feeling good & the right frame

| 21 Comments

This week I have been ticking things off my to-do list, which always feels good. I’ve gotten a few huge projects out of the way, and everything feels manageable for the first time in a long time. Remind me of this in May and June when I once again will be overloaded as I prep for conferences and retreats and my first ever time (in late July) on faculty at Ashland University’s Low Residency MFA program. Whoop! I’m so excited about that, but I also know it will be a lot of work to get ready for two packed weeks of teaching and manuscript critiques. (I’m currently trying to convince Donny to drive down with the girls for a few days. I know it would be a long solo trip with them, but I can’t stand the idea of not seeing them for two full weeks…)

But in the meantime, right now, I’m just enjoying my work. I just finished a really wonderful session of Motherhood & Words online. What an amazing group of writers! I have a number of new editing/mentoring clients, and I love diving into their work and talking about their writing processes. I’m also full steam ahead on the novel. I still dedicate the first hour of my day to it, and it’s making a huge difference. This consistent work keeps it closer to the surface on a daily basis. Hattie, my main character, is with me throughout the day.  Sometimes I’ll get an idea or glimmer of an idea as I take the dog for a walk or make dinner. I then jot it down on a slip of paper or type it into my phone, so I can turn to it the next day. This—thinking about writing throughout the day—makes me feel like a writer again.

It’s funny because even though I have two books out in the world, I sometimes forget to honor and trust that part of myself that writes. To trust that I know what I’m doing, that the words will emerge if I give them a chance. To trust my gut.

For a few weeks whenever I thought about the collaborative project I’m working on, I felt uneasy. I wasn’t sure that everything we said would go into the book really fit in the book. It was only a couple of weeks ago when I sat down to rewrite the proposal and began working on the chapter summary that the book really began to take shape for me. (Or take a shape that narratively made sense to me.) It was one of those aha! moments. I finally had the frame. I knew where it had to end. And it will work! Hallelujah!

That whole process got me thinking about structure and how important it is in nonfiction to have a sense of what your frame is. Where in time does you book start and end? What’s the stage? Sometimes I think we do a disservice to students when we tell them to just write! Keep writing and it will make sense! Of course you need to write, but at some point, you also need to know where that writing all goes. Deciding on a frame allows you to know what’s backstory and what unfolds in the real time of the piece. Knowing what the real story is helps you decide on a frame, of course, and you often need to write your way into that understanding. But settling on a structure that works for your story is critical in allowing you to get the damn thing done. I now know that when this book finds a home, we will be able to get it done, and that I’ll feel proud of it.

What are you working on? Do you have a frame? Is it working? I’d love to hear about it!

21 Comments

  1. All good stuff, Kate! Super huge congratulations on the faculty position!!! Wish it was Stonecoast ;) but soooo happy for you. Trust me you will be way too tired and in the wrong mental space to see your kids in the middle of a residency…try to make up for it with lots of mommy time with them before and after instead (not that you asked my advice or anything). I just got the glimmer of an idea for an essay from a concert I went to last night (very early inception stage here). I’ve been toying around with it in my brain all day…thinking of all the possibilities of what to include, where to go with it, how to structure it/frame it, what is the story in the situations (thanks to your teaching), etc. I tend to let essay ideas marinate for a long time before I get started, but I am itching to get something down right away (hello, 5:30 tomorrow morning). The images are so fresh right now, I don’t want to lose that, but I also don’t want to rush in/force it into the wrong shape. This stage is so exciting/scary/frustrating/enticing.

    • Thank you, Andrea! And who knows, down the line maybe I’ll end up at Stonecoast! I’d definitely love an online low-res position. This is just for this year for now…

      I love hearing about your essay, and can picture you marinating it all day. Get it down while everything is fresh! I don’t think you will force it into the wrong shape! Can’t wait to hear more!

  2. It’s so fun to hear how your career is progressing! And I completely identify with you when you say that thinking about writing throughout the day makes you feel like a writer again–even though you have two published books. For some reason, it’s so easy for past successes to feel just that: past. And to wonder if we’re still REALLY writers or not. It seems like we have to constantly be in the business of creating something new to reassure ourselves that we are writers indeed. Which is not a bad thing, but sometimes there just isn’t time!

    I also like what you say about frame. That, for me, was one of the most difficult parts of writing the memoir I’ve recently finished. My first draft was 500 pages of everything possibly related to the event that had prompted the writing–and all of it in chronological order. It took several months of trial and error to figure out where to start the story and finish it, and how to put all of the other important material in as backstory. It’s something I feel I do intuitively when I write fiction, but in memoir I just felt at sea. When the material is already there–as your life–it’s harder, I think, to see what alternative forms it might take. That, I think, is one of the biggest lessons I learned from the writing of that memoir. Thanks for setting this up as a topic of discussion!

    And good luck with all your upcoming work!

    • Ah Sharon, exactly!! For me memoir is so much harder to write exactly because all of the events are there and them you have to craft them. I’m always horrified when I hear someone say that nonfiction is easy and doesn’t require as much creativity as fiction! I look forward to hearing more about your memoir. CANNOT wait to read it someday soon!

