I still haven’t **quite** finished writing the complete first draft of my memoir, Growing Up Crazy. But I have written something in my memoir every day, without missing a single day, for a little over a year and a half. For me, with my dismal track record, this is quite an accomplishment. Especially considering that on some of those days, writing was just about the last thing I wanted to do.
Here are some examples of what I mean: I wrote several paragraphs in my memoir on the day I was scheduled to have surgery under general anesthesia, less than two weeks after my doctor had looked at the growths on my face and neck and said: “Yes, that’s cancer.” I, too, believed the growths were cancer, because back when I was a nurse, I took care of several patients with skin lesions that looked a lot like mine, lesions that were diagnosed as skin cancer. But yaay, according to the pathology report, the surgeon and I were both wrong. Even with the swollen lymph glands in my neck and groin area, I did not have cancer!
I also wrote on the two days during the past year when my husband had two different surgeries, and I wrote something each day during the week and a half when my husband and I had the flu. I wrote every day during the holidays, and I wrote when I flew from New Mexico to Connecticut to attend my granddaughter’s wedding, even though I HATE to fly.
Since the covid-19 coronavirus pandemic began, which seems like a lifetime ago, I have continued to write every day without fail, even on the days when two of my dearest loved ones had emergency surgeries, both due to probable cancer that also turned out NOT to be cancer, yaay! Then I wrote on the very scary, worry-filled days after my granddaughter and her husband tested positive for covid-19. (They are fine now, Praise the Lord! My granddaughter is busy catching up on her doctoral studies, and her husband is still working online for Harvard University, where they met as graduate students.)
Even on my most stressful days, in the nineteen months since I began writing this draft of my memoir, I haven’t missed a single day of meeting my daily writing goal. How am I doing it, you may ask? By putting into practice the principles contained in a brilliant book, Mini Habits by Stephen Guise. I have read dozens of self-help books about how to stop procrastinating and beat writer’s block. But Mini Habits is by far the best self-help book of them all, because — unlike the others — it works!
Thanks to my mini habit of writing every day, come what may, I have no doubt that soon — Lord willing — the first draft of my memoir will be finished and ready for editing. And then, YAHOO, it will finally become: A Real Book!
Most days, I write at least a couple of hundred words in my memoir. When I’m on a roll, I write a thousand or more words. But even on my most difficult days, when I don’t feel like writing anything at all, I still force myself to write a bare minimum of 25 words, because that is the minimum goal I set for myself after reading Mini Habits. Thanks to the author Stephen Guise, after 45 years of trying and failing to write this memoir, I am convinced that the key to getting the job done, is simply this: Never let a day go by without writing at least my minimum number of words.
Writing 25 words in a day is easy-peasy. I can write 25 words in less than two minutes, while I’m half asleep, fighting a headache, feeling totally stressed, and with one hand tied behind my back. Even if my grammar and syntax are really bad on those days, it doesn’t matter, especially while I’m writing my first draft. That’s what editing is for, after all — to smooth out all the rough spots.
Here is another very important thing I also learned the hard way: editing needs to wait until AFTER the messy first draft is completely finished. I used to try to edit while I was writing my first draft, but all it did was bog me down and hamper my creative flow. The most important thing, during the first draft, is to keep your momentum going. The key is progress, not perfection, and the key to progress is persistence. Not talent, not genius, and not even the greatest of writing skills. Daily Persistence is The Key to Achieving My Goal.
I recently had a really rough day on which I was only able to write 36 words. Here are those three dozen words, exactly as I wrote them:
I lose consciousness again. When I awaken some time later, I open my eyes and see that the nun is still there. And that’s when it happens. The scariest thing that has happened to me yet.
I stopped writing at this point, not because I wanted to leave the reader hanging off a cliff, but because — even after 53 years — this particular event in my life is still very difficult to think about, let alone write about. But even so, I was able to pick up where I left off the very next day. I have written at least a thousand words since then, and moved well beyond this particular traumatic memory. Here’s a bonus: praying, and then writing about this painful event, gave me new insight and healing!
It helps, when I’m writing about my traumas, to remember that my story has a very happy ending. However, before I can write the happy parts, I have to write my way through some really hard things. Right now, with the pandemic craziness going on, writing about my trauma history feels even more challenging.
But, despite all the changes and uncertainties that are happening today, I am happy to report that the first draft of my memoir is nearing the end. And I’m Happy Dancing!
It also helps to do something relaxing every day. First on my list of daily stress relievers is prayer and Bible reading. Second is some kind of physical exercise: planking, riding my stationary bike, running in the yard with our two rescue dogs, or lifting weights. One of my daily mini habit goals is to do at least one plank or one minute of cardiovascular exercise, which often turns into a full workout. (Again, see Stephen Guise’s bestselling book, Mini Habits, for a full explanation on how this works.)
Another thing that helps me unwind is playing around with computer graphic design. I have enjoyed endless hours of creative fun, designing book covers for my memoir. Here are a few of my cover designs, starting with some of my older attempts. (All images in this post are subject to Copyright © 2020 by Linda Lee @LadyQuixote. All rights reserved.)
This last design is my favorite… I think. Being a bit of an OCD perfectionist, it is still subject to change. (In fact, three days after I posted this blog, I made one small change to the following cover — I italicized The Oprah Winfrey Show, because proper grammar dictates that names of television shows are always to be written in italics. Duh, I don’t know how I overlooked that!):
Here is the back cover — (which I have updated six times since I first posted this blog):
And this is what the full cover will look like, when laid out flat:
SO, now you know what I’ve been doing for the past year and a half, and even more so since the pandemic shutdown began. This is why I haven’t been blogging or commenting on other people’s blogs as much as I used to do. Writing a book is very labor intensive. Even on the days when I only write a minimum number of words, I am still thinking about what comes next in my story. Some days, just thinking about it takes up most of my energy.
I probably couldn’t even write my story at all, if it weren’t for the couple of years of compassionate Christian talk therapy that I was blessed to have, plus the Neurofeedback treatments I was given in 2017, to treat my PTSD. For this, I am grateful beyond words.
Thank you for stopping by, I really do appreciate it very much. Comments, suggestions, and constructive criticisms are always welcome. God bless you! Stay Safe and Stay Sane! Take it from someone who knows: going crazy isn’t a trip you ever want to take. ❤❤❤
2 Timothy 1:7 (KJV)
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
Copyright © 2020 by Linda Lee @LadyQuixote. All rights reserved.
July 23, 2020 update — since writing this post, I’ve come up with even more designs for my book cover. Here’s one of my new favorites:
I don’t even know which cover is my #1 favorite anymore! 😀