137 Comments
Apr 8, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Hello Tanya. Thank you for all the time and energy you put into supporting people here. I'm also enjoying your contributions to Hagitude enormously and find both spaces really affirming. Please can you share something about how you keep yourself safe while sharing intimate parts of your story? I've done a lot of work on boundaries recently after discovering at the age of 50 that my boundaries were paper thin. It's a fascinating and helpful process, but I have't yet managed to integrate my new knowledge into my creative work. I've found myself hiding behind research and science and evidence-based knowledge and ignoring my own gentle emotional intelligent knowing. I now feel drawn to relax back into my essential self and listen to the guide inside. She's waiting patiently in the shadows to show me the way - but how much to share, how raw to be... Whose is this internal voice that says 'who do you think you are, no-one cares about your story / stop being self indulgent / your experience isn't special / stop attention seeking / I can't believe you told people THAT' Is it my own voice trying to protect me, or another critical voice from my childhood? What tips can you offer to craft authentic meaningful edited work - and feel safe when it goes out into the world?

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Jul 13, 2022Liked by Tanya Shadrick

So good of you to engage with people like this, Tanya. I've written bits 'n pieces of a spiritual memoir for many years and it just wasn't coming together. So I set up a blog and started posting stories from my personal experience relating to wider Nature, accompanied by photos that I've taken personally. Working on the website inspires me, though I hold intimate experiences back. I think an arc is showing up and perhaps could download the entire thing and start crafting a central plot but am still resisting it. Why do I resist what I really want to do? Feels like the jist of the story is still too mushy.

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I've just finished your book. I was directed to it via Simple Things to Instagram to my local bookshop where it was sitting waiting on the shelf for me. I read it in two days. I took myself to the beach, to sit beside my sea (that is not really the sea, but a promise of the sea out east) to finish it today. I smiled when I read that in Wild Woman Swimming you advised that it was to be read "outside - may it go waterlogged, sun-buckled and wind-chapped" - as this is how I always christen the books that are my Important Books. My Important Books are not pristine but are spine-cracked, with frayed corners and sand wedged into every crevice.

About half way through reading the cure for sleep I knew it had become an Important Book to me. (As well as being weather-battered, Important Books can be identified as those books that I wholeheartedly recommend to friends and family, but only reluctantly lend in case it should not find it's way back to me.) Fresh from reading it, I don't think I can yet say exactly the specifics of how it is one of my Important Books, I will need a re-read to articulate it fully. I want to re-read it immediately, but I think better to read it in a few months time when my life feels a little less portentous and noisy.

I have never been a more-of-a-comment-than-a-question sort of person (in truth, not even just-a-quick-question sort of person) but here I am, crashing into this generous space you have created, where mainly I just want to say thank you. Thank you for your words, and thank you especially for writing "Because it would be enough, more than enough, to be a person occupied for the rest of my life by what might look to others only an idiotically simple gathering in of small and obscure moments: the collecting of stories from ordinary people like me." This, this is so very key to who I want to be. I will sit with these words, and with the "THE SCULPTOR'S ADVICE FOR ART AND LIFE", borrow them a little, if that's okay, as I try to write ordinary stories of ordinary things and ordinary people.

I hope you are well. And again, thank you so very much for your book.

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Hi Tanya.

I would like to write more about my Dad and his life, but even though it is four years after he died, I still find it painful and difficult to find the words. I wrote a 3000 word assignment for my course about one aspect of his death and it nearly broke me. Your 300 word prompts have been a creak in the door that I have just about managed. Do you have any advice about how to write about painful events and how to create that distance so the pain doesn't overwhelm you? I think you mentioned in a conversation that you need a gap of 7 years, but I can't remember if that was advice someone had mentioned to you or whether I dreamt it.

Thanks again for you so generously creating a caring community to talk about these things here.

With best wishes, Vanessa x

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May 22, 2022Liked by Tanya Shadrick

My question for you: how did you distance yourself enough from your own life for the memoir to be 'crafted' rather than just an outpouring of thoughts and emotions?

