Jane in chair leadingI thought I’d open the kimono a bit today and share my own process when I’m working on a big project. What has my attention these days, well, for over a year, really, has been a memoir. It keeps shape-shifting, but it’s moving forward, which is the main thing.

Here’s how I stay on track.

Number 1 – I take courses. I started with Ann Randolph’s writing class at Kripalu last June. Immediately after that, I made the decision to begin my memoir.

Number 2 – The first thing I did after her class was to hire a writing coach. After 3 months of working with the awesome Kate Brenton, I signed up for an Advanced Memoir class at Gotham Writers Workshop. That was ten weeks worth of writing, critiquing and being critiqued (ouch) with the inspiring instruction of Cullen Thomas which I followed up with another 10 week session that will come to an end on the 19th.

Number 3 – I read other people’s memoirs* to better understand the form.

Number 4 – I find support.

Last July I formed a writers group by inviting three amazing women to try out a session together. I sought them out. Over the course of the previous year in New York City, I’d had my antennae up. When one woman I’d met mentioned that her publisher had given her a due date for her memoir, I made a mental note. I became friends with woman #2 and learned over dinner that she teaches writing at the college level and had a manuscript tucked in a drawer. Jotted that down in the memory bank. And fabulous friend/woman #3, I found out, is an editor for a notable publication and also served on a prestigious jury for a major book award. Tucked that info away and then approached the three of them with an invitation to my place with writing samples by each to be read and listened to in the privacy of a quiet room in my building. We’ve been together now for nine months now and celebrate and deeply encourage each other.

I know what it takes to keep a big idea or project going. I love creating this momentum for myself and equally love creating these structures for others. Please join me this spring and get the support you need if DIY isn’t your thing, but working on something really important is. My in-person and virtual Mastermind groups are starting in late March. Click here for the scoop.

Some of the memoirs I’ve read recently and highly recommend:

  1. The Chronology of Water – Lidia Yuknavitch
  2. Even This I Get to Experience – Norman Lear
  3. Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant? – Roz Chast
  4. The Kiss – Kathryn Harrison
  5. You Deserve Nothing – Alexander Maksik
  6. Long Road to Freedom – Nelson Mandela
  7. Brother One Cell – Cullen Thomas
  8. Fun Home – Alison Bechdel
  9. Truth and Beauty – Ann Patchett
  10. Ithaka – Sarah Saffian
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