Updated: Aug 14
I have plenty to say but I don’t often say it. My opinions and theories have multiplied over each year of my life and I have developed them subtly.
I built my opinions and theories over my four decades of experiences and my reels of memories. Some of these may even be true. True to me, or to you or universally. True now, or once or are yet be.
Last year I published a memoir of a select number of these musing and observations. I demonstrated them through the stories of my life. I retold events and described the others who were featured along the way.
Plenty of people have asked me where to start writing a book? Others have commented that they themselves are not old enough or interesting enough to fill an entire book. I don’t know if I agree with that. If we think of the tales we tell each other every day, the ones we recount to our friends, our colleagues, our children, even our therapists, I would argue that there are mountains of books within each of us.
That is not to say that we all enjoy writing or even have the inclination to write a letter, let alone a book. I love reading how authors wind together their own examples. I wondered if I would find a joy from the process and a peace with the outcome. I was attracted to the idea of putting it all down and extracting the ruminations I live with in my lonely head.
I left my job the morning after I waking up with an intolerable frustration. I had every intention of starting the writing process the next day. It was two months later before my pen hit the paper.
I was in a café speaking with a group of women when the contents of one chapter filled my head from somewhere unknown. Just like that, I had formed my first concept and I had a pretty solid idea of how I could string it together. At the stage it wasn’t a fully formed thought. I was anxious and ready to write. I drove home and sat on my veranda looking over the city and down the river. As I sat there I simply grabbed a pen and a notebook and I started to write.
I have heard it said that to write a book, you simply write a book. It wasn't really any more complicated than that. Like most creative pursuits, sitting and forcing the flow to materialise never really works. For instance, some days I feel like painting. Some days I feel like making something with my hands. But on that day, I felt like writing.
I didn't have a deadline or anyone expecting anything from me. I fit my writing time in between the rest of my life.
When I mentioned my intentions to others, I often got the feeling their encouragement was in the world of optimism. rather than certainty they would ever hold my published book in their hands.
Over the course of about a year I wrote pages and pages of handwritten stories. I dictated my paragraphs into my phone as I walked around streets, through parks, and at the beach. I had small notebooks in the car, paper next to the shower to jot down sentences or chapter titles, and words representing the seeds of a sentence or paragraph scattered on sticky notes.
The book itself felt quick and dirty. I would write entire chapters in one sitting, only to cut out much of the contents before the first edit. I dictated my notes on to my laptop, and in turn, I lost all the scribbles, arrows and red pen. Gone now were the scrolled page numbers intended to keep my loose pages on track and somewhat organised.
I probably spent longer in the editing stage than the writing stage. The publisher gave me plenty of tips of how to have the book ready to submit to be editor. The main advice given was to read the book aloud over and over. She said "If you aren't utter sick of it, you have not read it enough". Given the frank content I had captured, hearing it spoken in my own voice, dozens of time was difficult. I found myself critical of the descriptions I has given things and softened parts which occurred as overly emotional.
A particularly emotional part of my writing experience was after I presented a chapter featuring a time in my life that I found especially dark. The brutally honest story was I gave to my editor alarmed her. In response she sent me a link to a legal website. The point of writing a book was partly cathartic and the idea its contents would be scrutinized by someone with a law degree was mildly horrific. They could pull apart my words and take parts out of context at the request of someone with a bone to pick. I deleted the chapter and I ripped up the notes. The act of writing about those experience had been confronting and also provide a sense of relief. So for now, that alone will be enough.
It was not easy to relive everything I wrote, over and over. All range of emotions would come and go, then they’d return and so on it went. The feelings I held for the characters in my life would re-surface and impact my relationship with them in the now. People and places long since passed would become present in my day. As I progressed through the word count, I had many sleepless nights.
I would lay awake and remember words and phrases I’d written. I would panic they would offend particular people with no evidence they would.
In the final stages of my writing, I began to understand how crippling my worry had become in my mind. I had built up a level of dysfunctional significance. It was, and is a significant part of my life. It was an amazing thing to have done. I hold it as significant in my life’s journey and important to my future. At the same time, in the scheme of things, it’s not significant in the slightest. My book sits surrounded by thousands of other stories on the book shop shelves. These other stories were lovingly captured and released to the world just like mine. When I go online to visit my book in the online stores, all the new releases and popular titles are illuminated on my screen. I can search any word or name and dozens, even hundreds, of other publications appear. In this universe, my words have almost no significance at all.
Once I released the book there was a surreal flurry of acknowledgement for the achievement of having published something. It kept the accomplishment alive and gave validation for all the hours of editing and reading, and re-reading. I am pleased and relieved to have gotten it all down and out.
I included a call to action to inspires other women to say out-loud whatever they burn to. Before starting the writing process I felt constrained. In the months since it was released I have developed a new type of peace. I think I would live if my words were quoted on the front of the newspaper. I doubt the masses would agree with everything I wrote. They currently don’t in the rest of life. Although, I didn’t write it for for the masses. It’s not for the privileged white men, for the patriarchy. I was intending to reach the people who hear feminism as a dirty word. I would still be curious to discuss topics with them if the stumbled into my audience.
I wrote it for the women who are, and who long to be, open and vulnerable with themselves. It is my wish to create a home for the unsaid and share hope from a memoir that continues to inspires me. It reminds me we can do anything.
Big love, Frances 💗