Hi friends. I’m thrilled to present this guest blog from one of my newest writer-friends, Susan Sparrow. She’s based in New Orleans . . . but we won’t hold that against her! 🙂
If you love this as much as I do, hit the like button to let us know.– Jason
I’m uncomfortable giving advice. I don’t know what I’m doing. Sometimes I feel like a fraud. But I’ve actually learned one or two things over the years, and I’m going to share one of the best with you. It’s not wild, new or different. I bet you’ve even heard it before. However, having worked in advertising for many years, I know that most people need to hear a thought, idea or concept somewhere along the lines of twenty times before they are likely to act on it.
So here goes.
Hopefully this is at least the twentieth time you’ve heard this piece of advice. Many great writers have said you should write without anyone looking over your shoulder. Absorbing that, then implementing it, was the game changer for me.
A bit of background first. My mom passed away suddenly in 2018, my dad, less suddenly so in 2019. For the previous ten or so years I’d been secretly working on a memoir about the process of slowly losing my vision to a rare autoimmune disease.
That book sucked.
It was grueling to write in every way and it was terrible in that special way of some first books. Today it’s dying a slow death in a desk drawer, as it should. I look upon it now as a ten-years-in-the-making, ultimately-somewhat-helpful therapy session.
In the end though, the fact is that it’s unreadable, a reminder of how not to write, all because I pictured my parents reading it and how terrible they would feel, how powerless to help me, to fix my predicament. So I toned down the fear, the horror, the anger along with the expression of those feelings and in so doing, condemned the whole lackluster effort to an ignominious death.
But to tell this story truly, I must back up a bit more . . .
I come from a family of readers. A crucial part of this anecdote is that I once heard my mother state that she’d rather be dead than blind and unable to read. Obviously a bit of hyperbole on her part, but it stuck with me.
When I was diagnosed, I hid the info from both Mom and Dad. Although I often revisit my decision, to this day I can unequivocally say I’d keep that secret all over again to spare them the torment of knowing something was seriously wrong with their second child.
My point in revealing this is that, as bereft as I was when my parents passed within less than a year of each other, and despite how horribly callous it makes me seem, there was one upside, a silver lining, if you will, for me as a writer. I’m now free of imagining their soul-shattering parental heartache as I write about my daily life with vision loss. And my writing has improved because of it.
To make a gross generalization, many writers tend to be introverts, private people who watch carefully before doing, who read the room before speaking, maybe self-medicate before dancing, even in a crowd.
Maybe? No? I’m the only one?
Okay I get it. But when it’s just you and your laptop or you and that blank page and favorite pen, write like no one’s monitoring you, even if just from inside your head. The dirty, the super-personal, the shocking, the private, the unique-to-you, that’s what is interesting, what rivets a reader’s attention to the page. It’s what we all want to read. And you can’t write those things with someone metaphorically leaning over your shoulder.
Even if you’re not writing memoir, you can’t write anything well if you’re imagining relatives clutching their pearls saying, “Oh my heavens! I wonder where that bit came from!”
So cast them all off and write like you’re alone with the door locked. Your authentic self has the power to catapult you to another level.
I don’t know what I’m doing. I often feel like a fraud. But then I remember that I am the expert on me.
If I write about my thoughts, my experiences or even the most helpful advice I’ve learned, then it should ring true and hopefully resonate with and inspire another writer to dig deep and share from within their most intimate spaces.
Someday I may open that desk drawer and try to revive that watered-down, disingenuous memoir manuscript with everything I’ve learned since.
Because I now try to integrate that one piece of advice into my writing process, to write with abandon, I’ve come to believe that eyesight isn’t necessary to create better work, but unencumbered vision is.
You can reach Susan at Sparrowsueauthor@gmail.com
4 thoughts on “Write with Abandon | a Guest Blog from Susan Sparrow”
My daughter gave me a guidebook entitled “The Story of my Life”. Its subtitle reads, If A Story Is In You, It has to come out. It’s probably 100 pages of suggestions on topics to include in your “story”.
I started to fill in some of the pages. I’m thinking someone else needs to write the story…and use someone else’s name.
This is very well written!
Oh wow, what a lovely and harrowing story from Susan. I would definitely love to read her first book that’s dying a slow death in the drawer. Not sure if she’ll see this, but I’d just like to thank her for this post. And thank you New Bayou!
I can’t wait for more!
Love this – and not only because this resonated “To make a gross generalization, many writers tend to be introverts, private people who watch carefully before doing, who read the room before speaking, maybe self-medicate before dancing, even in a crowd.”