About two months ago I was ready to begin the third rough draft of my next memoir, Healing The Writer. I had finished the second draft in the spring of 2013, and thought this would be a polishing draft. I also thought I had gotten most of the healing experience out of the memoir. I was wrong.
The third draft started at about 58,000 words. It’s now up to 64,000 words, and continues to expand. Just working on this draft has been enormously cathartic – it continues to flush old negative energy out of my system.
The memoir deals with abuse by my Grandmother (Mamaw) when I was 8 years old, which locked up my writing for many years. I already knew that going in. I had remembered the abuse, and thought I had moved through the feelings that had been stuck in my body. But like peeling the layers of an onion, there has been more to release. As that old energy has released, I have felt more and more free. But as well, I have also continued to learn from the memoir, as I put together pieces that seemed separate, but which are now invested with new awareness and connections.
I’m spending as much time on the last third of the book as I did on the first two thirds, because that was the time when the healing was happening. I begin to add things like this to the book:
In Chapter 36, as I began to feel the magnitude of the healing, I originally wrote:
“Words came to me, reminding me about how bold my destiny would be…”
In the revision, I suddenly realized where that bold sense of destiny had first come to me:
“Words came to me, reminding me about how bold my destiny would be – the certainty I had felt when I was 6 years old and knew I was to be a successful writer.”
I then remembered that I had talked about owning that sense of destiny – in Chapter 2:
“When I was six years old I felt very connected with God. I had a sense of peace about my world, and knew – I just knew – that one day I would become a famous writer. It was a sense of destiny as tangible as anything I’ve ever experienced.”
It had been so long since I wrote the early part, I had forgotten about including this, but it was the origin of “destiny” for me. It was powerful to have that destiny affirmed after the healing, and own that it began when I was very young.
Then in Chapter 39, I perform a visualization where I have a man bulldoze the house where the pain happened, much like Forrest Gump did with the house that had caused Jenny so much pain. I’ve published it in my blog, some of you have probably read it. I thought I had a handle on the full meaning of it. At the end of that exercise, I wrote:
“… the driver pushed the rubble backward, into the back yard. It took several passes for each section of rubble, but eventually he exposed raw dirt under the foundation, which hadn’t see the light of day in many, many years.”
In Chapter 40, I had originally written about a few weeks later feeling something holding me back, that still needed to be healed. I wrote in the early draft:
“I could feel a big, black ball of tar way down in my gut…”
In the latest edit, I revised that sentence to say:
“I could feel a big, black ball of tar way down in my gut – like the dark, raw dirt underneath Mamaw’s house, exposed when the bulldozer cleared away what lay on top of it.”
The visualization and what it uncovered happened just that way, but I hadn’t seen the cause and effect. The visualization had an impact on releasing deeper abuse damage. Astounding!
I continue to learn from this memoir in most astonishing ways.
A friend of mine once said “Dan, your books write themselves at their own speed and in their own time. You just have to go along with that.”
I had predicted in 2011 that I would have Healing The Writer published by early 2012. Nope – it is writing in its own way and time. Back then I was writing about healing events that were still too close to me, and I hadn’t fully felt and released the abuse. Based on the expansion that has happened in the third draft, I’m now just leaning back and letting it happen without trying to predict when this book will be finished. I continue to get too much healing out of it to rush it.
I do know this – I’m starting to appreciate how powerful a book this is turning into, as I heal and let the story continue to blossom into what it is meant to be.