Memoir & Magic


When I started writing my rock n’ roll memoir, I searched for answers as to why I was having such a hard time with it. I had the story neatly laid out in my mind, but when it came time to write, it was a jumbled mess.

I’ve been an intuitive, sensitive person my whole life, but I was just coming off a solid 15 year stretch that included two college degrees, moving around a lot, a big management job, having two babies in two years, buying a first house – and all of the other stresses and realities (and blessings) that come with adulthood. To survive, I had trained myself to think in a linear fashion. Goal oriented, deadline driven. I grew up fairly poor with a single mom, and I guess I was motivated to break the cycle of dead-end jobs and apartment rentals. I wanted a great career, a happy marriage, children, a house.  My intuition was still there, but I often ignored it in pursuit of my life goals. No matter how stressful, I was going to achieve these things and tick them off my list.

But the reality of it is that I was exhausted and burnt out. The thought of writing a book  seemed ridiculous, indulgent, and absolutely impossible. It was the one thing that I couldn’t check off the list.

Finally, after years of living in almost-despair, in an act of great mercy upon myself and with support from a loving husband, I quit my management job and went to a part-time schedule. We adjusted our budget, took the kids out of daycare, stopped paying for the bigger lifestyle, kept the 15 year old car running.  My kids were still small, and it was the best decision I ever made. It took me many, many months to adjust and detox and just settle down. And finally, I started writing.

In some ways, even then, I still kept the old mental habits, holding myself to stressful goals and standards.  And let me tell you: facing a memoir project with this mindset is not good. In fact, it’s the exact opposite of what it required of me. I didn’t know this when I started, of course. But here I am, five years later. I am a different writer than I was then, I’ve learned a few things.

When I first started writing on the memoir, it was a simple retelling of persons, places, things, and events. It was linear. I wrote my whole childhood story. I recited dates and events as if it were an instruction manual, step A,  to B, to C. I wrote a lot of shitty stuff about things that didn’t matter, and I blew past deadlines and made myself feel bad for a while. I had no idea how I was supposed to connect it together or make it coherent.

So, I learned.

I started to study story structure, story telling, and scene writing. I read books about writing books. I followed writing blogs. I read a few other memoirs, and started to understand. I started to understand MY story better, and what the actual purpose of a memoir was. I found a writing coach, another writer who worked with intuitive types and introverts, and I started to find my voice, literally, by talking to someone who had gone through the same thing.  I started seeing scenes. I started thinking about the reader. And, I started getting more sleep.

My intuition roared to life again like an old trusty engine, properly primed.

Once I had the space for it, my dreams became vivid and colorful again.  I dreamed about the writing, seeing the next scenes I needed to write, and the order they needed to be in. Daydreaming is my friend, too. I’d see or hear or smell things during the day that would remind me of something in my story. My streaming Pandora account pulled songs that seemed to connect directly to the piece I was writing at that moment. My social media feeds seemed to burst with relevant information or helpful articles or connections to sources. Everywhere, inspiration. I’d dream about old friends from far away, and then have them show up as a friend request on Facebook. The path revealed itself, every step of the way.

None of it surprises me, however. This is how it has always worked for me when I’m aligned with my purpose. The Magic.  Signs, symbols, dreams, synchronicity. The more I let go of my expectations about this book and just let things flow, the more progress I make.

I’ve got a good solid first draft, and I’m getting feedback from beta readers. As much as I wanted to rush into a grand rewrite, I’m holding back a bit, giving it a few more weeks to percolate. Information keeps showing up. Maybe it needs some space to breathe.

Maybe it needs just a bit more magic.


And in the spirit of the season, Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you! Thank you for reading, and may your next year be filled with good art, good love, and good magic. –AMO

Gap Work


December. I love this time of year, when darkness lingers a bit longer, and cooling clouds visit our blue Arizona skies more often. It’s perfect writing weather.

I’m going to hold off on starting a big new writing project, though. I didn’t do NaNoWriMo this year, but I did reach a milestone with my writing, and actually finished my book. It has a beginning, a middle, and an ending, and it’s a readable story. It’s really not bad at all, and I’m still a little giddy over it.

But, there is this gap. I wasn’t prepared for the gap, but I’m sure more experienced writers understand: Just because I am finished, doesn’t mean I’m done. There is more editing to do, even yet. Surely more writing to do. Plus, the book plan, the query letters, all that. I’ve still got more work to do to get this book out into the world.

So this month, I’m working in the gap. Finishing up this project. Thinking about what is next.

What I’ve noticed while focused on this project, is that the farther along I got, the more my other writing really suffered. I haven’t really kept a journal all year, and my idea notebooks have gathered dust. It makes me feel disconnected from myself, like waking up from a good dream a little confused. Where am I? Who am I? What is it I need to do?  Well, here it is, December 1st. It’s a perfect month for this gap work.

I’m reviewing this past year, and making plans for the new one. I’m pulling all my old notebooks and scraps of paper to mine them for ideas, inspiration, texture. My Evernote account needs attention, too.  As a writer, I always think of myself as lost in the forest, leaving myself breadcrumbs and clues for later ideas. So, it’s time to find some of those breadcrumbs and digest them.  I left them for direction and for nourishment, after all.

I’ll look at the calendar and think about next year.  When are the kids out of school? When can I get the writing done? What stories are in queue and need to be told? Should I try to write a few short stories before starting on my next book? What do I really want, as a person, and as a writer, for 2018? What new habits should I start? What old habits can I give away?

This is gap work.

It’s December, now. Time for rest, for family, for celebration. There are rhythms and seasons to life and to writing. If you’ve had a busy writing year, or are coming off of NaNoWriMo or any other big project – find yourself some gap time. Finish up the project, reflect, rest, recalibrate. We need the gap for good mental hygiene. To let our minds air out and breathe, to get our writer brains excited about a story again. Sometimes we don’t realize the mental stress we place on ourselves as writers, or how the book or story consumes our entire internal landscape.

Let it go for a while and focus on the gap work.  Breathe. The New Year approaches.

Let’s be ready.