Wild Improbability Continues

“I’m working on my memoir,” I typed on my laptop and scoffed, an audible huff through my nose. I feel like a fraud to say it—still I plan to persist. During the summer of 2011, I attended a two week summer writing institute through Plano Independent School District, where I taught sophomore English at the time. I wrote a piece about my son Drew’s paranoid schizophrenia diagnosis and how that came about during his first psychiatric hospitalization. This episode begins the story I must write.

I attended this same professional development opportunity nine years earlier in 2002. At the time I was a novice seventh grade English teacher and hardly a writer, but the course required a final written piece to be shared with our class on the last day. In all truthfulness I lacked the vulnerability to share anything real and the creativity to write believable fiction, so I wrote about writer’s block. Isn’t that ridiculous? Looking back, I would give anything to have written a slice of life involving Drew and Lauren. They were twelve and ten at the time, a cellist and a soccer player. But no, I wrote about writer’s block. In my defense, my piece was connected to my teaching and learning empathy for my students who struggled with their words on the page. And this course transformed my approach to classroom writing assignments—more mentor texts as models, more creative opportunities, more choices, and portfolios to track progress.

By 2013 I landed an opportunity to launch a Creative Writing elective class at my high school. While developing lesson plans, I adopted the philosophy that writers must be readers (and we took time for that) and that writers must write—every day. I remember feeling like a hypocrite, not unlike now, and forcing myself to write—(almost) every day, journaling bits of dialogue and scenes, keeping notes in my phone for later, and writing each assignment alongside my student authors. I’ve taught some truly gifted kids over the years, and my efforts often paled in comparison. Still I persisted. I started my memoir in secrecy during class and in my spare time and as inspiration struck. At some point, I knew I had a story to tell although the words written in 2013 remain really rough. Tell it I did, much more than showing. At the moment I have 53,834 words, single spaced in an 11 point font, on 101 pages, but as Anne Lamott would say, “It’s a shitty first draft.”

In the summer 2016, a job transfer for my husband brought us south from Dallas to Houston, I lost my beloved Creative Writing class and the convenience of good friends nearby, and I discovered a void. I didn’t write much for a while, instead drinking copious amounts of alcohol to fill the growing hole. Fast forward to August of 2017, Harvey, the hurricane, flooded my family out of our house and into a pet-friendly La Quinta for the next ten months. Not only had I saved my laptop, but my laptop saved me. I typed the story of our evacuation and sent my words for the first time into the blogosphere. I typed other stories, too, and again and again, I tapped the blue button in the upper right corner, the one that says Publish. Seventy-nine posts later, I see growth, and this growth encourages me to return to those shitty first drafts.

And in 2020, at age 50, I went back to school for a graduate program in Creative Writing, and my professor wanted to know what I plan to work on this semester and why. So this is it. “I’m working on my memoir.” And still, I shake my head and laugh.

The struggle is real.

32 thoughts on “Wild Improbability Continues

  1. Lol, I love the picture on the bottom of the post: “OMG, I have to read a lot and write a lot to be a writer”. I can so relate. When I was more of an avid reader I loved reading memoirs. I love reading them because of how raw, honest, and relatable they are. Wishing you all the best with your memoir! You got this!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I bet you thought you would never be on this side of that particular struggle but look what you have become and are becoming, from wife, mother, teacher, activist, and now published author; you are an amazing woman, an inspiration and I am so excited for you my sweet friend.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The things we worry about rarely seem to happen, and the things we would never dream somehow do. The memoir publication is still a dream, but the possibility seems closer than ever before. Thank you for the support, dear Andi!!

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  3. Why the scoff and the self-consciousness about this? Let it go, lady! I bet once the process starts to unfurl itself with honesty and vulnerability, you may have some very pleasant surprises regarding your own writing ability. I wrote a post called “The Ghost Returns – How To Disappear Completely.” In that post, about halfway through, some memoir type of writing emerged much to my surprise – and I was genuinely shocked by how good the writing was. Best damn thing I ever wrote – just a few passages. But it was really good. Very “memoir” in nature, those passages. There’s nothing as satisfying as sitting down to the keyboard, immersing yourself in true memory and vulnerability, then being shocked at the quality of what emerges from your own brain. Best wishes to you in your writing journey!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I left out one detail, which might’ve explained the scoff, and this is the problem I’m having as I proceed with my writing—just filling in the gaps so that other people get it. So—in my head, the whole scene is dramatized, me typing, my tone dripping with superciliousness—but the scoff was completely real. Even with a draft, the task ahead is huge. I’m a fairly avid reader, and how I would like my work to read differs at the moment from how it reads now, especially on some of my seven year old drafts. And I’m really struggling with providing details on old memories. My brain is now 50. I barely remember what I ate for lunch yesterday. Anyway, that’s it. Right now I’m working through some of the background, trying to decide what’s important enough to keep and how to bring it to life.

      I appreciate you for taking the time to encourage me, ZS. I’ll check out your post on the ghost!!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for reading my post =). I understand you getting all distracted by your current life… which seems to entail some moderate amount of success in your own way (which I understand, I’m similar)…. I understand how planning class lessons is different than writing because it reminds me of the difference between doing HR (my field) and writing on a blog. Or doing grad school or whatever. Different skills sets that suck us in and eat up all our time because they pay us, or lead to pay later on. You know, like – organization skills versus creativity. but you gotta strip away that bullshit and get down to the nitty gritty of raw-ass emotion. The raw emotion will surface through the foggy memory if you allow it to do so. Go to the ocean again, you know! My brain just turned 40, so I can kind of get it… (although I understand these things progress onward in time and get more difficult in 10 years time). But i have a feeling if you throw away everything which may distract you including your own doubts and your previously conceived ideas of what your memoir could be… and just let that shit flow… you’ll amaze the shit out of yourself. You have a fantastic way with words, I enjoy your blog and i know you can do this.

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  4. Proud of your perseverance ~ can’t wait to see what the future holds for you & your writing ✍️ career & I can’t wait to get back to my computer ~~
    Love 💗
    Nanadanamom

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  5. I would like to read it.
    I write 6 days a week. I love writing. Yet many times I am pretty lost for those three hours. So I sit and write what comes up. I never met anyone who just loves any one thing and always wants to do it. Love is a verb, it pulses. Keep going!

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  6. You can do it, Crystal! I remember the day I feltGod speaking to my heart that He wanted me to act like a writer and speak like a writer. So, I said, “Okay”. That very afternoon I found out about a submission that was approved as part of an anthology and He created an opportunity for me to try out, “I’m an author”, when I met a YA author of sci-fi that started over my name in a Starbucks!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading and taking the time to encourage. I’m trying to remember each day to ask Him to “establish the work of [my] hands” (Psalms 90). I believe His hands are all over this project. ❤️

      I love your story. Thanks for sharing.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. “Not only had I saved my laptop, but my laptop saved me.” Natty wordplay, Crystal!

    Your inspiring story proves the writer may be forced into hiding, and even fades from memory, but she persists and always, well, is.

    Naturally. The skill is integral to you, and is as indispensable as are any gifts with which the talented are born.

    This isn’t hollow praise, Crystal, but enriches from reading your blog for months before finally commenting.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My memory is my biggest problem, so the challenge will be filling the gaps between episodes to make it read like a story.

      I appreciate your kind words more than you know. Thanks so much for reading and returning and taking the time to encourage me! Have a great weekend!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Crystal, continue writing. Your journey continues as your creative words discover more open doors. While I am not writing a memoir, my own writing journey has been one of growth and self-reflection. Best wishes with your graduate studies.

    Liked by 2 people

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