  3. I just let out a giant exhale when I read your last paragraph. It really validates why I couldn’t move forward, why I was resisting just sitting down to write… because something wasn’t right. THANK YOU, Kate for helping me find the frame for my story. And yes, it will work. :) Finally, I know it will work.

    • Oh my dear, what a huge conversation that was! It was so much fun to muddle through it with you and then come out with the frame at the end! Whoop! It’s going to be fabulous!

  4. “I sometimes forget to honor and trust that part of myself that writes.” I love that you said this because I often feel the exact same way, and so much of writing is a trusting process. It’s standing knee deep in the middle of chaos and trusting that there will come a time when I will find my way. Thanks for this reminder.

    • Jessica, thanks for stopping by! And yes, it feels exactly like that, doesn’t it? Standing in the chaos. I have to remind myself just to enjoy that part and have faith that it will untangle.

  5. Kate,

    Thank you for this post. As always, your insights resonate with me and the timing of my writing struggles. I have been just writing, writing, writing (some deleting, too!) and in doing so, I’ve gone away a bit from my main point, I think. I was feeling quite lost and the writing was beginning to feel daunting (never a good sign!) After reading this blog post, I sat myself down with my notes journal at my neighborhood Panera, fueled by a decaf latte and sketched out a tighter frame for my memoir. I’ve given myself the weekend to let the new frame swirl around in my brain, and I think I finally know what I can cut out and what parts need my attention to keep this story in place. However, I feel like a parallel or separate story is in the works! So, thanks again for your direction and guidance. Also, congratulations on all of your progress on the writing projects and the residency! I won’t make it to the conference at Ashland, but I’ll gladly take you out for margaritas again! :)

    • Yay, Autumn! That is so fabulous! I can’t wait to hear more about it. And I’ll take you up on the margaritas, though this time it’s my treat! xoxo

  6. Kate,

    Thank you for this post. As always, your insights resonate with me and the timing of my writing struggles. I have been just writing, writing, writing (some deleting, too!) and in doing so, I’ve gone away a bit from my main point, I think. I was feeling quite lost and the writing was beginning to feel daunting (never a good sign!) After reading this blog post, I sat myself down with my notes journal at my neighborhood Panera, fueled by a decaf latte and sketched out a tighter frame for my memoir. I’ve given myself the weekend to let the new frame swirl around in my brain, and I think I finally know what I can cut out and what parts need my attention to keep this story in place. However, I feel like a parallel or separate story is in the works! So, thanks again for your direction and guidance. Also, congratulations on all of your progress on the writing projects and the residency! I won’t make it to the conference at Ashland, but I’ll gladly take you out for margaritas again! :)

  7. Frame…I’ve been thinking about frame since last year’s Motherhood & Words retreat at Faith’s Lodge last year. And even though I keep revising it, it’s been so helpful. Right now my memoir begins when I find out we’ve got twins and ends when they have their two-year NICU followup appointment at 29 months. Which is also the time frame of when Matt’s dad was first diagnosed and the funeral.

    Now if I can just get all the stuff in between…

  8. Scope and structure—it’s where I’m stuck, where I have been stuck for too long. I keep writing bits and pieces, but without a lot of conviction because I feel sometimes like I’m writing a lot of stuff in far too much detail that feels like main story but may be back story. Sometimes I feel like I have two stories that are really part of the same story.

    • That’s exactly where Angie was for a while, too. It would be great to be able to really hash it out and find the stage so you can move forward. Oh how I wish you could come to Madeline Island!

  9. Kate: Working currently on trying to get some blog posts written and creating a website as my “platform” for the book about birth that I’m about halfway through. I feel like the book is taking a backseat right now to these other ideas (which will support the book, but I feel like I should be forging ahead with all things all at once!) I’d love to know how you deal with impatience – I feel like it’s a HUGE issue for me and I’d love any/all tips you might be willing to share! Thanks!

    Barb

    • Oh Barb, it’s so hard! It IS important to have that platform developing, and once your website is going, that will be great, so I think it’s important to take the time to do it now. But ideally, it’s great to be able to do that work concurrently with the writing. Can you dedicate the first hour of the day to the writing? (Or maybe just one-two days to website/blog posts and the rest to writing?) I don’t have a schedule that works for me every week, so I clearly haven’t figured it out yet. But also remember that the book WILL get done. So take a deep breath and step back, celebrating what you’ve done so far. It always takes longer than we think it will!

  10. I love a frame and always feel more successful when I know where I’m going. I like your point to remember where in time, etc.

  11. I know I am late to this post, but wow, it resonated. You’ve helped me identify my frame (thank you!) and I finally sank into it and STARTED WRITING! It starts in the courtyard, of course, when Oscar first asks what he has that’s disabled…and will end sometime in the present. Maybe with him advocating for himself as a person with learning differences? Or me sending him off to camp and recognizing that perhaps his future doesn’t need to be as restricted as I thought? There is more to figure out, of course, but I finally feel like I am moving forward, writing parts I hadn’t written yet. Thanks Kate :-)

    • Oh yay, Mary! I’m so thrilled and it sounds wonderful. It will BE wonderful, of course! Cannot wait to have that whole book in my hands! Whoop!

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