And my answers in return: I've started to write again, after not writing anything for myself for about 15 years. I hesitate whenever I read other people's work as I very often love it more than my own. Do I have anything to say that hasn't been written more eloquently by someone else? The way I get around that is just to write, and to try not to overthink it, even if I know it is imperfect, or would benefit from some breathing space and editing.

I am writing for myself, for the pleasure, and relief, of it. Whenever I have to write for someone else (e.g. in work), I find myself constrained by their expectations (imagined or real).

As I'm writing short snippets, I have a lot in my head that doesn't make it into the writing. I wonder if the subtext in my head is making it onto the page, if that makes sense?

I do get stuck with technicalities. In my most recent piece, I tried to write it quickly, without overthinking, but I did try a few different ways of sequencing it. I was describing three periods in time, within 250 words and it felt confusing to me, so I thought it would definitely confuse a reader. After a few tries, I still wasn't sure, but thought it was good enough. I don't think I'd click 'Post' ever, if I felt my writing had to be more than that.

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May 20, 2022Liked by Tanya Shadrick

I worry my ideas are silly and no one will find them interesting

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Dec 10, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Hi, I don't recall how I came across your substack but I'm happy and apprehensive. Where to start? It seems such an amazing place filled with warmth and inspiration. I'm a creative with a full-time job which keeps me away from what I love doing; -painting, writing, being.. I've always written down my thoughts, kept a diary, had notebooks filled with quotes and since hitting 50 and opting to invest my time more wisely, have discovered or rediscovered a love of poetry, prose, the written word which can evoke so much. Apologies if this is the wrong place to post a 'hello' but I opted just to jump in: Feel the fear and do it anyway as they say.

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Apr 16, 2023·edited Apr 16, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Hi Tanya,

I know you through Hagitude, and just found my way here. I wrote my 300 words for the most recent prompt but before I could post it, I became paralyzed by fear. Fear seems to be a constant companion these days. The past half decade I’ve been very much the hermit, retreating from the world and the the sight-lines of those who might feast on my vulnerability. The idea of publishing something personal with my name on it in a place presumably accessible by a google search and upon which I have no control over whether it stays up a month or a year from now makes me feel nauseous like I need to go lay down. It turns out one part of me very much likes the safety of hiding. Yet another part longs to share the depth inside me. These parts are in quite the war.

I don’t want to simply override the fearful part, because that usually leads to a backlash, I've learned. But I’m curious what words you might have for how to bring that part more onboard?

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Mar 24, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Dear Tanya,

Thank you so much for this amazing resource and facilitating this place for all of us to feel safe to share our work.

I loved TCFS and I know it will be one of those books I dip in and out of regularly.

I'm in the very early stages of getting things on paper and I'm finding so many answers to my questions here.

Your attention to detail and links to interesting articles/poems/novels etc to read on the other pages have been invaluable.

So thank you again, I just wanted to join the community and send you love as you care for your mum.

Emma x

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Mar 9, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Dear Tanya,

Thank you for replying to my enquiry and for taking the time to do so. It has been very helpful to learn of how you approached this. I should have mentioned that I have been a 'befriender' in the community as well as doing the work I mentioned in the actual hospice. It seems so obvious that this is the role that naturally leads to scribing.

It's also very useful to learn that it is not necessarily something people want done in order to leave something for family members, but more to do with their own feelings and thoughts about their unique lives and the way in which we each come face to face with our own mortality.

Thank you, also, for enclosing the link to The Guardian article which I shall certainly read.

I suppose it is a case of explaining why I feel writing may offer a way for some people to find that ease or greater preparedness for death. As you say, the talking is probably the true salve, and the possibility of writing some of these thoughts is a way to open the conversation.

Thank you for your kindness, and I shall let you know how I get on.

It has meant a lot to me to read your response. You have a way of caring for your reading community that gives many of us courage.

With gratitude and love,

June

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Mar 9, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Dear Tanya,

I've wanted to ask you for a long time now, about your work as a hospice scribe. I would like to return as a volunteer at my local hospice. I have beena ward volunteer, mainly helping the ward clerk with small admin tasks, flower arranging, cleaning etc.

