Please join me today in welcoming author Karen Walker as the special guest blogger here at Thoughts in Progress.
Karen, who is also a fellow blogger, is the author of FOLLOWING THE WHISPERS, a memoir. Karen has stopped by to talk about “doing whatever it takes.”
When I quit my job in 1999 to write the memoir which had been building inside me for 20 years, I had no idea it would take another 10 years to see it published. If I had, I might not have kept going. But something inside of me kept whispering. And that’s what I want to talk about—what do we need to do to continue pursuing our dreams?
I had hundreds of journals I’d kept since 1978, the year I lost custody of my only son. The black hole of depression and despair I fell into during that time almost took my life. But I was lucky. Instead, it catapulted me into a journey of healing that continues today. I am convinced those journals saved my sanity, becoming a safe haven for me to explore my feelings, vent my rage and frustration, and search for answers to questions that burned inside my soul—questions like how could something like this happen to a nice, white, middle-class young woman; why do I hate myself; what’s wrong with me, and so on.
It was also the time my career as a PR professional began. As I wrote brochures, press releases, op-ed pieces and articles for clients, I realized I had things I wanted to say. In the back of my mind, the dream of writing about losing custody was seeded, lying dormant until I was ready to harvest it. Fast-forward to 1999, when my present hubby and the love of my life told me he would support me if I wanted to write. The harvest began. For 2 ½ years, I poured through journals, highlighting portions, then painstakingly typing them into the computer. Once the actual writing began, an emotional roller coaster ride ensued. There were days I’d end up sobbing, crumbled in a heap on the floor. Other days I would be too paralyzed to move.
Nearly three years later, I had a manuscript—what I now lovingly refer to as a 700-page self-help tome. An editor very gently told me, “Karen, you have a book in you, but it’s not on these pages. You just need to tell your story.”
I didn’t know how to do that. Another dream which had been dormant inside me was to complete a college degree I’d begun in 1967, when I’d received a two-year Associate in Applied Science degree from a community college. Then I’d gotten married, had a child, put my husband through school, got divorced, lost custody, helped a friend start a business, had a couple more divorces, and now finally, could financially and emotionally handle going back to school. So I did. Fast-forward another four years and I graduated Summa cum Laud from the University of New Mexico, where I’d taken every creative writing course the university had to offer. It was 2005.
Are you with me so far? Do you see how, each step of this journey, there were hard decisions to make to propel me onward so I could complete my memoir? Take a look at where you are in your journey. Are there things you might need to do to take your next step?
Once I completed school, I re-wrote the memoir completely from start to finish. The original manuscript had had no scenes, no dialogue—it was strictly narrative. This time, the book needed to read like a novel. I cannot tell you how many drafts it went through—I lost count somewhere along the way. I found an amazing editor who helped me find what she called the golden thread of the memoir. Following the whispers of intuition was that golden thread—hence the title.
I was willing to do whatever it took to finish that book. When I finally stood at the podium at my book launch party on February 20, 2009, I felt as if I had become the person I’d been trying to be for all those years. I am still growing and changing as I work on new projects. One is a nonfiction book on aging and caring for aging parents. Another is a novel—a completely new genre for me. I don’t know if I am willing to do whatever it takes to complete that particular project. We’ll see. But I do know that’s what it takes to get it done. Willingness. May each of you find that willingness inside yourselves to do whatever it takes for you to live your dreams.
Karen, thanks so much for guest blogging here today. Your story is inspiring and serves to remind us that we need to keep striving if we want to accomplish our goals. For more about Karen and her writing, be sure to stop by her blog author karen walker...following the whispers.