The Cure for Sleep: Taking Stock
Season 2, 010: In this last edition of Season Two, let's share our stories of account-keeping - those times when we need to take a frank look at who we are, what we've lost, what we've got...
…this title is as far as I’d got with this month’s post to you all. And then a video call came up on my phone from my mum’s number. I answered without taking my eyes away from this screen because while she’d been in hospital for a few days having tests, nothing had been found. And I was planning already to go visit her, but only as company to help her convalesce from this latest still-unexplained health emergency. To settle her back in the little seaside flat she has been so happy in since the awful divorce during pandemic (that shocking situation which begins suddenly at the very end of The Cure for Sleep).
My mum’s number but not my mum speaking. I sat back in my chair. Focussed. It was her liver consultant of the last seven years: a woman I know by name but have never met.
And then it came: that conversation nothing had prepared me for. Not my own sudden near-death at thirty-three. Not the hospice lifestory scribing I did afterwards, as I worked to find my rest-of-life response to that shocking experience. Not the meeting with Wild Woman Swimming in her hospice the month before she died.
What I was told is what my mother had only learned minutes earlier. She has now just a few months, perhaps less, to live. End stage liver disease. Untreatable.
I’m not able now to set a prompt for this last post of Season Two. But I still want to offer you something this month, ahead of Season Three beginning at the end of March.
And so in keeping with my planned prompt around review and taking stock, I offer the follow invitations:
If you’re new to this project and my work, I’d love you to take a little time this month to explore my own creative archive of the last seven years: the unusual journey by which I went - after forty - from being a shy office administrator, to a lifestory scribe, accidental performance artist, and now a publisher and mentor committed to helping others grow their creative confidence. You can learn more about my main projects - the Mile of Writing, Birds of Firle and Concentrates of Place - and listen to podcasts I’ve shared with amazing fellow authors like Sharon Blackie, Katherine May and Lorraine Candy. I hope you’ll find things of use and beauty there.
If you haven’t yet dared to share a story with me and fellow readers of The Cure for Sleep, please do! All themes from the last two years stay open without deadline for your contributions - and I’ll continue to curate them and offer editorial feedback, even if I’m otherwise offline while caring for my mother. Explore all the prompts and add your words using the comments field of the one you’re responding by going to the archive tab.
If you’ve already contributed several stories to the project, take some time to read through your pieces. Choose the one you’re most proud of and let me know using the comments field. I’ll soon be in touch with some questions I’d love you to answer so I can feature you in a Season 3 post.
Please share word of this project with friends or family you feel would enjoy this safe space for sharing their memories and developing their creative confidence…
Please tell others in your life about the book itself, if you feel it might offer them a ration of courage or consolation (the reason I risked these tender stories from my life and my mother’s). Not to boost its sales figures - I was paid well to write it, and never hoped for any money other than that generous advance. But I did - from the moment I met the editor who would go on to offer me the book deal - hope to write a big old-fashioned story about life and death that could keep others the kind of company I wished for as I worked to expand my life. The paperback won’t be out til the very end of April, but the hardback is part of most online retailers half price sales this month, including Waterstones and Amazon.
Finally, if you’ve already read The Cure for Sleep and would like to send word to my mother, I’d love you to use the comments field on this post for that. She has said today that being in the book is a large part of how she thinks she will find meaning in her last months.
explore the story archive
Desire, time, longing, friendship, regret, faith, promises . . .
There are now hundreds of thought-provoking true tales on these themes and more in The Cure for Sleep story archive.
I’ve spent the last few weeks redesigning how these words from our community members are showcased and celebrated on the book’s website.
Please do spend some time reading their memories and reflections - and then, as I say, please do contribute yourself if you haven’t already! Many of those who have taken part have now gone on to wider publication, prizes, mentoring placements and even (in the case of Caro Giles) a memoir of their own. You can find out how to get involved here.
As a community fast approaching two thousand members, it’s my hope to receive stories from as many of you as possible over time.
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ask me a question…
If you have a question about The Cure for Sleep or writing more generally, do remember that I have an always-open thread for this on my Substack. I always try to give answers with links to further resources that might keep you good company in your own creative journey.