They do not have a scribe, and I would like to approach them with this idea. I wonder if you might tell me how you, as a scribe,

explain the details of your role and the ways in which you would become "assigned" ( probably not the correct expression) to particular patients. I know it is a delicate environment and

so the practicalities of inviting a scribe will help me in my approach to the hospice manager.

I send you and your dear Mum my love and gratitude.

June

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Hi Tanya,

I just wanted to say a big thank you for all that you do, for all that you give and in particular this section here that I have finally found the time to read through. So many of the questions I might ask have already been addressed here and so I have a good idea of where and how to start in my new pursuit of an age old dream.

This gift from you just keeps giving.

With gratitude

Tracey xx

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Nov 10, 2022·edited Nov 11, 2022Liked by Tanya Shadrick

I was going to ask a question, dear Tanya, and then I lost myself in the spirit of generosity that elicits such open and enquiring contributions from folk with stuff to say ... I marvel at the way you reach out with the key, pop it in the lock for people, and turn it before pushing a door open for them. It really is remarkable. I've popped us onto Substack to explore community building around the values at the heart of the Encouragement Manifesto and I'm hoping to nudge myself into a rhythm of writing - but also into being brave enough to ask others to write for us in the way that they have for you (and us too when I check in on our own archive). You've created a vibrant community and a rich archive (though that always sounds less alive than it is) ... a great model to aspire to.

In the meantime, I have scribbled a story - 70+ thousand words, a start, a middle and an end ... so, a writing question, if I may? Editing ... Stephen King says "to write is human, to edit is divine' ... but, I'm not sure where to start. How do you begin to edit ... what stays, what goes? How do you know what you are aiming for? Sorry, it's a boringly technical sounding question now I read it back.

Warmly

Barrie

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Aug 16, 2022Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Hi Tanya, I hope I find you well and thanks again for creating this space that allows me to come out of hiding. The bubbling cauldron of words inside are now ladled out and allowed to cool down and seen with a more discerning eye. The monthly story archive exercises have enabled me to unleash a body of words I didn't know existed in me. I look over the pieces of work I have written and there is a visceral, organic texture to them; exclaiming feeling like splurges of paint thrown at a canvas. It has built up my confidence, enabling me to rewrite, reshape and edit my work until it feels right. It has been a journey of discovery for me being part of this now 1000 strong writing community.

Trying to use social media properly is a big stumbling block for me. I have ideas for things I would like to try out on social media but lack the knowledge.

The idea of writing memoir had never occurred to me, but your beautiful book introduced me to a new art form that has helped me to reorganise the way I see and value my lifescape.

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Jul 31, 2022Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Val Murray July 23 says she holds intimate experiences back. Maybe this is always at the heart of difficulty with memoir? It took me years to realise that most of my work had its roots in personal and sometimes painful things I think perhaps this was a way that helped me write some of it though. Not memoir at that time but something more distanced written in a voice that wasn’t mine. Those voices helped me shape memories and difficult things yet still hold them at a distance. That’s not to say that when I published a memoir Not The Sky that I wasn’t still processing hugely painful experiences. It’s just that I had more of a track to try them out. Little steps perhaps? Just a thought

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May 20, 2022Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Yes I want to write - there is something within me that wants to come out, I’m just not quite sure what it is! Hard to focus and concentrate on finding IT.

Writing by hand doesn’t work for me so I’ve been writing little short notes on my phone, easy as I always have my phone.

I suppose I fear people I know will mock or laugh at what I write

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May 20, 2022Liked by Tanya Shadrick

First, thanks for doing this. Love hearing what you and the others are sharing and want to impulsively order all the books and get overwhelmed by them all, which is also part of my problem. I feel that my writing is all over the place, For the last several years I have written about my yearly gynecology exams which includes comments from a personified, snarky middle-aged vagina and tied this into other areas of my life, written pieces for a memoir based on pictures as well as other pieces just based on life or a prompt, and then more place based nature writing, I try to be forgiving and just celebrate that I am writing and having fun, but sometimes it would be nice to have a project, something cohesive.

