Blog

Writing Your Life

At workshops and retreats, in emails and phone calls, and over cups of tea, many women have told me they are interested in writing the story of their life. But they also admit they’re terrified.

And no wonder. Within the scope of modern history, women have not long been afforded the opportunity to tell their own story.

For many years, women weren’t allowed to write, and if they did, they often published under a male pseudonym. Later, when women began to claim their space as authors, there was tremendous pressure to write about particular topics, with others being completely out of bounds.

Virginia Woolf wrote about having to go against societal norms in order to be the writer she wanted to become. These norms dictated that a woman be meek, self-sacrificing, and pure, always putting others first. If she cooked a chicken for supper, the woman should eat only the leg. If there was a draft in the room, the woman should sit in it. Everyone else’s comfort was of the utmost importance, and hers, not at all.

Woolf called this ideal woman “the angel in the house.” When she sat to write, this angel would monitor the topics she wrote about. Anger, especially, was off the table and the angel would whisper “don’t write such unladylike things!” in her ear.

Woolf knew that in order to be fully creative and to flourish as a writer, she needed to kill off that angel. 

In her own words, it wasn’t as easy as all that:

“Whenever I felt the shadow of her wing or the radiance of her halo upon my page, I took up the inkpot and flung it at her…Her fictitious nature was of great assistance to her. It is far harder to kill a phantom than a reality. She was always creeping back when I thought I had despatched her. Though I flatter myself that I killed her in the end, the struggle was severe.”

Although 90 years has passed since Woolf wrote these words, this struggle is not over for women today. There are still so many cultural messages about how women are supposed to look, sound, and behave. And when we sit down to write, many of us hear a voice that says:

“Who do you think you are?”

or

“Your truth doesn’t matter.”

or

“You can’t write about that.”

I’ve got a course starting this Monday, October 21 that’s just for women. If you feel the pull to tell your own story, but you’ve been stymied by uncertainty or fear, I would love to accompany you.

Exploring Memoir is a 6-week course that offers practical advice about the craft of writing, the support of a group of other women engaged in the same process, plus private feedback and guidance from me.

Your truth does matter. And we need to give ourselves permission to write our own story in our own way.

Let’s practise together.

Elizabeth Gilbert’s Surprising Advice

Author Elizabeth Gilbert came to town this weekend, delivering her “Big Magic” creativity workshop to a huge Halifax crowd. While I expected her to talk about writing, and about being creative, I was surprised by

Read More

Off-grid with intention

Each summer, my partner and I have one week together where it’s just the two of us. No kids. No cats. No work. No responsibilities other than feeding ourselves. We’ve gone on road trips, we’ve

Read More

Radical Love

Imagine if school curriculums, right from the start, taught that each of us has a unique inner essence and that true happiness comes from aligning our lives with that true self? What if we learned

Read More

Your Wild and Precious Life

“How we spend our days is of course how we spend our lives.” —Annie Dillard Go hang gliding. Ride a horse. Learn a new language. Start singing again. Walk the Camino. See the pyramids. Write

Read More

Being The Gardener

“Out of damp and gloomy days, out of solitude, out of loveless words directed at us, conclusions grow up in us like fungus: one morning they are there, we know not how, and they gaze

Read More

The Soul Booth Book Club

“Joy is much bigger than happiness. While happiness is often seen as being dependent on external circumstances, joy is not…The path to joy does not lead away from suffering and adversity but through it.” To

Read More

Living the Question

The first week of the New Year has just ended. Since January 1, I’ve noticed people diligently writing in journals at my local coffee shop and others reading books with titles like “A New Year,

Read More