experiences?
- Do I choose to leave out parts of my original manuscript?
- Would the parts I remove be part of a second memoir?
Mosaic Heart is largely about my attempts to control the events in my life and ultimately my need to surrender to what was in the highest good of all concerned, most especially me.
As I wrote, I continued to learn that lesson of releasing my need to control. The writing process itself became another way to take in the lesson. I tried as hard as I could to control what needed to be included, and with each forced approach, I was forced to see that it wasn’t working.
Yet, each time I got quiet and listened deeply, I found my way. Ultimately, I came to know that this memoir had to be about my two experiences and my personal transformation in the context of those experiences. Woven throughout are some essential pieces from childhood as well as what happened within our family and in my marriage before, during, and after cancer.
Today, I know that Mosaic Heart became exactly what she needed to be. And, as I’ve expressed often, she continues to be one of my best teachers. Her work is far from over … for me and for so many others. And for that, I am forever grateful.
In your memoir writing journey, are there times when you are unclear about the direction you’re going? Have events occurred in your life that make you question whether your story arc, and even where you begin and end, need to change? What helps you know you are on track? How do you allow for the possibility of a new direction or new focus? I’d love to hear about your experiences as you write your memoir!