Definitely want to do the list of books/authors. The first author who comes to mind is Abigail Thomas, she is really able to let her humanity shine through without apology. She wrote Three Dog Life about her life after her husband’s traumatic brain injury, Safekeeping, which is a book of short vignettes that make up a life, and What Comes Next and How to Like it.

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Hi Tanya my name is Nicola Veal. You would have know me as Nicola Clay. I believe we were childhood friends in Holsworthy school. Your mum took me under her wing when my mum died, I was 10 then. I am very new to writing and found substack by chance and now have found you. Serendipity is a wonderful thing. I would love to be able to talk with you. If this is at all possible please message me through Instagram. I own a shop called Miss Muffets in Tewkesbury. I have messaged you. I'm a bit blown away by this coincidence I have a story to tell and am very much looking forward to joining your substack community. And I'm ordering your book right now! You were always destined for amazing things and what a wonderful insightful gifted person you grew to be. Sending humble love and peace x

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Feb 12Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Thanks Tanya for your insights into shaping a piece of work. I feel that I am still tinkering around the edges, trying to mould the right shape.

The shape that you created gave it a bolder, more impactful vigour. The larger font size makes it more striking. The deeper, darker title pronounces itself to the reader. The centralised position of the text, with indents either side gives it light and air. Bold paragraph breaks lets you linger with the words, emotions, and meaning of each paragraph. It injects a freshness into the piece that is easy on the eye.

I hope that makes some kind of sense.

I read a short piece from Jon Fosses', Aliss at the Fire. Wow! one big chunk of writing without sentences, but it has a certain power over you; being pulled along by a long train of words.

I just feel that every word, sentence and piece of punctuation sculps the meaning and emotion of a piece of prose.

Still no word from MagNorth, but coming up in April MagNorth are covering a Calderdale year of Culture. As I live in Calderdale, it may appear then.

Steve x

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What a wonderful, generous project this is. My oversized imposter cloak is threatening to bind and trip me, but I think perhaps this is a place in which I can wriggle out of it and share words from within in a more meaningful way. Thank you.

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Jan 27Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Hi Tanya,Thanks again for all of your support over the last few years. I am seeking advice, on the topography of a piece of writing. The way it can be presented to full effect. I am so impressed with the way you have shaped my piece on Board Perfect. I compared it with the piece I sent you. The differences in the line arrangements gives a totally different effect. I read the two pieces and they have a different impact upon the eye. Have you any guidance on this aspect of writing?

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Hello Tanya. I've submitted twice to your writing prompts now, but am still very much trying to understand substack and where / how to access resources already here. I note your list of resources in different media which I have started to work through, thank you for that! And I tried to search a few key words in this thread, to see if there had already been any conversation about structure. I couldn't quite find what I was looking for, but apologies if it is already here and I've just missed it - please redirect me if so!

My issue is: I want to write a memoir. I have read so many (including the authors you recommended to me!) and have a sense of the wide range of different forms that exist. I wish to write about a one year time frame (my pregnancy and first few months postpartum), and have a sense of the broad structure - prologue and 12 chapters, three per each trimester - and the themes I would like to bring to each chapter (each addressing a common fear that women experience in pregnancy). Generally with a sense of imagery and points I wish to cover, I can sit down and create something that all comes together. When I used to write academic essays, I would read everything, make a document of notes, read over those again, and then sit down and compose. Over the course of two degrees I never could manage to make a more detailed point by point draft work for me, the thinking and structure somehow happens in the process of the long form writing. But I've never tried to write anything this big, and I'm struggling, finding that my usual approach does not work here - the material is too vast, so I don't have that overview in my head before I sit down to begin. I've had many attempts at getting my first chapter out, and I get about 800 words in and just don't really know where I'm going, what I should be including, rejecting, how it's going to all tie together. I work in very small timeframes right now out of necessity - maybe x2 40min sessions per week. Do you have any advice about what I can do to move past this block? Thank you, Zofia.

