I’m at the creative stage, exploring memories for my first draft of Growing Up in Small Town Texas; A Memoir. Actually, I don’t think I’m even in the draft stage. I’m collecting stories, “shimmering images, as memoirist Lisa Dale Norton calls it. I am in a pre-drafting stage.
This stage should be delicious and full of play—but today, the adult in me keeps whispering in my academic result-oriented brain: you need to outline and find the themes that will thread these stories together or this may take you years to finish instead of months.
But my writer’s heart resists.
My writer’s heart says quietly: You are not a systems thinker. Trust yourself; you’re like the abstract expressionist artist Jackson Pollock. You could be twins, except he painted with enamel paint and you paint with words.
Pollock dripped and drizzled paint on large canvases in expressive marks to reveal—expose—emotional transparency. He painted large canvases, many on the floor where he explored “action painting.” That is, he strode across the canvas throwing long, wobbly lines, occasionally accented with globs of paint thrown into the mix, leaving a footprint or two where he stepped in the paint. As an artist, he explored the Surrealist navigation of the unconscious and Jungian symbolism. I read somewhere that Pollock believed “art came from the unconscious." He saw himself as "the essential subject of his painting, and judged his work and that of others on its inherent authenticity of personal expression.”
My writer’s heart tells me Jackson Pollock is my role model. My writing process parallels his artistic process. Messy, splashy. Going big, letting emotions bleed through the work. Delight. Bliss. Dread. Fear. Frustration. Angst.
If I want to write a book worth reading by others who grew up in the 1950s and ‘60s—or who want to know what that experience was like and how cultural times shaped the women in my generation, then I have to trust my writer’s heart.
For now, I’ll just throw words on the page and seed what sticks, or I’ll drizzle sentences in no particular sequence and see what emotional power rises. If something doesn’t hold truth, I’ll walk back through the printed words and dig deeply until the writing is real, relevant, and relatable. Only then will I begin my first draft. Only after that will I look for universal themes to connect my stories with the reading public. Trust the process, Joyce. Trust your process.