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Recently there are less and less accidents happening. My wife told me that it is like this, because I’m healing. I feel that it is one of the reasons. On the way I’ve found you. Or more precisely: this place made by you. Among the chatter of stories I’ve felt familiar, and not unwelcome. Today I’m saying hello and thank you for making all of this. Mind you if I take a look in search of words, meanings that I’ve once had and lost out there.

Me, I was once forbidden to write, and more than once to speak for myself. Since then I’ve employed myself to do it for others, for a living. I’ve created blunt commercials for dubious enterprises and redundant corporate communications for the last two decades. I hope to reconsiliate with my heart after all of it. And never come back.

PS: English is my second language, I hope to not offend anyone with this fact.

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Oh thank you! I’m smiling too!

And if you have time, it’d be lovely to know what you think (of stuff you haven’t read before!) xxx

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Hello Tanya,

I’m not sure if this is a good place to be asking you this, but in my uncertainty, here goes! I’ve also sent a similar enquiry to Sharon.

As you know, I’ve loved this last year working through Hagitude, and discovering places - your thread there, your Substack here, and more lately my own embryonic Substack - where I can tentatively, and gradually more bravely, step forward as a writer. I’m still filled with gratitude.

One of the lovely Hertfordshire Hags who has become a friend was speedily reading through posts before the threads were taken down. She asked me if I’d be prepared to post some of my writing on my own Substack so that people (if my readership grows!) can share and read it. To be honest, the thought hadn’t crossed my mind, but on reflection, I rather like the idea.

But it wouldn’t sit right with me to just go ahead without knowing what your and Sharon’s views are on this. I know the writing is ‘mine’ as it were, but the prompts were yours and Sharon’s and I’m all too aware of the difficulties and pitfalls writers face, especially at the moment with the emergence of AI and the grip of social media. I wouldn’t like to take it for granted that it would be OK without considering your thoughts. As I said in my message to Sharon, I suppose I am really asking for your blessing, but I also have deep respect for the fact that you might not feel you can give it.

If you have a moment to get back to me, I’d be most grateful and would love to read what you think. Love to you, Sue xx

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Sep 30, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Beloved Tanya - as i sit weeping with you in the closing ceremony of Hagitude, I too who have a small world due to caring for my adult son, would happily invite you to my kitchen for a cup of tea. And as someone who has also been out of touch with my body, I am weaving this into my small New Moon community and would gratefully share it with you. Thank you for all you are and all you have given me and the world

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Apr 18, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Hello Tanya, thank you for responding, it was in reference to what you had initially written in the chat. How would I kick start myself to start writing? There is a part of me which is really wishing to and another part that is hiding in the corner, anything you offer would be helpful! Thank you x

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Apr 16, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Not necessarily writing related but really trying to channel your spirit today as I attempt to take the next step in a work related direction. I’m a children’s nurse/teacher and am desperate to become a Mindfulness Practioner. I’m stumbling along and holding on to the idea that it’s much worse to NOT follow my path. What do I have to loose, if not now, when? And yet it’s so tough! So not a question here ,just musing and trying to take some strength from you!

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Apr 15, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Hello Tanya,

All of the above I would dearly love for you to expand on. This is completely new to me and open to explore. Thank you.

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Gosh Tanya, thank you. Thrilling and scary all at once! I've been - am still - a bit emotionally frozen, too much going on etc etc, so I'm actually using these stories and prompts to try to coax my creativity back out. Thank you for your continued support, it really does feel like you're right there xxx

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Jan 26, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Hi Tanya,

I just recently finished your book, TCFS. It inspired a lot of my own writing about my relationship with my mother. I'm writing a memoir about growing up in the south of the USA, Florida, around rebel flags, guns and too much alcohol. I have 65,000 words written. I'm at the point of needing an editor, maybe developmental help. Do you have any suggestions on what to do next? I was thinking of taking a memoir writing course and getting some eyes on it in that container...Thank you for any insight <3 Amber

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Hi Tanya. Inspired by your seminar for Bath spa students I would like to contribute a piece about gestures of a long lost relative. How do I send this to you?

Jo Baker

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Hi Tanya, hope all are well.

Recently at the workshop in Ilkley you mentioned a Robert Frost poem, quoted it a little, but at great speed and I missed it. Can you remember which of his considerable poems it might have been? many thanks x

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Hi Tanya, how do you switch off in between your writing time? That was one of the reasons I stopped few years ago - I couldn’t turn my brain off. I started to miss appointments, be late for school pick ups, switch off during conversations, burst into tears out of the blue and generally feeling unwell and ungrounded. Few friends simply gave up on me. My long suffering husband wanted to be supportive but …. and on and on it went. Not sure what would have happened if it wasn’t for lockdown. I had to stop as i had no more space in my head and in the house anymore. Different priorities took over. But now I feel that I’m being sucked into the same vortex and, for some reason, it is much scarier this time. How do I turn that tap off? My dad was a poet (still is) and I remember very well what it was like to be next to someone, who’s miles away in spirit. One of the reasons, I consciously never wanted to be a writer. Too much baggage and insanity. It’s funny how all those things happen.

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May 20, 2022Liked by Tanya Shadrick

I've got a 120,000 word first draft on the computer. But now. The next step. How to take that step back, see the threads and the motifs and how to (re)structure. Trying to summarize what I have written concisely is such a challenge. If I don't know how to condense the story in a couple of paragraphs, how can I make someone else see what it is about? Writer friends who have read chapters, love it. But is that enough?

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May 20, 2022Liked by Tanya Shadrick

What keeps bringing me to a halt is getting the balance of honesty and vulnerability right. I know I need to write this as it happened (I’ve already abandoned one attempt because what I was writing didn’t feel honest enough to me), yet if I write it as honestly as I want to it leaves me very vulnerable. I don’t come over well for the most part of my memoir, I’m not proud of how I was, but if I’m to write honestly about my life I need to be able to own it for what it is.

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May 20, 2022Liked by Tanya Shadrick

I’ve tried to write a memoir several times, but I feel my life is still a work in progress and I don’t see clearly how to shape it into a compelling and coherent narrative. Unlike Tanya, I don’t have a single experience that I can define as a gateway into the story of my life.

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I want to write it but I'm scared it will come over as too dark and depressing, when in reality it is a story of hope (and funny at times). I also worry about balancing the tempo of the narrative throughout the book, so that it flows and is enjoyable to read.

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May 20, 2022Liked by Tanya Shadrick

I have a contentious relationship with my family members. They are in denial, or genuinely in the dark, about many parts of my life. I worry that writing my experience would make them really angry, defensive, and even horrified. And would heighten my own anger.

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I think I feel that I don't have a "story". Or maybe that my story is the wrong way round - my life is shrinking rather than growing. I don't have a struggle to look back on, my struggle is right now, and there's no lesson to it, no message. I have a series of memories - I'm into the 60s with my 100 things (there are days when there is nothing that I am capable of loving, and I have chosen not to worry about that), but I don't see a way of pulling that into a continuous narrative. And maybe that's OK. I think what I admire most in TCFS is your decision to take your creativity seriously - and asking how you did that is not really a craft question, is it? It's more of an existential question.

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Hi Tanya I love this project and feel ready to contribute to Season 4 but I'm not familiar with Substack and although I've read the guidelines I can't quite figure out where I upload my piece and don't want to do it wrong and upset anyone ha ha! Apologies that this is a practical question. Best wishes Wendy

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Oh this is wonderful news, thank you Tanya! Xx

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I would like to understand more about the writer's voice please Tanya. What it is exactly and how we can work on creating one (if that is the right way to put it).

Thank you very much for your time.

Tracey x

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'A soul version of compound interest! How wonderfully true Tanya!

Tracey xx

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I have written blogs about challenging life experiences and seek to avoid them being misery memoirs

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deletedNov 6, 2022Liked by Tanya Shadrick
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